Malaita, the most populous province in Solomon Islands, is blessed with resources. Its islands have reefs teeming with seafood and fertile soil for growing pineapple, cassava and countless other crops. They boast people who can craft ships and fashion the shell money that functions as traditional currency and coveted jewelry.
There is no shortage of potential in the province, but channeling it to create jobs and stimulate progress can be a challenge. Of Malaita’s estimated 158,000 residents, more than 45,000 are under 29 years old, and they are most affected by the disconnect.
But as part of the substantial youth population in the country, young people in Malaita need to be empowered to become solution providers and peace advocates. Their participation is key to peace, stability and sustainable development in their communities and the province.
George Faubata from Daolusu in the Langalanga Lagoon is one of the bright minds whose ambitions were dimmed by a lack of opportunities in Malaita. Since dropping out of school after Form 5 (Year 11), George spent his days in Daolusu gardening and woodworking.
In George’s community, and throughout the lagoon, mangroves often stand in as a sanitation facility.
According to the 2009 national census data, 47 percent of all households in Malaita do not have access to a sanitary facility. About 43 percent of households in the province use a pit latrine.
Over the years, George saw people his age leave the community for university. They got an education and returned. But the problems in Daolusu persisted.
“Then it occurred to me that I could help leaders address the people’s needs,” George said.
“That is why I came up with the idea of trying to give people access to proper sanitation here.”
George is the program coordinator of Stone Raisers, one of the three winning teams of innovators at the Malaita Youth Peacebuilding Innovation Forum held in September this year. The United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (UNPBF) project, jointly implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women, organized the event in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs and the Youth Division of the Malaita Provincial Government.
The forum in the provincial capital, Auki, linked promising young people with resources they needed to solve sanitation and other social challenges — and essentially turn a profit in the process. Youth from Malu’u in North Malaita to Maramasike Passage in the south spent three days with inspirational speakers who offered insights into innovation, entrepreneurship, failure and success that comes with striving to make the country a better place.
The event in Auki was a follow-up to the first ever Youth Peacebuilding Innovation Forum in Honiara last year. It brought the opportunities of that forum to youth in Malaita, who might be farther from formal employment but are powerful peacebuilders and changemakers nonetheless.
George, the 28-year-old innovator, stressed that community leaders should tap the youth demographic to address continual challenges.
“From the time of our forefathers until now, nothing has been done about poor sanitation,” he said.
While pitching the Stone Raisers concept with team members at the Youth Peacebuilding Innovation Forum, George said the communicable diseases children often catch from swimming in contaminated water cause them to miss school. And improper sanitation affects overall public health.
“We want the community and other stakeholders to contribute to address the issue of poor sanitation,” George said of Stone Raisers’ community-led total sanitation approach.