The issue with gender data in the Solomon Islands is not only that we have so little, but that the data we do have does not accurately reflect reality.
Realising the need to minimise the gender data gap, a new member business of the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI), was established in December of 2019.
Dignity Pasifik is a locally based woman-led research firm.
Founder and Director, Ms. Ruth Maetala, a local social entrepreneur with more than 20 years of development experience in the Solomon Islands, said since its establishment, Dignity Pasifik has been working actively with partners to broker community engagement by participating in data collection for development.
“Data is essential to achieving the goals expressed by advocates and policymakers and yet at the moment we are still grappling to collect and use data that highlights the unique experiences on the ground, reveals barriers to gender equality, and proves what works to improve the lives of our people,” Ruth said.
“This lack of data not only restricts effective programming but masks and at times even perpetuates gender inequalities,” she added.
To address this, Dignity Pasifik is working closely with Government and development partners to facilitate sustainable development through indigenous and proven methodologies.
“We bring more than two decades of gender, development, and research experience in the Solomon Islands to the forefront of our work to create synergies for change,” Ruth said.
To enable them to effectively do this, the team at Dignity Pasifik works closely with local communities, Government, civil societies, and private sector development partners to gather and analyse data to inform policy and decision-makers to better serve communities around the country.
A key part of their approach is data collection and partnerships with communities, institutions, and stakeholders to improve policy implementation and its effectiveness.
Ruth knows from first-hand experience the frustration of not having sufficient data available to support the implementation of development projects in communities around the country.
“Back in 2010, I was involved with the rolling out of some NGO work across the country especially in Western Province, Temotu Province, and the capital, Honiara.
“From that experience, I see that a lot of times our development partners and even Government have the problem of finding data. Especially data which are gender disaggregated meaning data which tells how many men and how many women are beneficiaries of projects at that time,” she said.
These are data that should be readily available that are crucial for achieving the ultimate goals of development or any intended project.
“It is frustrating as a development worker to find that simple data that should be available at your desktop is not there.
“So that was the beginning of what inspired me to start this business,” Ruth said.
She said Dignity Pasifik operates like a social enterprise where they involve young Solomon Islanders with University degrees who are not employed.
“We train them on how to collect data, quality data and then they come on board as guest consultants.
“So far it is going well, a lot of the young people that we engage with a newly university graduates entering the local formal employment market who cannot find a job which is the case with many of our students returning from overseas,” Ruth said.
Dignity Pasifik currently has a small team of eight including Ruth herself and like many other small businesses at the moment, the impact of COVID-19 is one of the biggest challenges.
Even more challenging for the new start-up, the COVID-19 outbreak and the restrictive measures that followed happened only months after Dignity Pasifik opened for business.
But with challenges come opportunities, as such, Ruth and her team are exploring innovative ways to conduct business.
“We had to work creatively with other partners and clients to create opportunities that existed only on the internet. We have to adapt and innovatively worked on means to run workshops, meetings, and delivering services online.
“COVID-19 has impacted business in a way that locally we don’t have a lot of work at the moment, but the advantage is that we can be connected online,” Ruth said.
Social media platforms in particular Facebook has been helpful.
Dignity Pasifik created its official Facebook page after attending a Social Media Masterclass training organised by SICCI in August 2020, and according to Ruth, it has helped interact with potential clients and promote their services.
She said COVID-19 has also presented the opportunity to create partnerships with other small businesses.
“We cannot do everything by ourselves so we have started to create partnerships with other small businesses who are also members of the Chamber of Commerce, SICCI.
“This is another benefit of being a member of SICCI. Businesses are provided with a platform to network and build connections with other businesses which maximises our impact in the private sector.
“For us as a small business, we are happy that we can be part of the private sector and help build our nation,” Ruth said.
Having a research company like Dignity Pasifik is important because it provides powerful knowledge and insights, leads to improvements to existing processes where efficiency can be increased and costs reduced. It saves companies and organisations time, money and resources employing research specialists.
For businesses, it also allows businesses to develop new products and services to allow it to survive and thrive in competitive markets.
Other services provided by Dignity Pasifik include survey digitising, focus group discussion facilitation, gender training, enumerator training, survey enumeration, transcribing from pidgin to English, and from English pidgin.
Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce & Industry
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