Matangi, October 2018 – The finals are today and the Matangi under-20 girl’s netball team is running through training drills. Their coach, Jennifer Tai, laughs as slippery hands sometimes fumble the ball, but you can tell she is serious about this last practice.
But this is a side project for the coach. Jennifer’s main focus is off the court, addressing community problems and supporting justice in her small rural community of Matangi on Bellona Island, in the remote south of the Solomon Islands.
In this male-dominated culture, Jennifer has become a rock of stability for her local community, helping to settle and refer land disputes, addressing domestic violence issues and speaking with youth about the challenges they face.
Community governance and grievance management
Jennifer’s community voted to have her as their Community Officer as part of the Solomon Island’s government Community Governance and Grievance Management Program. The World Bank and Australian government sponsored program was established to help create a first line of contact for people in rural and remote communities to resolve disturbances and seek justice for crimes.
Considering the distance from provincial police posts and the difficulty of providing state services in a country that sits across nearly 1,000 islands, addressing community grievances can be incredibly difficult.
Crucially, Community Officers come directly from within the communities. They are the cousins, teachers, friends and neighbors of the people they support. They work in the villages in which they live to solve community disputes and direct problems to relevant state authorities if other solutions can’t be found.