Key Gender Concerns under CGA Report

THE Solomon Islands Country Gender Assessment (CGA) report launched during the International women’s day last year has provided an overview of key gender concerns in Solomon Islands.

This key gender concerns are within the Access to Legal and Judicial support, Health, Education, Economic Empowerment, Decision Making and Leadership and Violence against Women in the country.

The key gender points are as followed:

Access to Legal and Judicial Support:

The Gender Equality and Women’s Development Policy provides a framework to implement commitment to gender equality.

Key challenges for access to justice include women’s lack of awareness of their own rights, scarce presence of the justice system beyond Honiara, and limited presence of females in the top levels of the judicial system and law enforcement.

Local courts do not often handle cases of violence against women. Even when they do, women face gender biases since legal and judicial professionals lack understanding of gender equality. As a result, most court rulings do not support survivors of violence against. Only a very small number of cases are heard by magistrates or the High Court.

Traditional dispute settlement mechanisms and local courts are the main settings for land disputes. Leadership in the local courts is almost entirely male.

There are no female judges in the High Court and none of the justice agencies have female leaders.


According to the 2007 Demographic and Health Survey, nearly 95 percent of women sought at least one antenatal care visit during pregnancy, while 65 percent had made the minimum four visits recommended for pregnancy. A relatively high percentage of women more than 80% are assisted by a health professional at birth or give birth at a healthy facility.

Despite improvements in overall health indicators, disparities persist across provinces. The national average for infant mortality was only 12.0 per 1,000 live births as of 2012, while the rate ranged from 8.5 in Western Province to 34.8 in Choiseul Province. Similar disparities exist for under-5 child mortality, for which the national average was 15.3.

According to the 2009 census, the total fertility rate is still high at 4.7 (Compared with 4.8 in 1999), and varies widely between urban (3.3) and rural (5.2) areas. Adolescent fertility is also high, with 8 -12 percent of women aged 15-19 already being mothers. The use of contraception is low, with only about 25 percent of currently married women (aged 15-49) and 16 percent among unmarried sexually active women using a modern method.

Data on the prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) or HIV/ AIDS are limited in Solomon Islands. While the reported prevalence of HIV is low, there is a serious lack of knowledge about the virus among high risk populations, limited testing facilities for HIV, and a high level of stigma to having an STI or HIV.

Rural women are likely to face greater challenges in health care due to its poor quality and limited accessibility. Their access to care is constrained by heavy workloads at home, lack of funds for transport, and/or cultural requirements to obtain family permission. About 30 percent of rural women reported they needed permission from their husband or intimate partner to go for treatment, compared with only 17 percent of urban women.


School enrolments have increased steadily, with primary net enrolments reaching nearly 90 percent for both girls and boys since 2009. While the gender gap has been narrowing overall, disparities remain at all levels of education as of 2013.

Considerably fewer students attend secondary schools: net enrolment rates at junior secondary level are still below 40 percent and the rates at senior secondary level are below 30 percent. Girls have been catching with boys in school attendance, but the gender gap persists. The gap is particularly significant at the senior secondary level, with gross enrolment rates of 28 percent for girls and 32 percent for boys.

Available data indicate an increasing dropout rate for higher levels of schooling. At primary and junior secondary levels, the dropout rate is slightly higher for girls than for boys. Yet, the rate reverses at secondary level, with more boys dropping out than girls.

For tertiary education, this includes degree and non-degree programs, women made up 38 percent of total estimated enrolment in 2012. Women are concentrated in traditional female subject areas such as in education, tourism and hospitality. Women are especially undeserved by technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes, as most TVET programmes are oriented towards young men with technical courses.

Educational attainment of the adult population (aged 15 and above) is relatively low, with only 20 percent of women and 29 percent of men having at least some secondary schooling. Women are nearly twice as likely as men to have no schooling at all (21 percent versus 12 percent), whereas men are twice as likely as women to have tertiary education (6 percent versus 3 percent).

The 2009 census shows reasonably high literacy rates, although women (79 percent) are less likely to be literate than (89 percent). However, studies at the provincial level indicate very low levels of functional literacy, ranging from 7 percent to 28 percent. Functional literacy is also significantly lower for women (14 percent) than for men (21 percent). Functional literacy improves for those completing higher levels of schooling.

Economic Empowerment:

According to the 2009 census, 62 percent of women and 64 percent of men aged 12 and older were in the labour force, including those who produce goods for own consumption (subsistence work). Both labour force participation and employment rates are higher in rural than urban areas, given the largely agricultural and subsistence nature of work. Gender differences are very small for overall labour force participation or employment rates.

Of those employed, women were only half as likely as men to be in paid work (26 percent of women and 51 percent of men). Even in urban areas where paid work is much more common, women were significantly less likely than men to be in paid work (62 percent of women and 88 percent of men). In rural areas, only 19 percent of women and 42 percent of men were engaged in paid work.

Within paid work, men are much more likely than women to hold a wage job, particularly in the private sector. Women hold only 25 percent of private sector wage jobs, while they account for a greater share of public sector wage jobs at 36 percent.

When subsistence work, self employment and unpaid family work are categorized as vulnerable employment, 75 percent of women and 54 percent of men are in vulnerable employment. Vulnerable employment is significantly less in urban areas, but women are still more likely to be in vulnerable employment (41 percent of urban women versus 21 percent of urban men).

Despite efforts to remove discriminatory barriers to starting a business through reforms of business legislation and regulations, women continue to face challenges in starting a business due to their lower levels of education, limited functional literacy, or distance from government offices.

Women are highly active in small-scale income generation and agriculture but their economic participation and control of productive resources are constrained by lack of education, socio-cultural discrimination, and lack of access to key resources such as transport and market infrastructure.

Decision-Making and Leadership

Women’s participation in leadership and decision making at senior levels is significantly low. Women fill only 5 percent of senior public service positions and 22 percent of mid-level positions. Overall, 40 percent of public service employees are female and 60% of these are in junior positions.

Key constraints for women to enter leadership positions include low levels of education, high burden family care responsibility, high levels of violence and underlying discriminatory social studies.

The Gender Equality and Women’s Development Policy creates a framework to promote women’s greater participation in decision making roles. Yet, the government lacks technical capacity, skilled staff and adequate resources to implement major policy changes.

While a temporary special measure task force was established, the actual proposal on temporary special measures was not included in the 2014 Political Parties Integrity Act. The revised Public Service Act prohibits sexual harassment through general orders but there is no sexual harassment legislation to protect women in the formal or informal private sector.

Violence against Women:

According to the 2009 Solomon Islands Family Health and Safety Study of women who had ever been in an intimate relationship, 64 percent reported having experienced physical and/or sexual abuse by an intimate partner.

More than one-third of women (37 percent) reported being sexually abused before the age of 15, most often by a male acquaintance or a male family member.

Social acceptance of violence and high levels of stigma against those who try to break away from a violent relationship make it extremely difficult to break cycles of violence.

Rural survivors of violence are more disadvantaged than urban ones because they have less access to trained care providers and counselling. Also, police are less likely to be trained to handle domestic disputes and there are few formal justice options.