Honiara, Solomon Islands.
While life for most women in the Solomon Islands ambles along, there is a definite sense of change on the horizon as the country finds itself on the precipice of significant advancements in the lives of women and girls. Despite difficult and deep-rooted obstacles, optimism and opportunity is being embraced by ladies across the land.
Working hard to enable this change and on eve of construction, the Tina River Hydropower Development (TRHPD) Project continues to work with women and their communities and on a Gender Action Plan. The plan is designed to promote equal opportunities for both women and men to participate in and receive project benefits and with the world focused on International Women’s Day on March 8, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women; this persistent effort by Tina in the gender space is key to ensuring a positive impact will be realized for women.
The Gender Action Plan (GAP) which was put together back in 2017 with the support of the World Bank, acts as the Project’s roadmap to ensures activities implemented during the development include a gender perspective and promotes the considerations of gender issues particularly in the community. Whilst the national impact for Tina will be realized through the provision of more reliable and affordable electricity, this particular plan is focused on ensuring that the development has no or less negative impact on the lives of women.
Since the activation of the GAP, a number of significant achievements have already been realized. Monthly consultative forums (MCFs) occur with a focus on building relationships with the community people and importantly, create space for women and girls to be heard. It is the first time since the start of TRHDP, where such liaisons have occurred separately from the men with the aim to create space to empower, mentor and inspire women and young girls through networking, collaboration and support.
One of the key focuses of the plan is around reducing the burden of work on women and improve their livelihood opportunities through better access to resources and services. It also means children in their care, will have unprecedented access to better facilities and services, a constant topic of conversation in the monthly women’s only community consultations.
“It has been important give the women in our community an opportunity to have their say regarding the development of Tina in a female only forum.” said Sharon Para from Ngongoti, Bahomea Region. “It allows us to speak freely – voice our opinions, concerns and put forward ideas that will help our families and communities. The women also have the children to think about and because of the community consultations, we better understand how our kids will also benefit from the project.”
Solomon Islands Government has enacted a number of national level commitments on gender and TRHDP is seen as an important opportunity to promote gender mainstreaming in the Energy Sector. With a dedicated female officer working as the Gender Focal Point and Community Liaison Officer (GFP-CLO), women in communities now have direct access to someone who they can comfortably share their concerns and ideas with. This is key to ensuring gender equality in opportunities for education, skill building, training and employment throughout the Tina development.
The Gender Action Plan for the Tina Hydro Project mirrors the sentiment enabled by International Women’s Day and marks a call to action for accelerating women’s participation and empowerment in their communities for the life of the project and beyond.