The West AreÁre Rokotanikeni Association (WARA), a leading women’s organisation, is working with Australian Aid project Strongim Bisnis to help grow rural women’s businesses and incomes. The partnership will provide women with financial management training and expand WARA’s loan facility for women’s businesses and long-term investments. The loans will be guaranteed by member savings.
WARA is a voluntary organisation that manages a network of savings groups that teaches members to manage their finances, budget for household items and save for their families’ futures. Since the establishment of the WARA Savings Program in 2006 in Malaita, membership has grown to 3500, and savings are expected to reach SBD2 million by the end of 2018.
Access to finance is one of the main constraints facing women entrepreneurs and women’s economic empowerment in Solomon Islands. Only one in five women has a bank account. WARA operates mostly in areas accessible only by irregular shipping and motorised canoes and with no formal banking services.
President of WARA, Dr Alice Pollard, said the expansion of the loan scheme would bring financial benefits and empowerment to many more women around the country who do not have access to formal financial services. “When women in rural areas borrow money to invest in their businesses, we often see their businesses grow along with their own independence and security. Now WARA will be able to extend its loan scheme further to reach remote women who are most in need of financial services”.
Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, Roderick Brazier said it is an honour to partner with WARA, promoting self-reliance for more than 3,500 rural women. “The success of WARA’s saving groups shows that when women are given the skills and tools they need to flourish, the impact on their lives and their families can be life changing”.