Solomon Islands: Barriers to Economic Empowerment of Women

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The aim of this study is to alert stakeholders to the impediments faced by women seeking to engage in the private sector. By doing so it informs stakeholders of the need to design strategies and interventions that are both sensitive to the needs of women, and can address inherent inequalities.
   1 Solomon Islands: Barriers to the Economic Empowerment of Women While the UN Human Development Index, ranks Solomon Islands 143 out of 18 !ountries, thin s are even #orse for #omen$ %he Women&s '!onomi! (pportunit) Index pla!es Solomon Islands at 1*4 out of 1*8 !ountries statin that this s!ore refle!ts the minimal le al prote!tion for #omen in the #orkpla!e, little a!!ess to finan!ial servi!es and the hi h rate of illitera!)$ %he aim of this stud) is to alert stakeholders to the impediments fa!ed +) #omen seekin to en a e in the private se!tor$ ) doin so it informs stakeholders of the need to desi n strate ies and interventions that are +oth sensitive to the needs of #omen, and !an address inherent ine-ualities$ This assessment  arti!ulates the ender dimension #ithin the .SDI in Solomon Islands and !onstitutes a summar) of the le al and re ulator) +arriers to #omen&s in!lusion in the private se!tor/ le al and so!ial +arriers to #omen&s emplo)ment in +oth the informal and formal se!tors, in!ludin +arriers to emplo)ment, a!!ess to finan!e, and +usiness o#nership, and a list of re!ommendations that address the !hief !onstraints fa!ed +) #omen$ I Commitment to gender equality by Solomon Islands government Solomon Islands has !ommitted to ender e-ualit) +) +e!omin is a si nator) to the follo#in treaties0 ã   International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights ã   Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women ã   Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women ã   Beiing Platform for Action ã   !he illennium Development #oals ã   !he Common$ealth Plan of Action for #ender E%ualit& '(()*'(+) ã   Revised Pacific Platform for Action on Advancement of Women and #ender E%ualit&      2 Solomon Islands has also !ommitted to #omen&s empo#erment +) appointin the inistr) of Women, 2outh, hildren, and amil) 5ffairs 6W257 as the National a!hiner) for the advan!ement of #omen$ In its Strategic Plan of Action '(+( , '(+' , the inistr) has listed over 3 a!tions to address this issue and (ut!ome * spe!ifi!all) refers to the 9Improved e!onomi! status of #omen&$ It lists the follo#in four initiatives0 1$   Develop poli!ies and pro rams that involve #omen and men in natural resour!es development and mana ement/ *$   Improved a!!ess to resour!es and land/ 3$   Improve a!!ess to le al prote!tion and o#nership of finan!ial resour!es/ and 4$   Improve opportunities for #omen in pu+li!, private and !ommunit) se!tors$ Institutional support for ender e-uit) is ro#in in Solomon Islands, and a re!ent innovative initiative is the in!lusion of a spe!ifi! performan!e indi!ator on ender mainstreamin in the annual performan!e appraisal of all .ermanent Se!retaries 6*1*7$ (ther positive moves in!lude the passin of the 'viden!e 5!t 6*:7, and the removal of the !orro+oration rule that treated as suspi!ious the eviden!e of a person #ho !laimed to have +een sexuall) assaulted$ ;ike#ise, a num+er of !ourt de!isions have re!o nised that rape !an o!!ur #ithin marria e$ 1  urther a+inet has also adopted a poli!) on 'liminatin <iolen!e a ainst Women 6*17$ =esults from the .eople&s Surve) *11 demonstrate a !lear shift in pu+li! per!eption, sho#in that more than 8>? of Solomon Islanders +elieve there should #omen in parliament, #ith a vast ma@orit) advo!atin for spe!ial reserved seats for #omen$ %his indi!ates #idespread support for ender e-uit) initiatives amon the people of Solomon Islands$ ender and Employment 5+out 8? of Solomon Islands #omen live in rural areas and rel) on a ri!ulture for their livelihoods, primaril) in the informal e!onom)$ Women !omprise the ma@orit) market traders, +ut there are fe# #omen in mana ement$ %he .eople&s Surve) indi!ates that informal sellin a!!ounts for A8? of earnin s, #hile onl) 1? o+tain in!ome from paid #ork$ %here are man) !hallen es in +elon in to the informal se!tor, in!ludin 0 a!   ac# of $acilities: an) #omen #orkin in the informal se!tor use their home as the produ!tion +ase, and find it diffi!ult to a!-uire #orkspa!es to sell their produ!e$ an) of the #omen intervie#ed sou ht a safe spa!e #here the) !ould displa) and sell their oods$ %he .a!ifi! Women Shapin Development Initiative has developed strate ies to improve the market overnan!e, mana ement, infrastru!ture and servi!es, to in!rease #omen&s e!onomi! empo#erment and redu!e enderB+ased violen!e and in!rease market reform$ an) +usiness#omen and +usiness or aniCations 1  6e 0 =e ina v$ .iko *1*E and =e ina v$ Fua *1*E7$     3 intervie#ed supported the idea of a proB#omen market spa!e #hi!h !ould also +e used as a spa!e for trainin fa!ilities and information servi!es$ b!   ac# of credit facilities: an) #omen intervie#ed !omplained that the) did not have a!!ess to !redit, and that the fa!ilities that #ere availa+le #ere in hi h demand$ 5lthou h +anks did not !onsider that the) dis!riminated a ainst #omen, the) did not a!tivel) lend to informal +usinesses #hi!h impa!ted on the a+ilit) of #omen to en a e in entrepreneurial a!tivities$ c!   ac# of accessing formal enforcement processes: Women intervie#ed did not have an) faith in the le al s)stem prote!tin their ri hts and, a!!ordin l), did not see the +enefits of +elon in to the formal se!tor$ %he) did not +elieve that the) #ould et favoura+le treatment in the hands of overnments or !ourts$ %here #as a eneral la!k of kno#led e and trust in the le al s)stem$ d!   %arassment of women in the informal sector: %his issue has +een a!kno#led ed for man) )ears, and intervie#s #ith the Honiara it) oun!il offi!ers supported other ane!dotal information that !heatin and harassment of #omen operatin in the markets #as !ommon$ S!holarship in the area supports the proposition that #omen are more prone to !oer!ion and un!ons!iona+le +ehaviour as the) are enerall) la!kin !onfiden!e to !hallen e authorit), there+) repli!atin so!ial hierar!hies of po#er$ %hese threats impede the manner in #hi!h #omen operate their +usinesses$ ender and Business &wnership 5lthou h there has +een si nifi!ant improvement in the time taken to start a +usiness, man) +arriers remain for #omen seekin to en a e in the private se!tor as illustrated +) the Women&s '!onomi! (pportunit) *1* Index, #hi!h pla!es Solomon Islands at 1*4 out of 1*8 !ountries$ %he main +arriers to enterin the formal se!tor are0 a!   Ta' rates and thresholds remain a confusing area( and intervie#s #ith #omen in the informal se!tor revealed a eneral mistrust of taxation authorities as #ell as a la!k of kno#led e on the amount of taxes that ma) +e pa)a+le$ %ax remains a ps)!holo i!al +arrier #hi!h impedes #omen enterin the formal se!tor, #ith onl) 8? kno#in that the threshold for tax #as G1>,$ %he Solomon Island National Development Strate ) *11  ** has set the oal of simplif)in taxes on +usiness as a priorit) and if implemented, it #ould +e a ne!essar) step in in!reasin !onfiden!e in enterin the formal market$ b!   &btaining a business licence  +) pa)in a fee at the Honiara it) oun!il takes +et#een 1 to 3 da)s and !osts SD G*,A$ Despite the reassuran!es of the +usiness li!ensin offi!er in the it) oun!il, it is !lear that the s)stem is still !omplex for #omen, man) of #hom are illiterate$ %he la!k of pu+li!l) availa+le ender disa re ated data on li!ense o#nership makes an) assessment diffi!ult$ It #as reported in *1 that the overnment had !ommitted itself to the a+olish +usiness li!enses and to !ompensate   4 provin!ial overnments for their resultin loss of revenue, althou h there has +een no pro ress to date$ market$   e!   )ccessing commercial property is diffi!ult and expensive dependin on 9#ho )ou kno#&, #ith the Doin usiness Index rankin s pla!in Solomon Islands at 18 out of 18> e!onomies$ .eople are una#are of their ri hts/ for example, the +usiness in!u+ation pro ram has reserved *4 rentBsu+sidiCed shops at Honiara entral market and ukum markets for #omen and the #omen intervie#ed had no kno#led e of this pro ram$ f!   &ther barriers  in!lude the la!k of ade-uate and !heap dispute resolution me!hanisms and eas) pro!esses for resolvin +ankrupt!)$ Su!h fa!tors in!rease the re ulator) +urden on people seekin to start a +usiness and deter them from enterin the formal se!tor$ ender and access to finance 5lthou h the lar er finan!ial institutions !laim to treat all +orro#ers e-uall), it is !lear that there is little a!kno#led ement of the diffi!ulties fa!ed +) #omen in a!!essin finan!e or providin !ollateral$ %here is no ender disa re ated data !ollated +) these institutions, and the offi!ers intervie#ed stated, JIf the) !an repa), #e don&t !are if the) are a man or #omanK$ %his !learl) demonstrated that servi!e providers are o+livious to man) of the endered aspe!ts of +usiness entr)$ %here is also a la!k of information on ho# su!h servi!es have !ontri+uted to the ro#th of +usinesses, #hi!h #ould +e essential for an) assessment$ 5 num+er of savin s !lu+s, uarantee s!hemes and mi!ro finan!e or anisations are in operation$ Ho#ever, information of these s!hemes is not !onsistentl) availa+le and man) #omen intervie#ed !alled for a sin le information fo!al point #here the) !ould a!!ess su!h information$ *ecommendations The Table on the following page  makes a series of re!ommendations in!ludin amendments to the la# #hi!h #ill ease the !onstraints fa!ed +) #omen, dire!ted strate ies #hi!h #ill en!oura e #omen to formaliCe their +usinesses and +enefit from the advanta es that su!h formaliCation +rin s, as #ell as identif)in areas for poli!) development #hi!h #ill support further initiatives$ + The ,acific ,rivate Sector -evelopment Initiative  6.SDI7 is a re ional te!hni!al assistan!e fa!ilit) !oBfinan!ed +) 5ustralian 5id, the Ne# Lealand 5id .ro ramme, and the 5sian Development ank 65D7$ Sin!e *, .SDI has +een #orkin #ith 5DMs 14 .a!ifi! Developin em+er ountries to improve the ena+lin environment for +usiness and support in!lusive, private se!torled e!onomi! ro#th$
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