Since becoming a Youth Champion for Plan International in the Solomon Islands, 17-year-old Katrina has discovered her voice and is using it to campaign for girls’ education.
To be a girl in the Solomon Islands, it means you have to respect your parents, elder brothers and sisters, do house chores and perform well in class, so that you can successfully complete school and excel further.
I first heard about Plan International through my friends Aroma and Elizabeth who are both Youth Champions as well.
One of the challenges since becoming a Youth Champion is being shy and not very vocal. However, since joining the Youth Champions in a number of meetings and interviews, I have realised that my shyness has gone and I can speak confidently in meetings and I have actively participated in Youth Champion interviews.
"It means a lot for me as I am representing the girls of Solomon Islands with the issues they encounter and hoping to make a change."
The changes that I would like to see in my community when working on the girls’ education campaign are as follows:
1) Community to get involved in the signing of signatures on an open letter to the Solomon Islands government.
2) Community providing moral support to girls, in making sure that girls’ education is a priority and every girl in the community should have access to and successfully complete their secondary education.
3) Community leaders, church leaders and parents working together to ensure girls have access to complete secondary high school.
Changes that I have seen as a result of the Stronger Together report and girls’ education campaign is that other stakeholders and the Solomon Islands line Ministries particularly, the Ministry of Education, Human Resources and Development are very supportive of the findings and recommendations put forward.
The next steps that I would like to take is having high level meetings/presentation of the four key recommendations from the report, together with the other Youth Champions with the Ministry of Education Heads of Division, Senior Strategic Unit and Senior Management Team.
By doing so, hopefully the Government will abolish all schools from charging school fees, by passing a fee-free policy to make sure that all girls in the Solomon Islands can access and complete their education.
I am hoping to be a leader for our adolescent girls of Solomon Islands, as someone that advocates and campaigns to address the issue of girls accessing secondary education, and ensure that they successfully complete their education.
Solomon Islands Youth Champions (L to R) Elizabeth, Aroma, Katrina, Margareth and Elima
Our Solomon Islands Youth Champions, Elizabeth, Aroma, Katrina, Margareth and Elima were part of a group of 60 adolescent girls and young women who participated in a Photovoice project to address the shockingly low numbers of girls completing secondary education in their country.
Together they identified the following barriers to education:
- School fees
- Relationships, early marriage and pregnancy
- Difficulty travelling to school
- Cultural expectations
- Family problems
- Bullying and peer pressure
- Lack of quality education and inclusive infrastructure
- Lack of disability inclusive education
Their final report, Stronger Together, contains a series of photos that powerfully communicate the challenges they are up against and their recommendations for change.
Now the Youth Champions are spearheading an ongoing public campaign to improve girls’ education.
Ella Kauhue, Country Program Manager at Plan International Solomon Islands
"Seeing adolescent girls driving the campaign and lobbying for their own rights is a different way of doing things. Girls voices are critical to be heard everywhere. Unless their voices are heard, the challenges and issues affecting them will not change."
– Ella Kauhue, Country Program Manager at Plan International Solomon Islands