Esther Lodu Sione, Chairperson of the Riguru Women’s Association (RWA) and Vice President of the Madegugusu Women’s Association (MWA)

April 19 2014- During the Most Significant Change workshop by PLP researcher Leslie Hoatson, the women of Riguru village on Simbo identified their savings club or the ability to save as their “most significant change”.

We spoke to Esther Lodu Sione the Chairperson of the Riguru Women’s Association (RWA) and Vice President of the Madegugusu Women’s Association (MWA). Women from Riguru and three other villages on Simbo attended a two day Savings Club training supported by PLP and facilitated by a financial literacy trainer.

“I enjoy my roles because it helps me work well with the women. I have observed and am aware that a lot of women find it hard to meet their child’s school fees then the program came and assist us a lot, by improving lives of women and how the women can save money, how we cooperate in sharing skills and knowledge, Esther explained.

The program Esther is referring to is the ‘Simbo for Change’ a partnership between members of the MWA, a development entrepreneur on Simbo Island- Esther Suti and the Samoa Women in Business Development Incorporated (WIBDI). It aims to advance women’s economic empowerment and, in the process, address issues of gender roles and family safety on Simbo. WIBDI provides technical expertise and training in organic certification, product development and market access, while PLP provides a range of interventions including support for coalition building, action research and facilitation of learning exchanges to build networks and skills.

The RWA recently made contributions to the National Provident Fund for its members, but as Esther explained it has not been easy to save, “We do have a lot of challenges with savings because we do not have a three lock cash box, we use a small wooden box and the treasurer felt it is risky for her to keep our money.”

There is also the issue of requests by family members for money which the women feel obligated to meet, “The savings club training we attended has motivated us to be strong and say no when we get unnecessary demands. We have told them that we can only withdraw money for school fees and medical emergency trips to Gizo.” Esther said some women were planning to build permanent homes from their savings and collectively they are considering the construction of a centre for members to meet, conduct training and make crafts.

Esther and her family are beneficiaries of the Savings Club, “When it began in 2012 I joined and now I am supporting my daughter who is studying for a Diploma in Agriculture at the Solomon Islands National University in Honiara and my son who is form two at the Gizo Community High School.”

Esther lives with her husband and two younger children near Riguru village, Her husband Samson Sione said he was supportive of Esther’s involvement in the MWA, RWA and Savings Club activities and encouraged other men to support their wives, “Their work benefits our families, we must support our women.”

Esther Lodu Sione, Chairperson of the Riguru Women’s Association (RWA) and Vice President of the Madegugusu Women’s Association (MWA)