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FEATURE STORY

Handing a second chance to vulnerable communities in Solomon Islands

June 10, 2013

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Economic downturn and a growing urban population is causing high urban under-employment in the capital Honiara.
  • The Rapid Employment Project is assisting the most vulnerable of Honiara’s population, particularly the youth and women.
  • The project has helped over 6,000 people with short-term employment and skills training.

John Kafaikao, a father of five, moved from Malaita Island to the capital Honiara in the hope of finding a better job to support his family. Unable to find a job, John went to live near a dumpsite and had to make a living scavenging through trash and finding items to sell.

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Life was a struggle. We didn’t have clean water, electricity, jobs. We had nothing Close Quotes

John Kafaikao
A father of five

New Employment Opportunities

John’s story is common to many in the Solomon Islands, a country that went through a period of conflict from 1998 to 2003. Long-standingdisputes remained, with violent riots erupting in 2006. The government was already grappling with continued fragility, high population growth and high unemployment, when the 2009 global economic crisis hit its shores.

To help John and vulnerable communities in Honiara, the World Bank, working alongside the government, setup the Rapid Employment Project (REP) in 2010. The project provided skills training and jobs to improve people’s employment prospects while giving them cash income.

Under the project, John and many others from his communityhelped maintain the roads in the Honiara. With the money earned from the project, John was able to build his own kiosk selling daily items which has improved the lives of his family.

Special focus on Women and Youth

Finding work for women was even harder, since they lack formal education. To address this, women are encouraged to attend the training sessions and sign up for work.

Surina was among them. She couldn’t find a decent job for six years. With four kids to support and no land to plant a garden in hertown,life was very difficult.

After Surina got involved with the project, she was given a job to help clean the streetsand pave footpaths in town. Apart from receiving income, the project helped empower her and other women through the training sessions.

“I was really happy to be part of the REP,” said Surina. “I met other unemployed women and we encouraged each other.” Today, she is among the 57 percent of women beneficiaries under the project.

The project also gives special attention to the younger generation who flock to the capital to find work despite the scarce job opportunities here. The country suffers from a high youth unemployment rate of almost 60 percent.

Fabian came to Honiara to help improve his family’s life because his parents and siblings were all unemployed. Unable to find a job, Fabian resorted to petty crime in order to survive.

“When I don’t have money, I followed men who steal and drink,” admitted Fabian, who regretted his past. “When I heard about the REP, I thought I must attend.”

The project gave Fabian an employment opportunity by helping clean the city. The income has helped turn his life around. “I started a small kiosk after I finished with the cleanup work in town. I feel good about myself this time,” he said proudly.

As of March 2013, the project has helped provide 6,000 people with jobs, half of which employed young people. Apart from the individuals who directly gained from the project, the community in general also benefited from improved roads, a cleaner city and much more.