The Western Provincial Government has affirmed its commitment to addressing gender and women’s issues with the launch of its first-ever women’s policy, an initiative supported by a UNDP and UNWomen Project.
The Western Province Women’s Empowerment and Transformation Policy for Development is a blueprint for the strategies, projects and programmes the province can use to address obstacles that prevent women from nurturing their talents and fully participating as equal partners in provincial development.
Women representing all 26 wards in Western Province and women’s organizations in Gizo attended the launch and spoke about how the policy would impact them personally and improve the status of women in the province at large.
“I think it’s a big step forward for us in Western Province,” said Barbara Unusu from Ward 21 in Marovo Constituency. “If we make our plans and programmes for women, we now have something to back us up, which is something we never had previously.”
Ms. Unusu participated in the consultations to develop the provincial women’s policy and has worked for years to address women’s issues through the government and non-governmental organizations.
She cited increased funding for women’s initiatives and collaboration among the provincial government, organizations and churches to implement activities as examples of how the policy will affect rural women in the province.
“I think a majority of the women in Western Province have been neglected — neglected in the way that none of these services, trainings and similar things have reached them,” Ms. Unusu said. “This policy can address that, and it shows that we have achieved something for the future of our communities of Western Province.”
In remarks during the launch, Director of Women in the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs Pauline Soaki said the policy, which the Western Provincial Government Executive endorsed and was noted in the Provincial Assembly earlier this year, is in line with the National Development Strategy 2016-2035. The strategy aims to achieve full gender equality by eliminating gender discrimination in the social, cultural, economic and political spheres.
“Indeed, the policy’s goal that women and girls are empowered to transform their status to improve their livelihoods and ensure full participation in the sustainable development of Western Province is bold, smart and compelling,” Ms. Soaki said.
“This goal, translated into eight strategic outcomes, offers many entry points for various stakeholders, including development partners, civil society, the private sector and academia, to work together with the Western Provincial Government on the interlinked pillars of social, economic and political empowerment of women.”
The policy also reflects the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which recognizes gender equality as a fundamental right and a driver of progress in achieving all development goals.
In her keynote address, Western Province Minister of Women, Youth and Sports Honourable Oelyn Moala said the policy launch was a proud moment in the province’s history.
“This policy would not have been realized if not for the high regard that our government placed on women. I wish to thank my predecessor, Honourable Leong Mamu, for the initiative to develop this policy and the support and commitment throughout the whole process of its consultation and eventually its endorsement by the previous government,” she said.
Provincial Secretary Jeffery Wickham said that commitment will continue with 20 percent of the total 2018-2019 provincial budget likely to be allocated to developments affecting women.
UN Women’s Solomon Islands National Programme Coordinator, Audrey Manu, emphasized the need for the provincial government to include the 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,” Ms. Manu said. “We want the outcomes outlined in the policy to become the reality for every woman in the province.”
The UN Peacebuilding Fund (UNPBF) project in collaboration with UN Women supported the development of the Western Province women’s policy and organized the launch in partnership with the provincial government, the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs and women’s organizations in Western Province.
The UNPBF project aims to support peaceful and inclusive transition in Solomon Islands, jointly implemented by UNDP and UN Women in close collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace and the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs.
Source: Press Release, UNDP, Solomon Islands