GIZO, Solomon Islands – Twenty-four ward leaders from the Western Provincial Council of Women (WPCW) are gathered in Gizo for a five-day meeting to validate two crucial documents that will guide the future of the women’s council as they move to strengthen their position in the province.
The WPCW will be looking into their Constitution 2007 draft and WPCW Strategic Plan 2023-2030 among the top priorities of the weeklong meeting this week.
The meeting was launched at the WPCW Women’s Resource Centre at the Western Province capital on Monday with the attendance of the WPCW ward council presidents including two ward council representatives and the Solomon Islands National Council of Women (SINCW).
This is the first time in 12 years for the SINCW to formally meet with its Western provincial affiliate.
The launching was joined by stakeholders that include the Western Provincial Government and its Women’s Development Division, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, Family Support Centre, and the Social Welfare Division in Gizo under the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.
Also in attendance were Oxfam in the Pacific representatives who are supporting the event under its Safe Families Project that is funded by the Australian Government with the aim to address family violence in the Solomon Islands.
While addressing the opening of the program, WPCW President Rendy Solomon says it is a golden opportunity to have a majority of their ward council of women presidents gathered to discuss ways forward.
The WPCW manages 26 ward councils under its umbrella, covering 26 ward districts scattered across the Western Province. Ten communities from six wards are taking part in project-implemented activities such as Oxfam’s Safe Families Project.
WPCW signed a partnership agreement with Oxfam under the Safe Families Project in 2019 and have since carried out numerous activities to support WPCW’s work.
The project supports community level activities that work to improve attitudes and awareness that family violence is not acceptable. These activities include linking communities up to government and non-government stakeholders at the provincial level.
Rendy says the project has made significant progress in targeting behavioral and social change concerning violence against women and children, especially in the communities that were fortunate to work with the project, although she added the council would be happy to see an extension of the project to cover the remaining wards who are eager be part of the Safe Families Project.
The week-long workshop will also provide participants a Safeguarding Policy development training to strengthen WPCW’s organizational capacity. Key stakeholders will share their experiences and best practices to inform the council’s decisions and develop practical solutions to address critical issues.
Planning Specialist, Nixon Qurusu from the Western Provincial Government, also addressed the participants and applauded the approach taken to involve all the ward presidents who represent rural communities and the voices of the women down in the villages.
“From the Provincial Government’s perspective, we call this participatory planning, which is a good bottom-up approach that involves the citizens,” Nixon said in acknowledgement.
He said an important part of WPCW’s work will assist the Provincial Government in achieving inclusive developments. Under the National Government’s PGSP (Provincial Government Strengthening Program), provincial governments are awarded funds based on points they achieve under a set of development criteria, and part of this include gender empowerment.
Nixon explained that in every Ward Development Committee (WDC) established under the Provincial Government, at least two women must be included in the committee, and at least one woman to be included in the ward’s executive committee that manages the WDC.
“Not achieving this will cost us points for the PGSP’s Provincial Capacity Development Fund, and this is losing out a substantial amount of funds.”
SINCW Vice President Christina Sogavare who attended the event on the national council’s behalf, says the gathering is a historic moment for WPCW and the women representing their wards.
Christina encouraged the women’s ward council presidents to take ownership of the National Council of Women, who are taking increased efforts to strengthen their relationships with their provincial counterparts.
With the support of the Safe Families Project, SINCW completed a similar meeting with the Choiseul Provincial Council of Women earlier this month and will continue its provincial tour to Malaita next week.
The SINCW and its provincial arms have shared history and mission to promote women’s rights, gender equality and addressing violence against women and girls in the Solomon Islands.
- Western Provincial Council of Women Media Release