It’s a special moment captured on film – Solomon Islands women rejoicing at their success in building a better life for their communities.
The picture is part of a photo exhibition, to be launched tonight by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, commemorating 40 years of the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) which helps communities tackle poverty.
Life is full of challenges in the villages of the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. Money is tight and the reef, which provides the majority of food, faces fishing pressure.
An ANCP funded project, supported by WWF and seafood brand John West Australia, is helping to address these challenges.
Devices that look like rafts have been anchored to the sea floor close to shore. Small fish gather under the rafts attracting bigger fish. Villagers can paddle to these devices to catch fish easing the pressure on the reef.
In addition, the project established women’s savings clubs in 2012 and a micro-loans scheme, controlled by the local women, has recently been launched.
This approach acknowledges the dominant role played by women in Solomon Islands’ life. Through the clubs they have received training to manage their own funds to benefit their communities.
Now they are providing micro-loans to help members establish small businesses. One woman bought chickens to sell eggs; another established a small piggery and other women bake bread to sell at the market.
Given the success of the women’s savings clubs the women had much to celebrate when the picture was taken in Gizo township in June 2014.
“Empowering women is the most fundamental way of enabling development and reducing poverty”, said Gilly Llewellyn, WWF-Australia’s Conservation Director.
“It is in recognition of the importance of women and their economic empowerment that WWF and partners have explicitly built a women’s micro-finance project into our conservation work.
“While WWF, John West Australia and the Australian Government’s Australian Aid program provided the foundations for the women to launch from, these women have passionately embraced this project.
“They have given it their all – and that’s why I am confident this project will be a success.
“We applaud the four decades of investment in NGO aid projects by the Australian Government and hope to see at least another 40 years of partnerships to come,” she said.
WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571