“As a woman, life in a rural community in the Solomon Islands can be hard. For me, I wake up early in the morning and walk for a long time and far distance to get to my farm. I need to get up that early in order to do my gardening work because it’s then that the heat is not as harsh from the sun.”
These are the words uttered by Christina Tony, a rural female farmer, as she stands in the middle of her garden in Areatakiki, a village in the Mbahomea Region, Central Guadalcanal. Her farm is located in the Tina River Hydropower Project catchment area. Christina, along with others in the area, have been working with the Project Office for the past 1.5 years to improve the plight of rural woman through the implementation of the Project’s Gender Action Plan (GAP).
To highlight the important role rural women play in society, each year the world recognises International Rural Women’s Day. As celebrations take place around the globe on 15 October, the Project acknowledges this as day to remember and celebrate the many social and economic contributions of rural women and girls, who help build and support families, society and entire countries.
Christina Tony, brushing in her food crop farm at Areatakiki, Mbahomea Region, Tina River Hydropower Project catchement area.
As Christina talks, the sound of knives slicing through the thick bush, the mattock cracking through the soil and the voices of children humming common tunes in the Guadalcanal dialect can be heard. These women are not only working in the garden; they are also taking care of their children. The role women play in rural communities in the Solomon Islands is vital. They worked equally hard as men, often raising children and contributing in addition to their domestic duties by earning money from small simple commercial cash crop activities like selling of farmed crops.
The location of her farm in the Tina River Hydropower Project catchment means that she and other rural women in the area have the opportunity to benefit from the support offered by the Project through Gender Action Plan (GAP). The plan designed for women and girls in the Project area and focuses on reducing the burden of work and improving livelihood opportunities through access to resources and services. Through the life cycle of the Project and beyond, the GAP will work to ensure gender equality in opportunities for education, skill training and employment all while promoting the voice, participation and empowerment of women.
Christina has been earning money for her family from farming for 10 years now and as a woman running a rural business, she has faced challenges and weathered many storms. But a strong sense of resilient and a clear focus on the future is evident in her character. Taking advantage of what she has learnt through the training provided by the GAP, she now has her eyes firmly fixed on the spin off benefits that the 15-megawatt hydropower power system project can provide.
While she is thrilled at the prospect of more affordable, reliable and accessible electricity for her community and country, her vision extends beyond that. She is motivated by the opportunities that the project will present for her community and with the encouragement she has gained from being a part of the Gender Action Plan program, Christina is looking to expanding her business. When the project commences construction, she will be well positioned to expand by distributing her agriculture product to the camp site; as well as supplying to existing buyers in town.
With only a primary level education background as a grade six drop-out, Christina says, “Even though I had very little education, I did not allow that to limit myself or affect my future and destiny. Woman who are similar with little education might stop from trying their best or they might be tied down with the norms of our society; that women should only look after children, cook and baby sit. I tried not to fall to that trap that most women and girls fall victim to in our rural communities.”
Today, she is a proud business owner, a farmer and leader helping her community women with business ideas to market their farmed food crops. Christina is also a passionate learner and always pushes herself to explore new ideas. She is a part of the Mbahomea Zone 3 Women’s Association group who, with the support of the Gender Officer from the Project team, have been encouraged to learn new things and reach their true potential. The Tina River Hydropower Project Office holds regularly consultations, trainings and capacity building programs such as Financial Literacy packages which has benefited Christina and other members of the woman’s group.
Although these women live and work in a rural community, the importance of their daily grind is essential for Honiara City, the capital of Solomon Islands and home to 90,000 people. Honiara central market is supplied daily with food crops by approximately 30% of rural women from all over the Solomon Islands. Christina's community, along with other surrounding villages in the Guadalcanal plains, make up the bulk of this supply chain for fresh food crops.
Christina Tony (front) with other two rural women farmers in her food crop farm at Areatakiki, Mbahomea Region, Tina River Hydropower Project catchement area.
“When we have access to skill building support like the trainings organised by the Tina Hydropower Development Project under its Gender Action Plan, it is like a boost to what we do.” says Christina. Some of us don’t even know the basics of managing income but we were very fortunate to learn this through these programs. It has helped us to meet farming cost after bad weather seasons. These trainings really build our confidence to carry on with our farming businesses.”
Christina’s story is a common tale for rural woman in the Solomon Islands. Given the right training and support, these women can continue to do great things for their families, communities and country. The Tina River Hydropower Project, with its Gender Action Plan, looks to continue to provide consultations and training; supporting and empowering women during project construction and beyond.