The KAWAKI Women’s Group: Turtle Advocates
Women from three Solomon Islands communities have united to protect turtles and play a new role in conservation education and ecotourism.
Since 1992, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has worked with three local communities to protect the Arnavons, which is the largest hawksbill sea turtle rookery in the South Pacific. Now a model for community conservation and the first marine national park in the Solomon Islands, the Arnavons was recently declared a Blue Park by the Marine Conservation Institute. The prestigious Blue Park Award, “recognizes outstanding efforts by nations, non-profits, MPA managers, and local stake-holders that effectively protect marine ecosystems now and into the future.”
Although men from these communities have been involved in the ACMP for more than 25 years as community rangers, until recently women had little opportunity to be involved. With support from Robyn James, Conservation Director for TNC's Melanesia Program, women from Katupika, Wagina and Kia formed KAWAKI. The vision of KAWAKI is uniting women around conservation, culture and community to create a better future for their children.
KAWAKI Founder Receives Award
Current KAWAKI Chair and co-founder Marilyn Gedi, from the remote Kia village in Solomon Islands recently received an award from Her Majesty the Queen for her efforts around community conservation. Marilyn has inspired women across three communities to unite and celebrate community conservation in the islands through KAWAKI.
The Islands’ sea turtles and beautiful coral reefs are a growing tourist attraction, and both the government and three local communities want to build the Arnavons as a nationally renowned ecotourism and cultural destination. Growing tourism can, in turn, strengthen conservation of the Arnavons and improve livelihoods in local communities. Over the next five years, with significant investment into ecotourism planning, marketing, infrastructure and local capacity building, we are working to support the Arnavon Islands to become an important tourism and education destination for the Solomon Islands that delivers true benefits to the local communities managing it.
The Arnavons will be the first women’s-led ecotourism venture in the country, and it will provide women and girls access to training and skills development that will have a lasting impact on their lives. Gender equity is a major focus of TNC’s work in the Arnavons and more broadly in Melanesia. Research demonstrates that involving women in natural resource management leads to better outcomes for both communities and the environment.
The group’s work will extend beyond ecotourism to create a learning and education center for local people and especially children to experience conservation. KAWAKI has also developed a conservation awareness program that they are presenting in villages and schools.