The Solomon Islands faces some of the most difficult challenges in the Pacific. Ethnic violence, fragile state institutions, corruption and increasing crime have affected the country’s development.
Political and economic collapse in the early 2000s and an appeal for international help from the Solomon Islands Government led to the intervention of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), a regional peace-keeping force.
The Solomon Islands currently has the lowest per capita income in the Pacific region. The bulk of the country’s 609,000 people rely on agriculture and fishing for their livelihoods. Sustainable use of the country’s rich natural resources is critical. Yet over-exploitation, particularly in the logging industry, is causing serious environmental damage. Climate change is leaving coastal communities vulnerable. Disasters such as cyclones and flooding are becoming more frequent and more intense. A third of rural people lack access to safe water and over half the people living in Honiara’s poorest communities have no sanitation facilities.
Gender based violence (GBV) is alarmingly prevalent in the Solomon Islands. Gender norms encourage men to perpetuate inequality and controlling behavior and the payment of bride price is still common in some provinces. Seventy- three per cent of men and women believe that in certain cases, violence against women is justifiable. The government’s development of legislation and measures to protect women was slow and the country is unlikely to achieve the Millennium Development Goal for gender by 2015.
Oxfam in Solomon Islands
There are four strands to Oxfam’s work:
- Gender justice: Oxfam works with a local NGO called the Family Support Centre (FSC) to address gender based violence, sexual abuse and child abuse. FSC offer emergency accommodation, legal and counseling services, run educational programs, maintain a resource library and raise awareness of GBV and women and children’s rights. They work closely with support agencies such as the police, as well as NGOs.
- Capacity building: Oxfam is strengthening FSC’s long term sustainability and organizational development.
- Community engagement: We support community members as facilitators to run workshops that look at social inclusion, gender stereotypes, violence triggers and alternative actions.
- Advocacy: Oxfam is encouraging agencies including the government and the judiciary to work together to promote and ensure the safety of women.