The four facilitators travelled and lived with the community for five days at Binu village on the island of Guadalcanal. The awareness sessions were conducted in the evenings from 5pm to 8.30pm each day from 25th April to 2nd May, 2011. Sessions were conducted in the evenings due to the oil palm plantation activities during the day. Binu village and the surrounding villages have a good big number of people who are landowners who own the oil palm plantations, ordinary village dwellers and laborers (men, women, youth and children). Their daily activities vary including gardening, marketing, planting and harvesting. Youths and children are either at school or at home during the day.
Daily attendance to sessions showed the villagers’ eagerness and interest which was encouraging and satisfactory to the team and the project itself. There were chiefs, pastors, Guadalcanal Palm Oil Limited (GPOL) workers, youth and children, male and female, students from Primary and Community High Schools and mothers attending with their babies either on their laps or back sleeping.
According to the participants, this was the “first time” for an awareness to be brought to them in a village set up. The facilitators observed that the awareness and specific topics covered in electoral issues, gender and international agreements provided an impact and allow participants to discuss freely women in leadership, partnership and the importance of gender in governance and elections. The sessions and topics further helped participants to identify obstacles that exist in the mind set of culture, gender, seniority and practices. The desire and passion to see change was expressed by participants during evaluation sessions held at the end of each day.
Participants have even admitted some stereotype thinking and practices that are barriers to equal effective partnership not only in governance but in their normal activities, responsibilities and their rights to vote specifically as citizens of Solomon Islands.
Participants participated well especially in activities that were group oriented, required oral or verbal presentation and in role plays. It was also very encouraging to see the youth contributing in group work and presentations.
At the closing of the workshop, the head chief assured the community of his support towards gender equality and the drive towards the importance of gender participation in leadership as a walk-path to the next national and provincial elections for their ward and constituency. He also reiterated the need for such awareness to return to their community between now and 2014 (the next national general election).
The team was well received and supported before, during and after the awareness program each day.
With experienced facilitators, timely preparation and logistics arranged, and with advice from the UN Women country office, the awareness program was carried out successfully.
The commitment to preparation, readiness to adjust, teamwork, ownership of the program and being someone from the village made it all a satisfying, sharing and learning experience for all.
“Go BRIDGE Go”
Organized and supported by: UN Women Solomon Islands Office
Facilitators: Apolonia Bola (Semi Accredited); Viola Malasa (Semi Accredited); Mathias Meabir (Workshop Facilitator); Leotina Harihiru (Lead/Accrediting Facilitator)
By Ms Leotina Harihiru