Date: Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Gizo, Solomon Islands — Solomon Islands’ Western Provincial Government has launched its first ever policy for women’s development to underscore its plan to support equal opportunity for women.

Women representing all 26 wards in Western Province and provincial women’s organizations attended the launch in Gizo on 18 July 2018. Photo: UNDP/Merinda Valley

Called “Western Province Women’s Empowerment and Transformation Policy for Development”, the policy is a blueprint for the province’s strategies and programmes to tackle obstacles that prevent women from realizing their potential and participating in provincial development.

Barbara Unusu, a representative from Ward 21 in Marovo Constituency, said some tangible impacts of the policy include the ability to raise more funds for women’s development initiatives in Western Province and improved collaboration among the provincial government, women organizations and churches to implement them.

“It’s a big step forward for us in Western Province,” Ms. Unusu said. “If we want to create plans and programmes for women, we will now have policy guidelines to refer to, which is something we never had previously.”

Vera Simply Boutique Wang Vera Shorts Ms. Unusu participated in the consultation process to develop the Western Province women’s policy, and she has worked with government and non-governmental organizations to advance women’s equality and empowerment for many years.

“I think a majority of the women in Western Province have been previously overlooked in the way that none of these services, trainings and the like have reached them,” she said. “This policy can address that, and it shows that we have achieved something for the future of our communities.”

Women representatives from women’s organizations and all 26 wards of Western Province observed the policy launch. Pauline Soaki, director of Women in the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, said the women’s policy is in line with the National Development Strategy 2016-2035 which aims to eliminate gender discrimination in the social, cultural, economic and political spheres.

“Indeed, the policy’s goal that women and girls will be empowered to improve their livelihoods and participate fully in sustainable development of Western Province is compelling,” Ms. Soaki said.

“This goal, which was translated into eight strategic outcomes, offers many entry points for various stakeholders, including development partners, civil society, the private sector and academia, to work with the Western Provincial Government on the interlinked pillars of social, economic and political empowerment of women.”

Earlier this year, Solomon Islands’ Western Provincial Government Executive endorsed the women’s policy. It was also noted in the Provincial Assembly. The policy reflects the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in recognizing gender equality as a fundamental human right and a driver of progress towards achieving development goals.

Western Province Minister of Women, Youth and Sports receives the first ever women’s policy from Provincial Secretary Jeffery Wickham and Women’s Desk Officer Lisi Wong in Gizo on 18 July 2018. Photo: UNDP/Merinda Valley

Honourable Oelyn Moala, Western Province’s minister of Women, Youth and Sports said the policy launch was the one of the province’s most significant achievements.

“This policy would not have been realized if not for the high regard that our government placed on women,” she said, adding that the women’s policy was initiated and endorsed by the previous government.

Jeffery Wickham, Western Province’s provincial secretary, said 20 percent of the total 2018-2019 provincial budget will target women’s development, which underscores the province’s plan to support women’s initiatives.

Audrey Manu, UN Women’s Solomon Islands national programme coordinator, said the provincial government must include policy priorities in its development plan and engage with partners to ensure they are implemented.

“Without action, the policy is only a lofty goal for the inclusion of women in provincial society. We need to work together to make sure it is more than a list of outcomes. We want the outcomes outlined in the policy to become the reality for every woman in the province,” Ms. Manu said.

The UN Peacebuilding Fund (UNPBF) project in collaboration with UN Women supported the development of the Western Province women’s policy. The UNPBF project and UN Women organized the policy launch in partnership with Western Province’s provincial government, the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs and Western Province women’s organizations.

The policy launch is part of the UNPBF project's joint efforts with UN Women and UNDP to support peaceful and inclusive transition in Solomon Islands. Through the project, the UN agencies work with Solomon Islands’ government agencies including the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace and the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs.

For media queries, please contact:

Ms. Merinda Valley | Communications Specialist
Email: merinda.valley@undp.org | Ph: (677) 27446 Ext. 5527