In the words of Riko Nagu: “In order to build an inclusive society and a resilient community both women and men should work together.”
Date: Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Riko Nagu is a women’s and girls’ rights activist and member of the United Church Women’s Fellowship group. She participated in the Traditional Governance and Facilitation Bill consultations organized by the Inclusive Governance of Natural Resources Project in 2020. he Traditional Governance and Facilitation Bill was introduced by the Democratic Coalition for Change Government in 2017. The Bills and Legislative Committee’s (BLC) withdrew the Traditional Governance Bill due to the lack of consultations with the Solomon Islands Bar Association, Civil Society Organizations, Churches, women and youth in the country. A series of consultations are now being held by the IGNR Project, to raise awareness among these groups, and especially local leaders, women and youth.
I have been living, working and staying with rural women and girls from my community for my entire life. Only with time, when I became older and started working as a teacher, I began to see injustice and inequality. I’ve started recognizing cultural approaches which are harmful and, at the same time, prevent women and girls from expressing themselves, or even find the confidence to enquire or get information when needed. This not only laid the groundwork for my involvement in finding solutions to these issues, but also for gaining the potential and strength to inspire other women and girls and change their lives.
I was honoured to be chosen among many other talented women to take the place of the President of Noro’s Council of Women who was unable to attend the meeting. Since this first chance meeting, my interest in women's issues has grown, and I am an active defender of women’s and girls’ rights especially at the provincial level right to this day.
In the United Church Women’s Fellowship, where I’m an active member of the group, we do focus on four thematic areas. These are education, devotion, recreation and service. These four areas helped me find my confidence and develop my leadership skills as well as make a difference and impact other women’s lives at the community level.
As a woman from a matrilineal society, land and natural resources are dear to our hearts. We believe a woman reproduces life and sustains the existence of the tribe; she continues the generation. Thus, she needs to be part of the decision-making processes regarding her land & natural resources.
Despite the unprecedented challenges amid COVID-19, there is still a lack of awareness, women and girls are misinformed and left behind. Hence, we, the women of Roviana and Munda resurrected the age-old reciprocity system - the barter system known as ‘Roviana lavata best bata’ to exchange goods when shops and markets were not available. This is the system we used in our traditional system.
I do believe that women and men should work together so that there will be gender balance at all levels. Why is it important? Simply because men’s ideas and experience are different from women’s ideas and experience. And only together, will we begin to see what we did not notice before. We also might want to learn how to hear communities’ voices, the voices of rural population as they are those who are attached to the land, live with it and are closer to their land and natural resources because people are using it on a daily basis and they do survive thanks to it. Accordingly, those people know what issues there are and how to solve them. These voices are crucially important in decision making processes on land and natural resources.
The article is prepared within the Inclusive Governance of Natural Resources (IGNR) project implemented by UNDP Solomon Islands and UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office, funded by the UN Peacebuilding Fund to support and empower local women of the Solomon Islands to ensure their participation in the decision-making processes.