Rural women committed to conservation in Solomon Islands

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Island Sun Newspaper, Pacific Islands

Rural Solomon Islands women engaging in conservation was highlighted at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Mrs Moira Dasipulo and Mrs Loretta Soaki from Isabel Province and Salome Topo of the Solomon Islands’ World Wildlife Fund (WWF) shared lessons and experiences amongst women engaged in conservation.

At a session on how networks of women are driving forward conservation outcomes, Isabel Province’s Vice President of Mothers Union– a women’s organisation within the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM) Mrs Moira Dasipulo spoke of how The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has supported women’s engagement in conservation.

“We women from Isabel Province have been empowered by TNC to be able to take the lead in conserving our land and marine resources,” she said.

Mrs Dasipulo said the Isabel Provincial Government’s belief in a tripod system of church, government and the chiefly structure has enabled women to be included as key members in the three levels of governance.

An example was that women chiefs are being included in the Isabel Council of Chiefs (ICC) structure and through their leadership have resulted in 40 protected areas – both land and sea being identified for conservation.

“Since we practise the matrilineal family system in Isabel Province, it means we women are the resources owners and we are thankful to TNC for facilitating this project since 2012,” she added.

Isabel Provincial Government’s Women Desk Officer Mrs Loretta Soaki said she is the focal point for national government’s commitments to women.

“So my task is to facilitate and support women’s initiative to be empowered financially or in their work on conservation, but not to finance their projects.”

Ms Topo of WWF based in Gizo Township of Western Province highlighted how in developing island nations like Solomon Islands, successful conservation is the same as sustainable development.

“It’s only through poverty reduction, improved quality of life, sustainable livelihoods, and raise awareness, that communities will be able to effectively managed their use of reefs and fish populations and ensure they stay within sustainable limits.

“Empowering women is the most fundamental way of enabling development and their economic empowerment that WWF and partners have explicitly built a women’s microfinance project into conservation work.”

Ms Topo relayed how more than 600 women have been empowered through a micro finance scheme in Gizo.

The women from six zones within the Gizo and the surrounding islands received financial literacy trainings and since the start of the project in 2013, 678 women have saved more than SBD257,000 (USD34,700), withdrawal SDB118,000 (USD15,900), Balance SBD139,000 (USD 18,800).

“In June 2014, the group savings club launched its small-loan component and women loan from revolving funds and venture into new small scale business or expanded their business,” Ms Topo explained.

The session held at the Hawaii Convention Centre on day-three of the 10-day IUCN Conservation Congress bought together representatives from four different case studies in Asia Pacific (including from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Northern Australia and the Coral Triangle), where networks of women are driving forward conservation outcomes.

TNC – United States of America, WWF-Australia and IUCN Gender Adviser Office supported and facilitated the session.