Updated: Jun 7, 2021
As a young Pacific millennial, through my own upbringing, education and professional involvement, I have found that my generation - and in particular, women/girls - do not readily put themselves in the spotlight or seek attention. We conform, as culture dictates; and very rarely, hold our own space and actively argue for something.
Thus, youth - particularly women - are (until recently, in Solomon Islands) not very vocal in our civic engagement, despite holding the largest percentage (up to 70%) of the country’s population. With seven of 10 Solomon Islanders considered ‘youth’ (14 - 29 years), we are very visible in our communities and very active users of social media.
My development interest in youth and women’s affairs stems from Solomon Islands’ recent ethnic crisis, which disproportionately affected youth and women, leading to widespread inequalities and conflicting government priorities. These factors became my drive and passion to advocate on these issues.
Through my experience working in women’s economic empowerment, I came to realise that it is programs including women in their design, programs lifting women out of poverty; that are the biggest ‘low cost, high impact’ wins. The ‘bottom up’ approach works well in Solomon Islands and the best way forward when driving socially sensitive issues like gender. The idea is to work with social norms, finding male champions along the way to help the cause.
Think of it this way.
As a highly motivated young professional, I think our youth and women are our region’s biggest untapped reservoir of potential for change.
They are an incubator for enacting sincere development change in our region, if given the proper leadership skills and regional knowledge to advance economic vibrancy and civic engagement. Given the right tools and opportunities, we amass countrywide social media attention on selected topics.
Women and youth are our biggest untapped reservoirs! Actively including them in governmental priorities that filter to the grassroots (because 80% of our country's population live in rural areas, as opposed to towns), ensures we can advance together as a society (and as a community) both in socio-economic circles and inclusive political participatory discussions.
If more than 70% of the country are largely youth, and more than 60% of women are employed (with more than three quarters of these only in the informal sector), how far ahead will our economic growth go if imperative parts of our societies are not equipped and educated to be participating freely in discourses that can shape their futures?
Let's be inclusive in our discussions - forthright in our realities - and persistent in our quests towards socio-economic advancement of all parts of our societies. This is our collective futures we are talking about, here.
Madam Director-General Cherol Alanavibori from Vanuatu, said it the best for me, when commenting on participation, at a stakeholder forum.
When do we graduate from the informal sector, into the formal sector?
Women working as entrepreneurs: That is the transformational change.
As local authorities - we need to do more in this space.
Capacity and local governance.
See me as a participating person in the economy.
Think 5 years ahead.
Pin it down to your performance plan - make it personal. Let’s make it our business. That’s how we can say we are contributing to the change that is working to alleviating poverty - and how I am contributing to the SDGs.
It is not just for the market vendors - it is for the councils, for the local governments, for the nations as a whole.