Honiara, Solomon Islands – Helen Clark, former Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, yesterday ended her four-day visit to Solomon Islands. During the visit, Ms. Clark contributed to events focused on youth engagement and women’s political participation.
“I think that if Solomon Islands can fully tap the potential of women and youth for decision-making and for empowerment in the economy and society, that would be transformational,” Ms. Clark said.
During a courtesy call to Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela, Ms. Clark emphasized ways to increase women’s political participation. She also met with political party representatives to discuss the importance of their support for women candidates.
National Women’s Leadership Workshop
Ms. Clark met intending and aspiring women candidates from across the country at the National Women’s Leadership Workshop organized by the Strengthening the Electoral Cycle in the Solomon Islands Project Phase II and the regional parliamentary project. The workshop was aimed at connecting participants with regional and international women political leaders to build their confidence to stand for election.
In the 40 years since Solomon Islands’ independence, only four women have served as Members of Parliament.
“Women can’t wait for someone to roll out a red carpet for them and open the door,” Ms. Clark said.
“You have roll out the red carpet for yourself and push the door open.”
Vice President of the Temotu Council of Women Edith Dagi, who participated in the women’s leadership workshop, said it was motivating to engage with Ms. Clark.
“I used to look at women’s political issues in the limited context of Solomon Islands, but she showed us a different perspective and gave us encouragement that we can be leaders,” Ms. Dagi said.
Official Launch of the Solomon Islands National Youth Policy
Ms. Clark joined the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs and UNDP through the UN Peacebuilding Fund project to launch the National Youth Policy 2017-2030.
In her remarks, she emphasized the need for youth employment opportunities and said investment in entrepreneurship and agriculture could help create an environment in which youth can thrive.
“We must never problematize youth because youth are the potential, they’re the future, they’re the here and now, and also, their ideas carry the seeds of the solutions for the future,” Ms. Clark said.
Dialogue with Youth
Students and other youth representatives spoke with Ms. Clark about leadership and development. Participants asked about the challenges she faced as a woman leader and how they can contribute to Solomon Islands.
Ms. Clark encouraged the young people to complete their education and work to address problems at the community level.
“Youth are a force for good, but you must invest in youth, create a space for youth and create opportunity for youth,” she said.
Talk on the Private Sector and the Sustainable Development Goals
During her talk at Business After 5 hosted by the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry in partnership with UNDP, Ms. Clark said the private sector is essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as official development assistance cannot fully fund the agenda.
She added that good governance is necessary to encourage investment.
Ms. Clark also called for support of women’s enterprises and youth entrepreneurship because prospects for formal wage employment in the country are limited.
UNDP Solomon Islands Country Manager Azusa Kubota said Ms. Clark contributed important points to the national conversation on development, women’s political participation and youth empowerment.
“Ms. Clark’s visit to share her global experience was a privilege for us, and I hope her insights will influence our approach to issues in Solomon Islands,” Ms. Kubota said.
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