Gizo, Solomon Islands – More than 200 youth from across Western and Choiseul provinces will return to their communities motivated to tackle persistent issues following the Youth Peacebuilding Innovation Forum in Gizo this week.
The three-day forum, which opened on Monday, focused on using innovation and social entrepreneurship to address unemployment, pollution and other challenges affecting youth in the fragile border area between the western Solomon Islands and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.
“The country doesn’t depend on other people, it depends on us,” Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs (MWYCFA) Dr. Cedric Alependava said in his closing remarks.
“Please get back to your communities and be innovative — think big.”
Dr. Alependava added that participants will make an impact with their social enterprises and set an example for the next generation.
The Youth Peacebuilding Innovation Forum in Gizo was the second provincial forum following the Malaita Province forum in September. The United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (UNPBF) project, jointly implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women, organized the forum in partnership with the MWYCFA and the youth and peace desks of the Western Provincial Government.
Participants connected with inspirational presenters, including social entrepreneur Millicent Barty, Youth Economic Empowerment Consultant from the UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub Cynthia Cheung and representatives of youth entrepreneurship organizations and social movements in Solomon Islands.
On the final day of the forum, 20 teams of young entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to a panel of judges for the opportunity to win a support package to develop their social enterprises.
The ideas, which teams refined during an innovation boot camp held by the UNPBF project last week, were evaluated based on viability as a business, response to market needs and consideration of the Sustainable Development Goals, among other criteria.
Vinakeke Youth of central Munda was one of the three winning teams with its youth employment scheme funded by handcrafted products and community tourism.
“Being in the top three fulfilled what we came here for, but more than that, we made a lot of connections, and we consider that even more of a win,” team leader Langi Songa said.
“We have to make a change in our community because we don’t want issues that affected us to affect others, including our kids.”
The other winners were Hilltop Innovators, which will operate a waste collection service and biogas plant in Gizo and Western Solomon Surfing Association, which creates job opportunities for youth through guided surf tours and services.
Each winning team was awarded a mobile phone from Bmobile and will also receive seed funding, specialized training and mentorship through the UNPBF project.
In closing the forum, the Project Manager of the UNPBF project, Tony Cameron, congratulated the winners for using their skills and natural resources to address challenges they identified in their communities.
“There is so much innovation at your fingertips,” Mr. Cameron said.
“You have the passion to change things, and you must use this drive to find a way to make a better life and build peace in your community.”
The forum was made possible with support from Bmobile and Heritage Park Hotel.
The UNPBF project aims to support peaceful and inclusive transition in Solomon Islands, jointly implemented by UNDP and UN Women in close collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace and the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs.
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