The Australian Government through its initiative, Strongim Bisnis, helped one of Solomon Islands largest women’s savings clubs, the West ‘Are’Are Rokotanikeni Association (WARA), to launch its new manual and succession plan on 21 April 2021 in an official ceremony at Coral Sea Hotel.
WARA is a voluntary network of savings clubs for women that started in 1999. It has approximately 1,100 female members and a network of about 3,000 women. WARA’s saving clubs are mainly based in southern Malaita and Honiara. However, WARA has also supported other women’s groups to establish saving clubs in other rural areas, including East Guadalcanal, Central Province and Western Province. Watch a video about WARA and its founder, Dr Alice Pollard, here.
To continue helping women to establish new savings clubs throughout Solomon Islands, WARA created a “Savings Club Manual”. This manual is available, for free, online at: www.strongimbisnis.com.sb/resources. The manual gives detailed instructions on how rural populations—especially women—can create a club and save money together to achieve their financial goals. Examples of these goals include paying school fees, building a house, starting a business and more.
Dr Alice Pollard, the founder of WARA, said “As a savings club, WARA not only addresses women’s financial needs, but also tackles some of the deeply engrained structural gender barriers for women in the country. We offer training in financial literacy, business development and women in leadership, among many courses”.
At the official ceremony launching the manual and succession plan, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, Dr Cedric Alependava, highlighted that women have important roles to play across the economy, but are faced with specific challenges and vulnerabilities such as restrictive gender norms, gender-based violence and lack of access to finance. The Solomon Islands National Gender Equality and Women’s Development Policy identifies savings as valuable for supporting women’s economic advancement.
The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration, Mr Riley Mesepitu, also gave an address and noted the value of savings clubs to the Solomon Islands economy, which is also recognised in the Solomon Islands National Financial Inclusion Strategy.
In speaking at the ceremony, the Australian Deputy High Commissioner Ms Sally-Anne Vincent said, “WARA’s Financial Manual is the first key step in the journey towards sustainability. It allows WARA’s way of working, with its focus on women’s financial inclusion to be used by saving groups across the country – the fact that it is online means that it could even be used across the world.”
“The Australian High Commission, through Strongim Bisnis, our broader economic agenda, and our gender strategy, remains absolutely committed to implementing responses to development challenges that are practical, real world and specific to the location in which they are delivered. I look forward to Australia working with the next generation of WARA leaders and other community representatives” Ms Vincent said.
Strongim Bisnis partnered with WARA as part of its Women’s Economic Empowerment efforts. Strongim Bisnis also supports the cocoa, coconut, tourism, financial services, timber, horticulture and waste management sectors, with a strong focus on women, youth and people with disability.