Some of the women leaders in the Waka Mere participating companies (from left to right), Kathy Nori, Lily Lomulo Human Resource Manager SITCO, Regina Pokana from GPPOL and Lyn Fa’arodo from Bank South Pacific (BSP).

‘Workplace gender equality & gender diversity in leadership is good for business’

Representatives from the private sector and the business community were joined by Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare yesterday (Tuesday 5th November 2019) for a Business Breakfast at the Heritage Park Hotel to celebrate the achievements of the fifteen (15) participating companies to the Waka Mere Commitment to Action.

This activity is led by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI), with funding support from the Australian and New Zealand governments.

The Waka Mere Commitment to Action, launched in 2017 by IFC and SICCI, has been a two-year initiative to improve business outcomes in Solomon Islands through advancing workplace equality.

The initiative has contributed to a shift in employees’ perception of safety and fairness at work; catalyzed companies to adopt new policies and practises, and invest in their future female leaders; and open up skills training and jobs for women in roles traditionally held by men.

Fifteen (15) of the largest companies in the Solomon Islands signed up for up to three commitments to progress which included promoting women in leadership, building respectful and supportive workplaces and increasing opportunities for women in non-traditional jobs.

Participating companies undertook business case research and training, workshops, and peer learning opportunities through the two-year initiative.

According to a report assessing the Waka Mere Commitment to Action, more than 6,500 employees working in the fifteen (15) participating companies are now benefiting from more equal, supportive and respectful workplaces in the wake of the two- year initiative on gender equality.

SICCI Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ms Atenasi Ata says that Waka Mere Commitment to Action has highlighted two important things.

“Firstly, it has successfully harnessed the power of the private sector to shift unhelpful gender norms that hurt women and men’s well-being and reduce economic prosperity.

“And secondly, it has posed lessons for employers in Solomon Islands regarding how to support their workforce. Many of the tools and approaches developed under this program are being utilized in projects throughout the region and beyond.

“Being able to do this in a country such as Solomon Islands, and with stakeholders and target beneficiaries at differing levels of engagement and resourcing capacity, is something that the Chamber together with IFC is proud of,” she said.

Ms Ata said the Waka Mere initiative recognizes that Solomon Islands is a country where women are underrepresented in paid work and decision making. And that at least two-thirds of our women are affected by violence, at great cost to the country’s human development and the economy.

Speaking during the occasion to celebrate the successful completion of the program on Tuesday 5th November 2019, Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, HE Roderick Brazier reiterated that Australia is extremely proud to have supported these efforts.

“The participating companies have invested in making their workplaces safer and more supportive of their employees. They have also invested in building a pipeline of future leaders and in expanding jobs for women.

“We know from a growing body of evidence that workplace gender equality and gender diversity in leadership is good for business,” he said.

“Having diverse leadership teams will assess risks and opportunities differently. Support for women and men facing family violence can help keep them employed. All of these things contribute to better business, which in turn contributes to growth and more job creation in Solomon Islands,” HE Roderick Brazier, Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, said.

Meanwhile, SICCI CEO, Ms Ata acknowledged the team at IFC and SICCI, especially the IFC/SICCI Gender Coordinator, Ms Ruth Maetala who had worked so hard in making this program a success.

CEO Ata also acknowledged the participating companies including: Bank South Pacific; Bulkshop; Guadalcanal Plains Palm Oil Ltd, GPPOL; Hatanga Construction Ltd; Heritage Park Hotel; National Fisheries Development; Solomon Airlines; Solomon Brewery; Solomon Islands National Provident Fund; Solomon Islands Ports Authority; Solomon Islands Tobacco Company Ltd; Water; Solomon Power; and Soltuna Company.

“The progress of Waka Mere has created a momentum for companies in Solomon Islands to continue advancing gender equality in their own workplaces, while advocating for more gender equal workplaces through the market. We are finalising plans to ensure that refresher courses, peer learning opportunities, and leadership trainings remain available for interested companies including those from outside this original 15 companies.”

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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