As unique as the cultures of Solomon Islands, so is the unique cultural handicraft made locally by Solomon Islanders especially that of Hellen Watena, from Auki, Malaita Province.
You can find her under a colourful tent along the footpath between Heritage Park Hotel and Breakwater Café everyday where she displays her products in various range.
Without the formal skills, Ms. Watena could only turn to what she knew – life skills passed on from generations before!
The Solomon Islands economy remains small, poor, and largely subsistence-based. Only a tiny minority of households depend on formal-sector employment or cash-generating businesses. Financial literacy is low, and Government regulations are non-transparent and poorly understood.
“I only sell shell money necklaces, a few dyed clothes and locally made bags by my daughter.”
Although small, the income earned sustains her family and ensures she is able to meet the basic costs daily.
“I did not attend any training to make my shell money necklaces, but this is a skill passed on by my mother. Today it is harder to find the Shell that produces the red shell money and we often order from the Western Province to get it.”
“I encourage women who cannot be employed in the formal sector to venture into the informal market. It is not easy but this is the only way you can cater for the need of your family,” said Mrs. Watena.
According to a World Bank report, the majority of women entrepreneurs in Solomon Islands operate very small businesses or work as sole traders.
And like that of Mrs. Watena, they target more the expatriate community and a small percentage of the local community. The expatriate market provides the greatest opportunities for women entrepreneurs.