Today, communities all over the world are celebrating International Women's Day to promote equal rights for women and raise awareness of continued gender inequality that causes discrimination, exploitation and abuse. In the Solomon Islands such a day has particular relevance with 64% of women aged 15-49 reporting physical and/or sexual abuse by their partner, girls as young as 12 being forced into prostitution, and only one woman holding a senior government ministry position. The Australian High Commission in Honiara has prioritised gender equality by committing to support the work of the Ministry of Women, Children, Youth and Family Affairs in achieving their five priority outcomes for women: improve and ensure equitability in health and education, improve economic status, equal participation in decision making and leadership, elimination of violence against women, and increase the nation’s capacities for gender mainstreaming.
The Salvation Army Solomon Islands Ministries joined forces with a variety of government and non-government groups this morning to march in solidarity for gender equality. The march commenced behind the Honiara City Council building and proceeded down the main street of Honiara to the National Museum, where a large crowd gathered to hear a number of inspiring speeches, including one from the Prime Minister's wife Madam Rachel Houenipwela who shared her story.
As The Salvation Army builds it's ministry presence and mission impact in the Solomon Islands, it is clear that we have a key role in empowering women and addressing some of the ongoing issues in this space. Major Vanessa Evans has recently met with a number of community leaders in Honiara to discuss issues of prostitution, human trafficking and domestic violence. Each of these leaders expressed a strong desire for the churches to be more proactive in promoting a healthy biblical framework for equality.
More than ever before, the famous words from William Booth's final speech, "While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight!" continue to echo as a pertinent call to action for all Salvationists to fight all forms of injustice until equality is finally achieved.