The National Parliament of Solomon Islands’ Young Women’s Parliamentary Group (YWPG) have made its first public appearance by joining with other women’s groups for the first time to share views in a workshop organized by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) in collaboration with Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Honiara from the 26th to 29th of July 2011.
The workshop “Stori Blong Oketa Mere Workshop” was purposely to provide an opportunity for women in Solomon Islands to contribute to discussions and processes that aim to achieve truth, justice and rehabilitation of women victims of the tensions between 1998 and 2008 and more specifically to discuss, document and present their story of the tensions in a submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that may be used in compiling its final report.
This was the first appearance for the newly established Parliamentary group and so they made it as an opportunity to introduce the group’s importance to other women groups and organizations. YWPG’s establishment was led by Speaker of National Parliament, Sir Allan Kemakeza and the National Project Director of the UNDP Parliamentary Strengthening Project to be an agent for positive change by helping to bring key issues for Solomon Islands women directly to the floor of Parliament for debate and remedial action. The issues of discussion include women experiences before, during and after the tensions and possible reparations, institutional reforms and prosecutions that will bring justice to women who have been affected by the tension.
Generally women in the Solomon Islands enjoyed a lot of freedom before the tensions. They have plans and hope for the future, development was taking place gradually, education for women and girls was also increasing, in short we were the ‘happy isles’.
However during the tension women lost their freedom of movement and access to lot of services. Some lost their family members especially women in Guadalcanal and Malaita who were directly involved in the conflict. They lost all sense of hope; all they see is a bleak future for their children. Family breakups were evident especially here in the Capital, when families flee back to their islands for fear of the militia (MEF, GRA, and IMF). Women and girls were harassed, even raped; some were forced to be militants wives in Guadalcanal. Women lived in fear and uncertainty, huge amount of property loss and even job loss as well.
During the four days each province shared their stories and what they prefer the government should do for them. The five main recommendations put forward by the women were;
1. Women’s Space
5. Promise by the government not to repeat such crises
6. Border patrol
After 3 days of discussion a report was presented to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Women hope that the Commission will take on board the recommendations put forward by the women. These women are calling on the government to listen to their stories and address them accordingly. A ceremonial handing over was done and also presenting of traditional gifts to each province that participated.
Four provinces took part in this workshop, Malaita, Guadalcanal, Western, Choiseul provinces and Honiara Women.
“The world is…starting to grasp that there is no policy for progress (in promoting, development, health, and education) more effective than the empowerment of women and girls…And I would also venture that no policy is more important in preventing conflict, or in achieving reconciliation after conflicts has ended”
- UN Secretary - General Kofi Annan (2006)
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