The Women Friendly Spaces (WFS) program set up by World Vision Solomon Islands (WVSI) following the April 3 floods is providing an opportunity for elder women in Guadalcanal Plains to transfer indigenous skills and knowledge to younger women and is a place where new friendships are formed.
The program has changed the lives of women and helped them recover from the emotional and psychological effects of the disaster.
Madlyn Gere, 32, says that before the Women Friendly Space, women from Suaghi community never had the opportunity to come together and learn.
“Before women never came together. Maybe we got together at church but we never had an opportunity to spend time with each other, to learn from each other,” she says. “It’s really good to have this space, now we do a lot of activities together.”
Activities at the Women Friendly Spaces include singing, sports, cooking and traditional craft such as weaving. Elders have taught young women practical skills such as weaving traditional coconut baskets that are commonly used for storing food and how to make other small ball-like bags which are used for cooking rice for big occasions.
A number of information sessions have also been held at the Women Friendly Spaces to cover topics such as maternal child health, nutrition, hygiene and domestic violence. The domestic violence session, conducted by the Family Support Center, taught women about the forms of domestic violence and provided them with information about support services that are available for survivors.
Mr. HendrickBarai, a Family Support Center staff member, said many women do not realise that domestic violence has many forms.
“It was a surprise that after the presentation some women have come to realise that they have been abused by their husband on a daily basis through emotional abuse as well as from physical abuse,” he said.
“The perpetrator is not necessarily someone elsewhere, but someone whom we share our love with in our own homes,” said a young mother, realising that violence can happen anywhere.
During one of the session at Metapono community, women learnt about the SAFENET Referral Network that connects services such as the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force for protection, the Family Support Centre for counseling, medical services for treatment, the Christian Care Center for a safe home and the Public Solicitors Office for legal assistance. SAFENET has a free, 24 hour hotline for anyone who needs assistance.
Through the Women Friendly Space project, more women are empowered to increase their understanding on issues affecting them. More than 1,200 women are benefitting from World Vision’s Women Friendly Spaces in 10 communities in Guadalcanal Plains.
[SAFENET’s 24 hour hotline is a FREE call within Solomon Islands –