In Solomon Islands, access to formal banking services outside of provincial capitals is non-existent.

And with 80% of the country’s population living in rural areas, this means a large proportion of residents have no access to basic financial services.

This is a particular challenge for women who, with no safe place to store their savings, are at increased threat of violence or theft. With no savings, women are often left dependent on their partners and have little control over how their money is spent.

With support through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), the International Women’s Development Agency partners with a women-led savings club that is empowering thousands of women in the Solomon Islands to have control over their financial futures.

West ‘Are’Are Rokotanikeni Association (WARA) gives women the chance to come together and learn more about their finances, access small loans and build their financial literacy and management skills. It also provides women with a safe and secure place to store their savings and watch them grow.

The clubs meet regularly to learn skills such as financial literacy, household budgeting, basic bookkeeping, running a small business and good governance. Each club can use their pool of funds to loan money to members when they need it, and leaders are elected to keep records of deposits and loans.

Over WARA’s history, clubs have used their pooled funds to support a range of income-generation activities. But the savings club isn’t just about money, it’s an empowerment model that is driving transformational change.

WARA provides leadership training to its members, as well as education on a range of important issues from gender-based violence to voters’ rights. Together, members have developed their voice and play an active role as decision-makers in their homes and communities, churches and chiefly structures.

This year, the association is celebrating its 20 year anniversary and is due to surpass two million Solomon Island dollars in savings. Alongside this impressive sum, the support networks formed by members are proof of WARA’s lasting impact.