Australia has given A$80,000 (SBD$560,000) to help increase women's leadership and economic empowerment in Solomon Islands.Visiting Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles announced the funding to the Solomon Islands Women in Business Association (SIWIBA) in Honiara today.
The funding will establish the SIWIBA's Secretariat including office rental and salary for a full-time coordinator.
Mr Marles said Australia's support to SIWIBA reinforces Australia's broader commitment to supporting women's economic empowerment and leadership in the Pacific.
"This contribution is part of a long term partnership between AusAID's Pacific Leadership Program and SIWIBA to develop opportunities for all women of Solomon Islands to participate in business at all levels" Mr Marles said.
"It has been found that when the gender gap between men and women in the workforce narrows, economies tend to grow faster, experience less poverty and the wellbeing of men, women and children is all enhanced, so it's important that we do as much as we can to remove barriers for women to be active at all levels of society."
President of SIWIBA, Julie Gegeu-Haro said SIWIBA is working to promote, develop and empower women's participation in economic activities in the private sector in Solomon Islands.
"There is little question of the large role that women make to our community, but this is taken for granted and largely unsupported. For example, the annual turnover of the Honiara Central market has been estimated between US$10-$16 million, with women responsible for 90% of this activity," Ms Gegeu-Haro said.
"With AusAID's support, SIWIBA has plans to open a women's business development centre to provide networking opportunities, training activities, mentor women entrepreneurs and businesswomen, as well as facilitate women's access to new and emerging markets."
Through the Pacific Leadership Program, AusAID has also committed A$300,000 to the Emerging Pacific Women's Leadership Program. This initiative will provide Pacific women leaders with knowledge, skills and abilities to advocate for women's economic opportunities and leadership.
AusAID will provide A$25,000 to 12 Pacific countries including Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu, Nauru, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Cook Islands and Niue to develop and implement advocacy projects over the next 12 months.
Mr Marles is leading an Australian Parliamentary delegation to Solomon Islands and is also accompanied by Australian Ambassador for Women, Penny Williams.