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Monday, September 17, 2007

Solomon women give their RAMSI folks good feedback

by Qila Tuhanuku

A RAMSI policy advisor has thanked Solomon Islands women for their personal comments about the work of the Regional Assistance Mission.

Advisor to RAMSI’s Special Coordinator, Ms Estelle Parker made the comments while speaking to 30 women from different religious and ethnic backgrounds who had gathered at Holy Cross last Wednesday for a special two-hour outreach organised by the local women’s group, Women for Peace.

“It is important that RAMSI hears directly from the community about the real impact the Regional Assistance Mission is having on the lives of Solomon Islanders.”, Ms Parker said.

“Hearing the views of ordinary Solomon Islanders on RAMSI is a very important part of RAMSI’s Community Outreach program,” Ms Parker said. “It is one of the ways we can monitor and review RAMSI’s work in Solomon Islands.”

Ms Parker, who was leading a special all-of-RAMSI outreach team of mostly women from RAMSI’s Participating Police Force, military, law and justice, machinery of government, and economic governance programs, said it was also good for members of the mission to have this personal connection with Solomon Islanders.

“It makes those of us who have come to work with Solomon Islanders to help them build a better future for their children feel good, knowing that what RAMSI is doing is working and appreciated by the community and also to hear about ways in which we might do our job better.”

Ms Parker said despite all the progress since 2003 there was still a lot for the Solomon Islands –RAMSI partnership still to do if a better future for all Solomon Islanders was to be secured.

“We’ve still got a big challenge ahead, and we - that’s Solomon Islands and RAMSI - need to make sure that the things we have achieved together are sustainable in the long term.”

For instance, reconciliation needed to come from the hearts of all Solomon Islanders, Ms Parker said.

“Women’s groups, church groups, chiefs, community leaders and the government need to work together while RAMSI’s here, to get the most from RAMSI and ensure there is a lasting peace in Solomon Islands.”

Many women who spoke during the meeting expressed their support for the work of RAMSI, saying that since the mission’s arrival in the country, life for women and children is once again safe and free.

The women told the RAMSI Community Outreach team that they wanted RAMSI to remain in Solomon Islands to complete its work; especially they want to see RAMSI continue to work with and help strengthen the local police.

The women also said that they did not want to see guns in the community and wanted all remaining guns to be collected.

Women from Guadalcanal and Malaita both shared personal stories with the meeting about the big changes in their lives since RAMSI’s arrival in 2003.

One woman whose brother had been shot and killed during the tensions said that to be able to take part in the surrender and destruction of weapons which occurred in the year after RAMSI had helped her a lot.

“I actually helped cut up a gun with a RAMSI officer,” she said.

The Women for Peace Coordinator, Mrs. Georgina Sogote’e, said that the purpose of the meeting with the RAMSI Community Outreach team was to get first hand information about the work of RAMSI, and to find out what RAMSI is doing about promoting the status of women as equal partners in development.

“We also want to be able to provide feedback about the work of RAMSI, raise important issues that are of importance to women and have an opportunity to have face to face talks with the women of RAMSI,” she said.

This was the first time for these women to meet with RAMSI officers and she said all the women appreciated this since it provided details of important things RAMSI is doing in its work with the governments and people of Solomon Islands.

Apart from providing a safe and secure environment for women to go about their lives without fear, RAMSI is also prioritising the development of women to take on key roles in the development of Solomon Islands.

“Just two weeks ago, RAMSI supported Solomon Islands women to attend a ‘Women leading change’ conference in Australia. These opportunities encourage women to develop and lead change in their workplace”, Ms Parker said.

RAMSI is also supporting a group for women lawyers, Women in Law in Solomon Islands to help them promote and protect women’s interests, and working towards the advancement of women studying and practicing law.

The RAMSI team also briefed the women about the regional nature of RAMSI and how RAMSI is also a partnership between Solomon Islands and its 15 Pacific neighbours who all contribute personnel to the mission.

Ms Parker highlighted the big commitment that pacific island country’s had made to their brothers and sisters in Solomon Islands.

“Niue for instance only has 1800 people, and 16 police officers but they have elected to send two of them here to work in RAMSI. That’s a big commitment by a small country,” she said.

Source: RAMSI

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