On International Women’s Day 2019, we are sharing stories of women doing inspiring work across the Pacific. Whether in the business world, advocacy, media or countless other sectors, their contributions highlight the transformative power of women in the region. REGINA LEPPING is a Filmmaker, Actor, Activist and Youth Empowerment and Engagement Specialist working for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the UN’s Peace Building Fund. She is also the co-founder of the Say It Out Loud Film Festival. She spoke to World Bank Media:
My work is to get young people and young women into decision making platforms to get their voices heard.
I also get to train young people in building social enterprizes as another approach to peace-building.
I also volunteer on advocacy work for domestic violence and anti-corruption, and I make awareness films on these issues for local audiences in Solomon Islands to relate to and understand these problems.
I co-founded the Say It Out Loud Film Festival with a colleague who passed away two years ago.
Through the festival, young people can share their films on what a peaceful society looks like, and how domestic violence can be eliminated.
It is small but growing and we try to involve lots of young men to share their thoughts on how to eliminate domestic violence.
I am a passionate filmmaker, I love the whole art of telling and sharing stories through films. I am humbled to be among the first few native Solomon Islander filmmakers.
It is my hope to have more female filmmakers from Solomon Islands telling their own stories.
What set you on this path?
I come from a chiefly family, my father is a chief in the village and we have always been encouraged to speak for other people.
I’m lucky to come from family that doesn’t put constraints on women taking leadership roles.
That isn’t the case with many families, so I’m using what I have to speak up for the groups I advocate for, especially for youth; which is the largest and most ignored group in Solomon Islands at the moment.
What advice do you have for young women who want to take a similar path?
Even though I have privilege to be able to speak out, it still takes time to get people to understand and take action, so patience is incredibly important.
You need patience, and you cannot lose yourself in the process.
I fear that women can lose themselves in the process due to anger and depression at not having enough support.
So my advice is that if you begin to feel like that, just remember why you started in the first place.
What are the biggest issues in Solomon Islands right now and how can they be addressed?
We are heavily dependent on aid, and that shouldn’t happen because Solomon Islands is rich in resources on land and in the sea.
Indigenous people need to take charge of what they have – the land and environment – we need to keep it clean to ensure our resources remain ours.
I’ve seen a lot of young people who are aware of these dangers and fear losing everything and want to be part of the solution. We should start there.
Where do you see Solomon Islands in 25 years?
In 25 years, I want to see Solomon Islanders taking the lead, driving change in their community for a greener future for Solomon Islands where we can look after our environment, our schools and we can keep our girls safe in our communities.
I think we can achieve that.
I also want to see more women in parliament, and maybe the first female Prime Minister.
What change would you like to see that could bring greater equality in Solomon Islands?
I would like to see women have an equal platform with men to voice their issues.
A woman’s voice speaks for children and the whole family so it is important that they have that platform.
If you could use one word to describe women in Solomon Islands, what would it be?
Smiling. Even though there are challenges and a lack of equal representation if you go to the market they are there smiling, looking after children, selling vegetables, and they smile as if there are no issues. But there are.
But, more and more, women are finding ways to speak up.
– Courtesy: World Bank