You may think it strange that WWF cares about how women selling fish in the markets in Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea spend their money. But we do. We do because we believe in a future where people live in harmony with nature, both here at home and abroad.
Growing population pressures in the South West Pacific are leading to the overexploitation of marine resources, and the fall-out is increased food insecurity and poverty. In partnership with communities in Solomon Islands and PNG, WWF is helping women to improve their financial know-how and to consider new ways to invest their family's earnings. And it's paying dividends for the families as well as the fisheries they rely upon.
Our model encourages women to form ‘savings groups’ and gives them access to micro-loans to set up suitable financial, social and environmentally sustainable businesses. Improving their economic situation enables families to reduce their reliance on catching fish, which in turn eases pressures on the heavily exploited reefs. This training also includes governance and leadership training to the savings groups, which also strengthens the role of women in community decision-making.
So far we've helped to establish 13 clubs on Ghizo and adjacent islands in the Solomon Islands, with over 1000 women members from 33 communities, resulting in the launching of 120 small business initiatives. In PNG’s Madang Province, 32 savings groups have recently been established, with over 560 members. In both countries we are working to train local women trainers to expand these financial inclusion activities and to support long-term sustainability.
By empowering the women in these communities we are helping address the invisibility of women’s contributions to ﬁsheries, which has been an obstacle to development eﬀorts and the equitable distribution of beneﬁts from coastal ﬁsheries. With increasing pressures on coastal ﬁsheries, the knowledge, perspectives and buy-in of the women engaged in ﬁshing are crucial to developing viable, long-term, sustainable management systems.
In time, we're confident of seeing improvements to the management of their valuable reefs and marine resources.
WWF-Australia is very pleased to be working with the Australian Government and John West to support this project.