“According my own perceptive of gender equality is woman trying to be equal with men in leadership but I am not sure if this is correct,” Mrs. Sala, a dweller in a rural area of Solomon Island said.
For these rural women, gender equality is far reached in their understanding. Although “equality” has been talked and adopted to most urban areas in the country, in rural areas, the concept is still grey.
Mrs. Sala said that it is good to see women have the opportunity to be equal with men in decision making but the problem is, it is not practical in their areas.
She added that one of the obstacle is culture. In rural areas, culture is very clear that men are always the leaders of families. Women must listen to them and whatever decision made, “women must submit” to it.
“I heard that every year women in our Capital Honiara celebrate International Women’s day and other days to recognize women but to me nothing will change. If the Ministry is really serious with women, they should hosted these celebration in the rural areas to inform people here what Gender Equality is. By doing this, I hope will change the way our male people think and for sure will accept this concept.”
Another 58 years old woman, Gladys Mana said that she never heard about gender equality in her life. “I don’t know about this. This must be a foreign concept” she said.
“I was born in my world where I always listen to my husband and accepted this concept because it works well for me. Any foreign concept, let it be for those people and not us who have our own way of life and culture to live accordingly.”
Mrs. Mana said that maybe in the future, her children or grandchildren will adopt to that system but for her, she don’t accept it.
“I will stick to my cultural system that worked well for me. All these foreign systems or concepts will bring no benefits to us but division amongst families. The reason is because we have our own system to live.”
Chief Abraham Misitana of east Malaita said yes gender equality is not a new thing. “Our old people practiced it but in our own style that really suitable for us.”
Chief Misitana said that for us Kwara’ae people, women are always holy beings and most of the times are helpers.They must fulfilled the role of helpers. And that is to help her husbands in decision making for their family.
We always respect our women and girls and always protect them from dangers. He explained that women always lead in their own localities. They are teachers to teach the girls and we always respect them.
He further added that women are peace makers according to Kwara’ae concept. He explained that if there is any fight broke out between any two men, women will always step in to stop the fight. If the fight doesn’t stop, the men must pay compensation to the women who tried to stop the fight. This is to show respect to the power of women during such time. He added that this is how important our women are in our society.
Moreover, Chief Misitana said that the reason why men don’t really accept the concept of gender equality is because some of its aspect is undermining our cultural belief for men.
“Yes gender equality is good but we must do it with responsibility.”
Freda Mau Kofana, the Women development desk officer of the Malaita province said that it is a big task for her to reach out to the rural areas of Malaita with the knowledge of equality.
“Yes gender equality is yet to be accepted in our rural areas due to number of factors.”
She said some of those factors including financial support from our authorities to reach out with the knowledge, lack of good information and culture.
When it comes to leadership especially political levels, it is always men’s role. Mrs. Mau said this is because we have born in a culture that men are always leaders in families and communities.
“But I believe that this will change if only good information is reached out to the rural areas.”
Mrs. Mau assured that it is in her plan for this year to move into the communities of Malaita province with good information about gender equality. She believed that by doing this, it will help the young generation in the province to accept this concept.
Mrs. Mau added she will work with other donors, police, and communities to carry out workshops and training for men to understand this concept. But again, she expressed that it is not an easy task but slowly we will get there.