HONIARA, (ANZ) – In the Solomon Islands women have always played an instrumental role in their communities. In the small island nation of just over half a million people some 70 vernacular languages are spoken and a subsistence economy prevails.
Now the central role of women is further evolving as they play an even greater role in the formal economy.
The Rokotanikeni Savings Group is a group of over 1,000 Solomon Islands women who have taken charge of their finances and reaping the benefits of their grit and determination.
Last month the group revealed its members have broken through the $SBD1.2 million mark in savings. While the numbers are commendable, it’s the culture shift that’s really worth celebrating.
Women take charge
Rokotanikeni literally translates to “a group of women building together”, and was established in October 1999 as the West ‘Are’ Are Rokotanikeni Association following research carried out by founder Dr Alice Pollard on changing roles of the rural population in Solomon Islands.
The association provides access to savings services, small loans and financial literacy training including household budgeting, managing finances and basic bookkeeping.
It took five years for Dr Pollard to set up a structure for the organisation. The savings aspect became functional in 2004. She had seen the need to educate the women in her village to embrace the culture of savings.
More than 50 per cent of the members at the time started their savings with only $SBD5 (US62 cents).
“We’ve come a long way, and now women are able to access funds for their children’s school fees and other important items, rather than relying on wantoks (extended family) to assist them financially,” Dr Pollard says.
Dr. Pollard is a member of the National Financial Inclusion Taskforce (NFIT) under the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, and as such, says increased awareness of the accomplishments by women such as the savings by the Rokotanikeni Savings Group should be promoted and celebrated.
I couldn’t agree more. Well done to all the members of the Rokotanikeni Savings Group for their inspiring work and commitment to financial literacy in Solomon Islands. Thanks a million, tank iu tumas!
By Geoffrey Buchanan*
*Geoffrey Buchanan is CEO of ANZ Solomon Islands.
The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.