Women from participating companies with the SICCI incoming CEO Atenasi Ata during the launch on Wednesday 10 October 2018.

Fifteen (15) of the largest businesses in Solomon Islands and their employees who have signed up to the Waka Mere Commitment to Action are beginning to reap the rewards of investing in a gender equal workforce.

This was highlighted during the launch of the Waka Mere Commitment to Action mid-term report on Wednesday 10th October 2018 in Honiara.

Waka Mere is a two-year initiative by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in partnership with the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI), supported by the governments of Australia and New Zealand to promote gender equality in business in Solomon Islands. 

Fifteen of Solomon Islands’ leading employers, all of whom are members of SICCI, are part of the initiative and have pledged commitments for promoting gender equality in three core areas: to increase opportunities for women in leadership within their organization; build respectful and supportive workplaces including supporting staff impacted by domestic violence; and promoting opportunities for women in jobs traditionally held by men.

Twelve months on, and half way through the initiative, we have seen great progress towards achieving these commitments,” Sarah Twigg, IFC’s Gender and Private Sector specialist, said at the launch.

“Participating companies and their employees are already beginning to reap the rewards of investing in a gender equal workforce.

“We’ve seen women promoted, we’ve seen companies developing a pipeline of women leaders.

“We’ve seen women offered and taking up jobs that were once the sole domain of men and we’ve seen companies proactively moving to tackle the issue of domestic violence through training and policy changes,” Ms Twigg said.

Incoming Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SICCI, Atenasi Ata said the Chamber is indeed gratified that an important part of our country’s business community, especially through the 15 participating companies sees the value in Waka Mere and its goal of improving women experiences in the workplace.

Ms Ata, highlighted that this initiative was an example of where the private sector is in step with the Government and its legislative reforms including the Family Protection Act, and the Ending Violence Against Women Policy 2016-2020. She said this Waka Mere program reinforces the message that investing in gender equality and therefore improving women’s experience in the workplace makes good social, and more importantly good business sense.

“As a first step we will be looking to our membership of more than 200 companies and businesses. And facilitating where the appetite exists to mainstream Waka Mere values that builds on the important gains made so far.

“We also hope to meet identified needs in developing appropriate HR policies, systems and processes,” she said.

The report shows eight companies have now set measurable targets for increasing the share of women in leadership positions and are investing in women through management and leadership courses. Nine out of 12 women who attended the courses were later promoted or given broader responsibilities. 

Eleven Waka Mere companies trained teams on how to respond to staff affected by domestic violence and started implementing internal policies for addressing domestic violence, as part of measures to build respectful and supportive workplaces. At the same time, more employers started to train women to take on traditionally male-dominated roles such as driving company vehicles.  

Throughout the past year, IFC with the support of SICCI have provided training, workshops and opportunities for the companies to meet and share experiences and ideas and will continue to do so in 2019.

The fifteen companies will complete an endline survey in July next year, to track progress against where they started.

Waka Mere companies include: Bank South Pacific, Bulk Shop, GPPOL, Hatanga Construction Ltd, Heritage Park Hotel, National Fisheries Development, Pan Oceanic Bank, Solomon Airlines, Solomon Breweries Ltd, Solomon Islands National Provident Fund, Solomon Islands Port Authority, Solomon Islands Tobacco Company Ltd, Solomon Water, Solomon Power, and SolTuna.

About the author

Philip Lilomo is the Chamber's Media & Communications Officer. Philip writes most of the Chamber's media releases. He also manages the website contents, designs the Chamber's monthly newsletter, brochures and maintains the organisation's visual branding. 

Philip can be contacted on email: media@solomonchamber.com.sb 

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