In the last decade, the Solomon Islands has made significant progress in promoting gender equality and social inclusion, including adopting international and national instruments that protect the rights of women and people with disabilities. -focused.
The Constitution, adopted in 1978, remains the supreme law of the Solomon Islands and prohibits discriminatory treatment by any public authority. However, to improve women’s and people with disabilities civic and political participation, targeted interventions are required.
To this end, the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC), has partnered with UNDP, the Australian Government, and stakeholders from targeted communities to uphold the government’s commitment to enhancing gender equality and social inclusion in elections.
In 2019,the SIEC accredited seven people with disabilities as electoral observers in the National General Election, a number which grew to twelve in 2020 by-elections.
Despite progress, more work is needed to ensure that all individuals can actively participate in the electoral process. Women and people with disabilities continue to face barriers to active and equal political and civic participation.
The SIEC has worked with UNDP and Australia through the Strengthening the Electoral Cycle in the Solomon Islands Project to develop the first-of-its kind Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) Policy. The SIEC will use the policy to serve as a cornerstone of its effort to contribute to a resilient democracy.
The GESI Policy aims to build an understanding of the issues related to gender equality and social inclusion in the administration and running of elections. Its Action Plan 2022-2024 includes internal and external domain strategies to strengthen gender and social mainstreaming mechanisms, increase the representation of minority groups, and systematize gender and social inclusion training and capacity building in order to build all-inclusive perspectives throughout the Solomon Islands’ electoral processes.
The GESI Policy promotes the principles of equity, inclusivity, and fairness, and most importantly a ‘do-no-harm’ approach. To this end, the Commission will work hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs and People with Disabilities of Solomon Islands to ensure that the Policy does not put women, persons with disabilities, and marginalized groups more at risk throughout the electoral processes.
By mainstreaming gender equality and social inclusion into all Commission components and programs, the benefits of the GESI Policy can extend to a significant number of Solomon Islands citizens, enhancing the SIEC’s mandate to deliver free, fair, inclusive, and accessible elections.
The Policy and its accompanying Action Plan focus on ten commitments, including but not limited to eliminating any form of discrimination, bringing gender and social inclusion perspectives to legal instruments, election procedures and engagements, enhancing inclusiveness and active participation of the electorate etc.
The SIEC encourages women, youth, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups to take an active part and exercise their democratic rights to vote and run as candidates for Parliament and Provincial Governments.
As we approach the National Election 2024, the Commission calls on all parties involved to raise awareness of the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Policy and promote its principles of non-discrimination, equality, and inclusion. Let’s make 2024 inclusive, leaving no one behind.