Women rise to challenges for better society

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She has strength and flexibility. She is determined and dedicated to improving peoples’ lives. She also has charming leadership quality. She earned all these abilities hard through her experience in dealing with a number of challenges she faced in her social and personal life in Solomon Islands.

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Barbara lives in the community along the large coral Marovo lagoon, in the New Georgia Islands.

It is located in the Western Province, far away from Guadalcanal, the principal island of the Solomon Islands.

She shifted her base depending on her work as government officer, NGO staff, community coordinator and business woman.

She re-discovered and realised herself after she lost her husband, when she was 42. She found herself alone but soon stood up. She became committed to improving the environment in the communities through working with NGOs and churches as volunteer.

IMG_3054She tackles the problem of the lagoon pollution which has been getting worse. She is afraid that it may be caused by the logging activities carried out interior of the island. The pollution comes from the river all the way down to the lagoon.

The lagoon and river pollution affects sanitation and health of people in the surrounding communities, much of whose daily lives depend on the river and lagoon water for fishing, drinking, bathing and washing.

She talks to the communities to avoid the polluted water and to not contribute to the pollution. It is not easy to make herself understood to women in the communities as many of them do not have proper education. She finds ways to explain to them social, environmental political matters in the communities.

In the communities, girls tend to come back and stay at home in the middle or at the completion of their primary education while boys often either continue education or get employed.

Her 37-year-old daughter, one of her six children, has been paralyzed on her left side body after being infected Malaria when she was just six month old. Barbara raised her daughter to become independent – she graduated from technical school and obtained skills to support herself.

Barbara strongly believes that women need education and obtain skills to design their lives.

She has launched her another capacity to serve her communities. She was elected by the Marovo constituency in 2017 and has become one of seven provincial women’s caucus members in the Western Province.

Barbara, as caucus member, plays an advisory role in policy making at the provincial government and performs community conflict mitigation and peace building.

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Ileen is another member of provincial women’s caucus in the Guadalcanal Province, based in Honiara.

IMG_3075For her, taking up responsibility in the government is not a new job, rather she has made return after she served as Minister for Women for four years. She entered politics when she was elected to the provincial assembly in 2010. She was the only woman among 20 members at the time.

Her professional path was not linear, but has been woven with various experience and undertakings both in her social commitment and personal life.

Like Barbara, Ileen became dedicated more strongly to social and political issues after her husband left.

Her husband is from Tikopia Island, a remote island in Temoru Province, eastern part of Solomon Islands. They married and started life together in Honiara, Guadalcanal Province but soon ‘tension’ expanded violently in 1998. He became involved in the politics of the ‘tension’, which forced him to leave Honiara when violence escalated. He fled back to his island and they have been separated since then.

The violence and turmoil during the tension, and husband’s departure almost devastated Ileen and her two-year-old daughter. Her house was burnt down. The mother and daughter had to run and hide. When the situation was becoming calmer, she made herself focus on contributing to community peace building to heal people and herself.

Since then she has been dedicated to peace building and social work, particularly with women and youth in her community.

She provides mentorship to young women in the communities who are interested in social and political issues but do not feel confident enough to take a step.

She has recently embarked on a new venture – organizing young unemployed women and men in her community and developing their entrepreneurship for ‘community tourism’.

She leads younger generation by example.

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