GOOD afternoon and a Very Happy Women’s Day to All CSO Male and Female Champions.
It is indeed an honour and a privilege for me to be with you all this afternoon to be in your midst but more so to speak on this event of our celebration of the International Women’s Day 2018.
First of all may I take this opportunity at this event to pay tribute to all those men and women who relentlessly fought for women’s rights, including their rights to vote, to have access to education, to work and to be treated at par with men.
Importantly I feel that this is a time to celebrate those women who fought for their rights to participate in the democratic process.
I also feel that concurrently, it is also a day to acknowledge that the fight for gender equality is far from being over and therefore, the theme for this year is one that encourages us both men and women to “Press for Progress” and to move on.
No doubt, we all appreciate that Solomon Islanders are living in a developing society; we are educated, we are much more ahead of some of our small regional countries in terms natural resources and socio-economic development.
Solomon Islands gained independent in 1978 and this year we will celebrating 40 years of independent and I am pleased to say that we should overcome inequalities because our constitution makes no discrimination between men and women.
No doubt, we have indeed come a long way with regard to women’s status in our country and been making some progress including areas of;
· Cuts in mortality rates
· Gender parity in enrolment rates in the academic field
· Better performance of girls at primary and secondary levels
· Growing rate in the participation of women in the labour market
· Access to reproductive health services
· And women’s entry in the political arena.
As your Advocator for the promotion of Gender and Women in Leadership, I always take pride in women when they access to higher positions in employment and leadership roles at high level decision-making bodies such as in the country’s Provincial Assemblies and National Parliament.
Today we have 1 National MP and 4 Provincial Members.
We have 1 Ambassador who is currently our High Commissioner to New Zealand and 2 Permanent Secretaries.
This is slow though some progress that we have noted in the country with a few more women becoming Board Members of the various SOEs and Institutions in the country.
However, I call on all Male Champions here this afternoon not only to recognize these achievements, but that all of us needs we to lift up our profile as a country that gives women their full dignity, respect and due.
I, therefore, wish to commend the United Nations for choosing the theme “Press for Progress” which will help us reflect on our achievements but that we are urged to consider “Championing the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal 5, which calls for a united effort to support programs that will progress the country forward to “Achieve Gender Equality and Empowering of All Women and Girls”. Today in this Dialogue and Forum we must seek to find common goals to agree on new parameters for a shared vision to implementing the SDG 5.
Let me remind all of us of the UN General Secretary’s stated when launching the SDGs who said, and I quote “the SDGs are our shared vision of humanity and a contract between the world’s leaders and the people”.
Solomon Islanders, must take stock of our UN Commitments with regards to the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs, as they offer us with an immense prospect for the future of women and girls of Solomon Islands.
Let us mark this event of the International Women’s Day 2018, as an event that we will Press for Change in society.
We must move quickly to address bureaucratic and structural barriers that are likely to undermine the successful implementation of SDG 5 and seek redress of our legislations and policies giving room for equal participation of both men and women in all spheres of development in the country.
Civil Society Organizations have amongst us to-day, a potential pool of Gender Champions and you can be the drivers of the transformation that SDG 5 seeks to make.
Recent literature reviews found robust evidences that countries which show greater gender equality in employment and in education were likely to report higher rates of quality education, economic growth and human development.
These evidences should pave the way for Solomon Islands’ public and private sector, including CSOs to take necessary actions in the designing and formulating gender responsive policies.
The Solomon Islands Government must be conscious of this predicament and must focus its strategies on quality education and training that will boost investments, fuelling economic growth, creating adequately remunerative employment and propelling our country towards a high income economy.
I call on both National Provincial Governments including CSOs and Church Faith Based Organizations, to ensure commitments are made towards gender equality that entails intentional measures to incorporate a gender perspective into planning and budgetary frameworks as well as concrete investments in addressing gender gaps in the country.
Solomon Islands is heading a narrow pathway to graduate from its current economic and social status, because there has been less budgetary allocations made to supporting women’s rural and urban development including lack of resources to supporting any tangible programmes that will meaningfully engage our growing youth population.
Any national budget of a country is a powerful administrative and economic indicator and tool to correct injustices, inequalities and to build a fairer and better society that will progress Solomon Islands for all.
I hope that this is a belief in the minds of our leaders when making budgets to meeting the needs of our people.
I am sad that this 2018 Budget for Solomon Islands will not reflect the interest of the majority, because I know much of it will certainly go towards meeting MPs Terminal Grants at the end of their term this year, and the rest will go towards the Constituency Development Fund, which will be used mainly to secure Votes during the 2019 National General Elections.
Less training programmes will be developed in skilling and reskilling our graduates seeking employment, but that should be the case so that many of our young people will not be left out of the development train.
This will directly benefit women who wish either to start an economic activity or join the labour market and employment both in the public or private sector.
Government must take firm action to include strengthening of our laws to deal with violence and abuse against women and children.
We will be ruthless against those who ill-treat women and girls if our laws are not strengthened and enforced by the responsible authorities.
The crimes being committed against girls and women have to be halted.
Lastly, but not the least, let me remind all of us again that this International Women’s Day is a reminder that gender equality is a basic human right for all women and girls to enjoy their full legal equality of opportunity and have the same life prospects as their male counterparts.
Solomon Islands as a State must do everything possible to ensure that the dignity of our women is never trampled upon but translate our statements and good intentions into concrete actions for the betterment of our women who represents almost half of our Solomon Islands’ population.
Finally, I want to thank the Organizers of this Dialogue for bringing us all here this afternoon, and I hope we make constructive contributions of our discussions around Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment to bringing more Male Champions on the field to support Women in the coming Provincial and National Elections for a Better Change and Better Solomon Islands.
Thank you all for your kind attention.
Acting General Secretary
National Council of Women