SAVING IN SOLOMONS
Meet Hellen Maika.
Hellen is from Simboro village on Ghizo Island in the Western Province, Solomon Islands. She’s been taking part in business and financial literacy training as part of a women’s microfinance project. This project, which included savings and lending clubs, was set up by WWF with the help of partner and with by the Australian Government.
What does a women’s microfinance project have to do with conservation? In countries like Solomon Islands, successful conservation is one and the same as sustainable development. It’s through poverty reduction, improved quality of life, sustainable livelihoods, and raised awareness, that communities will be able to effectively manage their use of the reefs and fish populations and ensure they stay within sustainable limits.
After attending the business and financial literacy training, Hellen felt inspired to start her own small goods and bakery business. She soon started to save money and was able to pay for family demands like school fees. She’s even been able to save enough money to borrow to start up a café and bakery. After her training, Hellen put together a business plan for the café, including her two daughters in the process. She plans to improve the kitchen where she cooks and to open a shopfront where people can enjoy her cakes and coffee. Hellen already has her name for the bakery, “Maaro”, which is the combination of all her daughters’ names.
Not only has this microfinance project helped Hellen understand about budgeting and saving, but she feels much more empowered to manage her family’s finances. She is now teaching her children to save too. As one of the representatives of the local saving club, Hellen shares her skills to help other women in the community to save. She says that the savings clubs are successful as a social outlet for the women. “Everyone is good at savings now – young girls to old women”, she says.