Women of Kokona Community in West Guadalcanal on Tuesday revealed a year-long worth of their savings club, with a remarkable display of SBD$103,465 (USD$12,570).

The women’s savings club marked their first financial year in the event giving access for community members to withdraw their personal savings.

The community celebrated the achievement with the attendance of representatives from the Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) and Oxfam in Solomon Islands who assisted in the establishment of the Kokona Women’s Savings Club through a disaster resilience project called AP-LIFT (Asia Pacific – Learning, Innovation For Transformation).

Kokona Women’s Savings Club President Benditha Matesautu says her community, isolated from neighbouring villages and the comfort of the coast, has never saved this much money before.

Over $43,000 of withdrawals were made that day.

“For us Kokona community, we have never achieved anything like this so we are very happy to see this outcome,” she says.

Maintaining the savings club was not an easy task.

“We had our arguments at times, even accused by our fellow villagers, when members wanted to withdraw money. But our club is guided by policies that restrict certain activities and can only allow transactions such as using the money or withdrawals during disasters or for things like school fees.”

Kokona’s savings club is built around two separate accounts, personal savings and the general fund.

When Tropical Cyclone Harold hit the Solomon Islands in April this year, the Kokona Women’s Savings Club immediately responded with 96 bags of rice, purchased from the general fund and distributed for every household of Kokona.

Kokona chief Phillip Game, contradictory to his cultural beliefs, heaped praise on the women.

“In the beginning, we the men think that we are the boss. And then we were introduced to this gender balance, where the men and women have the same right and dignity, and I really support it.

“As chief, it is my duty to look after everyone. Help and support whatever they need.”

While the AP-LIFT Project is designed to prepare Solomon Islanders against disasters, part of the process involves components that may empower women to take leadership roles in the community.

The savings club initiative aims to ease the extreme dependency found to be very common amongst rural Solomon Islanders in disaster-related response.

“Projects will come and go, but our lives in the community will continue,” Oxfam Solomon Islands Resilience Program Manager, Lorima Tuke urged Kokona in a brief acknowledgement with SIDT representative Joseph Majo.

AP-LIFT is a three-year long project that partners SIDT and Oxfam with nine communities across Guadalcanal Province; Kokona, Tasiloki, Lambi, Hulavu, Katehana, Niu Birao, Tumurora, Ngalimera and Suagi.

The fundamental goal of the AP-LIFT Project is that communities affected by recurrent natural disasters have enhanced capacities for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, and should be better equipped to co-lead on relief and recovery efforts in collaboration with local authorities, with the overall aim of reducing vulnerability and suffering among disaster prone communities in Solomon Islands.

Source: OXFAM