Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare speaking at a business breakfast event on Tuesday 5th November 2019 to celebrate and launch the final report of the Waka Mere Commitment to Action.

Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare says the participating companies in the Waka Mere Commitment to Action are now role models for adopting new policies and new practises to ensure equal treatment of men and women in their respective workplaces.

Hon Sogavare was speaking at a business breakfast event on Tuesday 5th November 2019 to celebrate and launch the final report of the Waka Mere Commitment to Action, a two-year initiative led by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI).

“These companies through the Waka Mere programme have demonstrated that it is not only possible to have more women in leadership and more women in jobs that are usually done by men, but also that it is good for business to do this,” the Prime Minister said.

Launched in July 2017, fifteen (15) of the largest companies in Solomon Islands made a commitment to improve gender equality by promoting respectful and supportive workplaces for women and men.

Participating companies chose up to three commitments to target for measurable progress over two years including promoting women in leadership, building respectful and supportive workplaces and increasing opportunities for women in jobs traditionally held by men.

Hon Sogavare said the actions taken by these companies are already having powerful demonstration effects.

“Women getting their driver’s licenses, women driving forklifts, doing jobs that few women have done before. These are transformative changes in a country like Solomon Islands.

“We are also seeing more women in business leadership positions and a strong pipeline of women being trained and supported to assume a greater range of responsibilities.  From the first groups of leadership training sponsored by Waka Mere, I am told, 80% have already advanced in their careers,” he said.

“It is time we celebrate the success of our companies in showing the way by providing equal opportunities to our women in the respective Waka Mere companies at various levels of responsibilities,” the Prime Minister added.

The Prime Minister believes the national Government can learn from the Waka Mere model in improving gender equality in leadership roles in the country’s public service.

“I am of the view that Government can also learn from Waka Mere companies.

“We (Government) are the single largest employer in Solomon Islands but we are still a long way from gender equity in many of our leadership positions. The Waka Mere model is something we will be looking to learn from the role model companies here today,” the Prime Minister said.

Hon Sogavare said there is still an even greater opportunity to use this momentum to achieve more by involving the broader SICCI membership of businesses.

“The small and medium sized enterprises that make up the majority of SICCI’s members can learn from the Waka Mere companies and adapt the policies and practices used by Waka Mere companies to their advantage, and to help men and women to thrive in their businesses,” he said.

The fifteen (15) participating companies in the Waka Mere Commitment to Action represents just 6% of the SICCI membership.

But, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ms Atenasi Ata believes it is safe to say that the lessons these companies have reported represent a far bigger impact beyond their numbers.

“Indeed, even beyond the membership of the Chamber. From the surveys conducted, it could even be said, the experiences are credible enough to be considered across the Pacific region, and the globe.

“The benefits of this program have been felt across our companies and beyond the 15 participating companies to our larger membership,” SICCI CEO, Ms Ata, said.

The Waka Mere Commitment to Action initiative concluded in July 2019, with 14 companies completing the two-year commitment.

Through the combined efforts of the companies, IFC, SICCI and key partners, 6585 employees (42% women; 59 % men) are now benefiting from more equal, supportive, and respectful workplaces.

The participating companies are: Bank South Pacific; Bulkshop; Guadalcanal Plains Palm Oil Ltd; 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; Solomon Water; Solomon Power; Soltuna Company.

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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