In the heart of Auki, Solomon Islands, where vibrant culture intersects with the challenges of economic development, a story unfolds, showcasing the transformative power of financial well-being in alleviating poverty.

This narrative transcends mere numbers and policies; it's a tale of resilience, community, and the pivotal role of women in steering the course towards prosperity.

Four women market vendors shared their life journeys, shedding light on the challenges and lessons learned while managing family, market businesses, and the many roles they undertake.

Through their experiences, resilience and persistence emerge as two key themes, enabling them to continue growing as an individuals, businesswomen and family providers.

“My name is Constance Sala, a dedicated taro farmer from the central highlands of Busurata in Malaita, and a mother of six. I sell taro at the Auki market every two days, earning $1,000 each day I sell. After spending on rice and basic needs, I'm left with $500 to use in the village before returning to Auki for another sale.

This experience has opened my eyes to the possibilities of better financial management. For years, I struggled to save any money despite my daily sales, constantly mismanaging my earnings and going in circles.

I never learned how to budget effectively to achieve my goals. But now, with the skills I've gained from this training, I have a clear plan to manage my income and save wisely. Not only will this help me reach my investment goals, but it will also ensure I have funds set aside for rainy days.

Most of us women from Busurata who attended this training are taro farmers and basket weavers. By applying the knowledge we've gained, we can keep money circulating within our community rather than spending it all in Auki town on unnecessary items. This change will empower us and strengthen our village economy.”

Once overshadowed by the struggles of poverty, Auki is witnessing a remarkable change and shift. Financial inclusion has emerged as tool of hope, illuminating the pathway to empowerment and economic stability.

In Auki Market, 300 rural women market vendors travel daily to support family obligation such as education for their children, housing, social and cultural obligations. Susan’s story is a classic example of the hard-working women of Auki, often the unseen heroes, who work long hours to support their families and the community. Their contributions are not merely additive but multiplicative, as they bring forth innovative solutions, nurture financial literacy, and create a culture of savings and investment that benefits the entire community.

The story begins with the recognition of the disparity in access to formal financial services between men and women, a gap that the Solomon Islands Government is determined to close.

Through the implementation of the National Women's Financial Inclusion Policy, strides are being made to ensure that women are not just participants but leaders in the financial sector. Initiatives like the West Are’Are Rokotanikeni Association and the Jorio Java Dovele Women’s Association Saving Club are more than just names; they are symbols of a collective effort to turn the tide against economic hardship.

As a single mother, Serah Ladoa earns over $1000 on peak days selling second-hand clothes, but her earnings drop on other days. Despite her best efforts to save, her expenses often outweigh her income. “This money-minded training has been an eye-opener, helping me grasp the true meaning of "priorities. Saving isn't easy when I'm responsible for all the family's expenses and needs. By applying the knowledge we've gained; we can keep money circulating within our community instead of spending it all in Auki town on unnecessary items.”

These associations, driven by the indomitable spirit of women, have become incubators for financial well-being. They are spaces where women learn to manage finances, understand the importance of credit, and take control of their economic destinies. The impact of these efforts is palpable, as families are lifted out of poverty, children's education is secured, and women achieve unprecedented levels of financial autonomy.

Hilda Toremana says, “this training is incredibly valuable for women, especially market vendors. With our goals in mind, it's clear that not all of us have achieved them yet. The key lesson from this money-minded training is that planning before spending is crucial.”

Joan Betty adds, “I have savings which have helped me to be able to invest in what I want for my family. Attending this training gives me more knowledge to save better and us women saving will not only increase our financial capacity but good managers of money.”

Moreover, the ripple effects of financial inclusion are felt throughout Auki. As women gain access to credit and savings facilities, small businesses flourish, local economies strengthen, and a new narrative of growth and opportunity is written. The success stories of women entrepreneur's echo through the markets of Auki, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.

This story is not without its challenges, however. Cultural norms and geographical barriers have historically impeded women's access to financial services. Yet, with the advent of digital technology and mobile banking, these obstacles are being overcome. Women in the most remote areas of Auki are now able to connect to the global economy, bringing innovation and diversity to the financial landscape.

Patson Ata, President of the Auki Market Vendors, emphasizes, “Women are the backbone of homes and communities. For women market vendors, attending this training with limited prior financial literacy is a significant privilege. Women are action-oriented, and with the insights gained from this training, even small steps in financial management can transform their financial stability at home and in the community.”

The importance of financial well-being in Auki cannot be overstated. It is the foundation upon which sustainable development is built. It is the tool that breaks the cycle of poverty and paves the way for a future where every individual has the opportunity to thrive. And at the heart of this transformation are the women of Auki, whose contributions are not just important but essential.

Their stories inspire other women, men and youth to continue to participate, engage and contribute to the local economy, their families and communities. Their stories inspire and promote the power of inclusion and the strength of community. They remind us that when women prosper, families, communities, and nations also prosper. The journey towards financial well-being in Auki is a journey of hope, a journey of change, and above all, a journey of collective victories where every woman's contribution is a step towards a brighter tomorrow for their family, and the next generation.

With each passing day, the seeds of financial literacy and inclusion sown by the women of Auki grow into a lush canopy of prosperity, sheltering the next generation from the storms of poverty and inequality. This is a story worth telling, a story worth living, and a story that continues to unfold with each woman's empowered step forward.

The Markets for Change (M4C) project aims to promote gender equality by economically empowering women market vendors in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Samoa. This project, brings together various stakeholders, offers financial literacy training that connects vendors and farmers with essential service providers. This sharing of information, raising awareness, and networking opportunities have the potential to improve the livelihoods of market vendors and their families.

The Markets for Change Project contributes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the M4C project directly contributes to multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It supports SDG 5 on Gender Equality, SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth, SDG 10 on reducing inequalities, and SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities. The project ensures equality and economic empowerment for all, including men, women, youth, people with disabilities, and marginalized minority groups.

The M4C project is implemented by UN Women in partnership with UNDP and with support from the Government of Australia. Together, they are making a real difference and contributing to sustainable economic growth in rural communities across Honiara, Solomon Islands. 


Source: Press Release, UNDP Solomon Islands