The women-led fund bringing super, insurance and loans to women in Solomon Islands

February 22, 2018

Alice Aruhe’eta Pollard of WARA. Photo: Gemma Carr/IWDA
Alice Aruhe’eta Pollard of WARA. Photo: Gemma Carr/IWDA

 

“I saw in the village a lot of parents cannot afford to pay school fees. There’s a poor healthcare system in the village, and services are not reaching rural communities. Older women, particularly widows, needed support.” – Alice Aruhe’eta Pollard, WARA

For most of us, attending school, accessing basic essential healthcare and having enough money to support us in old age are a part of life. For women in Solomon Islands, there’s no formal safety net.

The majority of Solomon Islanders live in rural communities, where there are no major hospitals, no formal bank accounts, and no accessible loans. Travel is prohibitively expensive, so most women without savings live without the support services they need to thrive.

This is something that Dr Alice Aruhe’eta Pollard is changing. As co-founder of West ‘Are’Are Rokotanikeni Association (WARA), she’s been a trailblazing leader when it comes to addressing challenges experienced by rural women.

This year, IWDA partner West ‘Are’Are Rokotanikeni Association (WARA) are undertaking something that’s never been done before. They’re launching WARA Cares, one of the first women-led funds to support women through every stage of life.

WARA Cares is part super fund, part health insurance fund, and part education fund. From young girls who cannot afford schooling, to retired women struggling to survive without a pension, WARA Cares plugs the gaps that mainstream services miss.

It’s known as ‘Haiamasiha’, which translates to ‘we care for each other’.

The fund’s structure is simple. Each of WARA’s 1,100+ members contribute a yearly fee that’s within their personal budgets. In two years, the nest egg will be ready for these members to access. Alice is excited to see WARA grow and evolve to meet the changing needs of WARA’s members and the wider community.

“I think WARA Cares will have quite a significant impact on giving back to WARA’s members and the broader community,” says Alice.

Nearly 20 years ago, WARA launched their first savings clubs. These women-led, volunteer-run clubs give women a space to come together, learn more about managing finances, and store their savings safely. Through regular money collection, WARA connects rural women with banks so they can establish financial autonomy.

WARA has changed the lives of these communities. Over the life of the savings club, members have taken out over 1000 loans and saved more than a million Solomon Islands Dollars. Now, WARA Cares is set to provide women with the financial safety net they deserve, and support women to gain full autonomy over their health, finances and decisions; all defining qualities of human rights.

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