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John Roughan: Guale Politicians Blew It!

Guale Politicians Blew It!

By John Roughan
9 May 2005

Guale's senior politicians missed a great chance to make this year's Mother's Day something special for their women. But they miffed it! Last week 60 Guale women--representatives from North and Central Guadalcanal--met at Gold Ridge's Relocation Village, not far from St. Joseph's, Tenaru.

For more than three days previous to their big meeting on Thursday last, Guale women practiced at the SIDT building how and what they wanted to share with their Big Men, senior politicians and traditional leaders. Women of all sorts--young mothers, olos, church leaders, a whole cross section of concerned ladies--were seriously worried about how poorly their men folk had represented their development needs over past years.

They were convinced that the recent Social Unrest years had finally ushered in a new era. A time when women, youth and village people's voices would at last be listened to. They were under the illusion that men had finally come to their senses and realized that Solomon Islands had almost disappeared under the sea all because men had tried to fly this country using only one wing. They had expected their men leaders to show up at the meeting. Listen to women's pleas for more say in controlling their own lives and have more concern for the whole of the community. But they were bitterly disappointed. Not a single politician--national or provincial--turned up!

And the women's meeting was less about complaining but one that took a positive approach. Yes, of course, they seriously questioned how their men folk had continuously over many years had put forth development plans but hadn't bothered to seek women's advice beforehand. For instance, water supplies, women protested, is high up on many women's agenda. Of course women know quite well that income generation projects are important but not as important as raising the quality of village life for the whole group.

Who has to make sure there's enough water for family drinking, cooking, washing and cleaning? Women are still required to do water-fetching if there is no piped supply in the village. When easy and abundant water is missing, women's and their family's daily lives suffer. Rather than becoming a critical force for the growth and dynamism of village living, they are forced to spend much valuable time fetching water.

Water supply was not their only area of concern. When a village mother recounted her heart-rendering story of how she lost her little baby because the nearest clinic was simply out of reach, only the hardest hearted person in the audience could resist the woman's plea for a clinic presence close by.

To make their point clearer than just complaining about under-representation in their own lives, the Guale Women's Forum with the aid of SIDT's Drama Group acted out a small play. In the play only men, not a single women was invited to the signing of a logging agreement, made all the decisions. It was all about money! Who was to get what, when! How would the money be used, who would dish it out and for what purpose, was the men's work. Women need not apply! Women, although Guale's true land guardians, were reduced to the role of on-lookers, with little or no input on how their own very tree wealth was to be used for the well being of all and not for a select few.

Solomon Island men across the nation now face a new reality. Women and youth make up more than 7 out of all people in the country. Men are only 3 of every 10 persons. They are a minority and they must stop acting as if the nation belongs to them. Our Social Unrest years not only brought the nation to its knees, this period of distress made it clear that unless women and youth become the new force of change, then the country will be once again run into deep trouble.

Early next year the nation faces a national election. Often in past elections, we thought that simply getting rid of the olos and electing new faces, our problems would be answered. Although more than half of parliament was thrown out in the 1997 election and 6 out 10 members met defeat in 2001, people's lives changed little. Why? Because the same male mind-set--that the nation was almost exclusively for men alone--remained firmly rooted. Next year's election must mean a large number of women must find a seat in parliament. One way of insuring this outcome is for every political party to sponsor an equal number of women candidates as they do men.

No new legislation is needed! Political parties, first of all begin the search for electable women NOW, publicly endorse them and then use your influence to get them into office. Let our people decide who could best captain our ship of state: men alone or men and women together in partnership.


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