3 October 2020
Motivational stories demonstrating the enterprise, courage and strength of Solomon Islands women
Stories that have been published over a few weeks in the Solomon Times Online by several local journalists have been enlightening and I believe inspirational to readers, especially women in the community.
A story by Jimmy Nolan last Friday recounted the work of Janet Silu, originally from the Reef Islands in Temotu province.
I was especially interested in Janet’s account of her life and current work as a local food vendor because she wisely encourages people to eat local food in order to provide a healthy diet in order to reduce the risk of developing serious health issues arising from eating too much imported foodstuffs that often contain preservative chemicals.
For the benefit of those in the community that may not have read the story submitted by Jimmy Nolan, I will quote what he wrote relating to Janet.
“Her day starts at 4am in the morning, the process starts, she peels the potatoes, yam, and cassava, and when available she adds taro to the menu. Fish is always a favorite with the locals – especially how she prepares it.
“Ms Janet Silu is 68 years old, originally from Reef Islands Temotu province she has now became a favourite with her local food. Her food stall is located east of Honiara, just before the turn off to the international airport.
“Janet explains that her style of cooking, particularly the reef fish, is passed down from generations before her. Wrapped in leaf it is roasted slowly, allowing the flavour to remain in the wrap. No oil or added ingredients.
“She says that in the past people lived to old age, nowadays noticeably young people are getting sick, even die, and that is mainly from the food that they eat.
“Local food like taro, yam, kumara, cassava and fish was our diet in the past, it is healthy, and we get to live long. We should return to this healthy way of life, it takes longer to prepare but it is good for the body,” she says.
“She says fast food is never a healthy option because they are all processed food, with many chemicals to keep it fresh.
“I notice more people are buying local food, many of my customers have been buying food from my stall for many years now. I always prepare almost every type of local food, ready on my table before lunch.”
“68-year-old Janet Silu says apart from providing a healthy option for her customers, it is also good income for her, helps in supporting her family.
“I earn about $500 daily from the market, some days more, depends on the amount of fish we catch and the weather. It is a huge achievement for me earning this kind of money for my family.”
“Communicable disease (NCDs) are now the leading cause of death in most countries in the Pacific Islands region. In the Solomon Islands it is estimated that 60 to 70% of deaths are caused by NCDs.
Another equally encouraging story about an enterprising lady was written in the same newspaper last week by Georgina Kekea. Georgina wrote about the life and outstanding achievements of Rose Sese.
This is what Georgina recorded, quote.
“Today I want to cry when I think of the different experiences I have come across in my life”, Rose Sese says.
“Rose is a recipient of the Outstanding Women’s Award, an initiative that focuses on the identification and acknowledgement of women leaders in small communities
“Motherof seven, Rose is a farmer. She comes from Veramogho village in the South Guadalcanal but now settled in Central Guadalcanal where she has her farm. Her husband is a teacher by profession. Today Rose is attending a workshop organized by the Strengthening the Electoral Cycle in the Solomon Islands project (SECSIP), a project funded by Australia, EU and UNDP.
“I feel so happy. I have never experienced this in my life. I thought I was just doing my day to day job and did not expect to be recognized”, Rose says.
“It was more than a decade that Rose decided to go into agriculture. Since venturing into Agriculture, she has been instrumental in getting food supplies from Central Guadalcanal into Honiara. Apart from providing food supplies she also engages a lot of people from her community on the farm.
“I mostly have women and youths that come to work on the farm. Those that are without jobs, the widows, and students. I really do not have any employees but engage people mainly on a short casual basis’, Rose says.
“Rose left her home village of Veramogho at the tender age of 12. She came to Honiara to go to school. She attended Betikama primary school, starting in year three. She left Betikama when she reached year eight.
“I dropped out of school then as I could not pass my tests. You know, coming from the village, we do not really know what education is. Just for the sake of going to school, we were made to go through the education system”, Rose says.
From thereon Rose says she went to a laboratory in Honiara and asked for a job.
“It was during the colonial days. The white man told me that I must undergo training to be a microscopist. So, I underwent six months training to be a microscopist. I passed my tests and so I became a microscopist. I worked for 22 years as a microscopist in the lab”.
“Rose has a lot to be thankful for now; she says it does not come easy. She says there were the dark days and the challenges in the past that made her to be who she is now.
“She remembers the ethnic tension that brought the country to its knees and the feeling of hopelessness when as a mother she feared for the safety and livelihood of her children. She says it has not been easy.
“I was one of the women that traveled extensively to promote peace. We were the mothers and prayer warriors that wanted to see peace restored on the island of Guadalcanal and the country as a whole. We traveled to the weather coast of Guadalcanal in our efforts to bring back peace. It was quite dangerous”, Rose says.
“Fast forward to 2020, Rose is now a successful farmer in Central Guadalcanal. She supplied root crops, fruits and eggs mainly to Heritage Park Hotel and other buyers whom she mostly has an agreement with. She says she started her farm with just the basic tools and manpower.
“There was no huge machinery or equipment. It was just hard work and labor. Looking at the farm now, it is no different to those that were cleared and tilled with machinery. Nothing is impossible. We can start with nothing”, Rose says.
“Rose appreciated the recognition given to her; she also wished to acknowledge the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) for their support. She says from her work in agriculture she was able to receive support under the Rural Development Program (RDP).
“I support farmers with tools and seeds. I also registered my company called Aruligo Areatakiki Fresh Produce Community Company. I buy fresh produce from the farmers in the village and sell on their behalf. I already bought a bus and now I am building an office”, Rose says.
“Asked what would be the support women in the community needs Rose says exposure. She says in 2018 she led the women’s church group of central Guadalcanal to Fiji.
“One of the women shouted in the plane. She says she often sees the big plane pass by overhead while she works in the garden. Never had she thought she would travel in one as only those that work in the offices travel like this. Everyone in the plane applauded after she finished her statement”, Rose says.
“She says after their trip, she saw a difference in how the women interact and raise issues in their community.
“You know every day we work in the garden, we fetch water, we go to the market, that’s the only life we know. But once exposed to different experiences, culture and lifestyle, we were able to understand things better”, Rose says.
“What I want to say to the women now is to never give up. Keep going. A lot of women suffer from abuse in their homes. It should not be because in the eyes of God we are all equal. I want us women to be strong and to step out of our comfort zones. When I see women taking up leadership roles, I feel so happy”.
“The aim of the ‘Outstanding women’s award,’ of which Rose is a recipient, brings together women who are most valued and respected in their communities because of their actions, behavior or just general attitude. A voting was conducted to choose amongst the nominated women in each province. The Outstanding Women’s Award was launched in 2019. Eleven women have been elected due to their contributions and leadership values. Rose is the recipient of the ‘Outstanding women’s award’ in Guadalcanal.”
News Sources. Solomon Times Online.