Highlighting the contribution of Rural Women on International Rural Womens Day
Posted on October 15, 2020 at 01:00 PM in General News
On International Day of Rural Women today, 15 October 2020, Solomon Airlines is highlighting the ingenuity of women in some of the regional ports the airline flies to, where the arrival of regular Twin Otter flights has become an opportunity to sell their produce to the airline’s passengers.
“The theme for this International Day of Rural Women is “Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19,” to create awareness of these women’s struggles, their needs, and their critical and key role in our society,” said First Officer Patricia Avosa.
“With over 80 percent of Solomon Islands women living in rural areas, it is fitting that we celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of our hardworking rural women. They are very important in holding our communities together despite the majority of them having little or no education.
For the past four years as a Solomon Airlines Twin Otter Pilot, Patricia Avosa has flown the length and breadth of the airline’s network, noticing even in the most remote ports, the ingenuity of rural women.
“Many women utilise their skills gained from the informal employment sector to be able to earn a living in the rural areas. That deserves respect for helping support their families, preserving our culture and for passing those skills such as how to prepare local food, weave mats, and so on, to their children and children’s children,” she said.
“On Kagau for example, where we currently fly on Tuesdays and Fridays, every time we go there, women from villages on the main island (Choiseul) have established stalls to sell produce to our incoming passengers.
“On our flight days, they catch a boat or paddle to Kagau to sell their market produce to disembarking or boarding passengers. There is a wide variety of local baked food like fish and pudding, to vegetables and artefacts.
“It makes me happy that Solomon Airlines services to the port are a link between these women and their customers by bringing people from town or tourists to buy their products or produce.” she said.
Diana Yates, Cathliro Founder, and former Agent at Fera for Solomon Airlines agrees.
“I see that women play a very important role in the daily affairs of the family be it gardening, selling of fruits and vegetables and other income-generating activities so that they can provide for their families basic needs but hardly enough to cater for their children’s future such as education and health.
“I believe women should be equal partners in the development of our country. Rural women are mostly looked down upon as mere housekeepers, child bearers, or gardeners but if given the opportunity, they can make a huge difference.
“From my involvement with rural women cocoa farmers we can now produce highly nutritious cocoa powder, chocolates, baking chocolates, breakfast cereals (coconut, nali nuts & cocoa). These products can now be bought from Honiara outlets such as the Bulk Shop, Deli in the Plaza supermarket, Mambo Juice, Breakwater Café, Palm Sugar Café, and numerous other smallholder bakeries.
“I am involved with women mostly from Guadalcanal like Belaha, Tenaru, Kakabona, Blackpost, Foxwood, Okea, Balasauna and Reko.
“Conservatively I would estimate that almost 90% of women and children are involved in cocoa farming in the communities that I’m involved in.
“For instance, Grace Fekau, one of the women farmers in the Tenaru area, has now ventured into agro-tourism (Amazing Grace Farms) where she can cater to visitors with cocoa-based drinks, cakes, chocolates and powders that derived directly from her cocoa farm.
“This has now inspired other women who have indicated their interest to follow suit. Grace is now also involving some tour operators to organise tours to her farm.
“If we can empower more women farmers through training and upskilling so that they can better manage their farms in a profitable and environmentally sustainable manner, there are positive opportunities for more women in rural areas,” she said.
Kagau stallholder Janet Bemama agrees that additional income for rural women is essential.
From the village of Ghoghobe, North Choiseul she has been selling her produce at Kagau Airport for the past 8 years.
“I started around 2012 when I saw that I needed to earn money to send my children to school since I have no income, and this has greatly aided my husband and myself in that area,” she said.
“Thanks to the twice-weekly Solomon Airlines flights, I get to sell my produce to the travelling passengers on Kagau island and save money to pay for my children's school fees and other basic family needs.
“Sometimes we help to share the cost with other women who come to sell their market as well, to pay for fuel when our men go out fishing or just travelling to and from the villages.”
Solomon Airlines Manager Commercial Colin Sigimanu said the airline was very aware of the role of rural women in the Solomon Islands community and economy.
“The crucial role that women and girls play in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities and improving rural livelihoods is being increasingly recognised,” he said.
“We operate passenger and cargo services to 23 destinations across Solomon Islands and we understand the contribution of rural women first-hand.
“We also employ many female staff who originate from rural areas. They deserve to be respected for their contribution to families and to the community and we are pleased to help highlight this subject on International Day of Rural Women,” he said.
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