Highlighting the role of Pacific women has allowed a broadcaster to inform, educate, and inspire change in sustainable fishing practices in rural Solomon Islands.
Dorothy Wickham is a trailblazer in the Solomon Islands’ media industry. As the Solwata Blo Iumi radio programme host, she has used her voice and platform to advocate for sustainable fishing practices and raise awareness of the need to work together to preserve marine resources.
The Solwata Blo Iumi (Our Ocean) campaign promotes the Solomons tradition of communities sitting and talking together to find solutions. With a career spanning more than two decades, Dorothy has cemented her place as one of the most respected and influential journalists in the nation. Throughout her career, she has fearlessly tackled a wide range of topics, from political unrest and social injustice to environmental conservation and sustainable development. Her work not only informs people but also sparks meaningful conversations that have ultimately led to positive changes in the country.
Working with cChange through the Solwata Blo Iumi Campaign
The Solwata Blo Iumi campaign is a testament to the long history of community-based resource management in the Solomon Islands.
Since 2021, cChange, a Pacific NGO that creates social good through communication innovations, has been working with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources – Solomon Islands to assist with strategic communications to help scale up community-based resource management in the country. cChange pitched the Solwata Blo Iumi campaign as a creative way to reach all coastal communities.
“One of the biggest challenges in the Solomons is reaching rural communities with information and this is why we are sharing information through radio, media, social media, and printed information and through networks and champions,” says Dorothy.
“As the host of the radio programme, I ensure that the messaging is correct. Having that local media experience, I can help translate what is usually technical to being relatable for rural communities,” she adds.
The Solwata Blo Iumi radio program airs on the national broadcaster, Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC), on the second Sunday of every month and is produced by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources – Solomon Islands in partnership with cChange, the LMMA Network Information, and the Pacific Community (SPC). It is made possible through Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) programme with funding from the European Union and the Government of Sweden.
The power of radio to inform, educate, inspire change
Being the voice behind the programme, Dorothy has taken on the responsibility of educating her fellow citizens about the benefits communities can receive when they manage their marine resources.
“I think that being a woman and having worked in media for a long time, I understand the daily challenges rural communities face, from fishing for their dinner or selling fish at the market or roadside to having a little extra money in their pocket to pay for their needs.
“The most difficult thing is changing the mindset around this subject, especially when it comes to getting people to think for the future when they can’t meet their needs today. It is true, Pacific islanders take for granted what the sea provides for us, with no thought to think about how to help revive marine resources.
“This is why the main focus of Solwata Blo Iumi is to generate discussions and get people thinking that will lead to action. This will take time, but people are slowly looking inward and understanding the need for their communities to recognize they have a problem and to take action before it’s too late,” Dorothy says.
She adds, “One way to do this is making sure messages and information are relatable, and that it reflects people’s values and priorities, like promoting how declining fisheries affect our health by not eating enough healthy protein because communities do not have access to other sources. For our rural communities in the Solomons, the sea provides most of our protein needs.”
The veteran broadcaster also hopes that when women hear other women leading the discussion, in this case, on sustainable fishing practices, it empowers them to speak up and take action for the sake of their families.
Dorothy says her greatest satisfaction is being told by people in the provinces that they are tuning into the Solwata Blo Iumi radio show. This is especially true when they want to know more and how they can start fisheries management within their community.
The challenges, way forward for sustainable fisheries campaign
The issue of fisheries management is not new to many communities in rural Solomon Islands, Dorothy points out. She says many traditional cultures have their systems in place, but some have lost them over time. The challenge now is getting people to think about how fishing has changed.
“If this is good or bad, we want people to have the information they need so they can make their own decisions,” she explains.
Dorothy says communities should not wait for a visit from a government officer or nongovernmental organisation (NGO) to help them prepare a fisheries management plan. This common misconception is that communities need a plan to start management, which is a barrier for communities to adopt sustainable fishing practices.
“We need to turn this around and have communities lead the way. They have experience of how fishing has changed, they know how their fish stocks have changed, and so they need to know the solutions to revive catches beyond their traditions or kastoms (customs). The campaign is giving enough information for communities to start a discussion and organise in ways that work for them, and make rules that will work for them as well,” she says.
The role of the media
As such, Dorothy has strong opinions about the role media can play in promoting sustainable fisheries.
Says Dorothy: “It has become obvious through feedback that many Solomon Islanders think that fisheries management is about banning them from harvesting, stopping them from accessing their marine resources. Think how this would impact a woman, fishing and harvesting for her family’s dinner, or their only protein for the day. The media can help with this miscommunication.”
Dorothy further explains, “The key here is to ensure the message is correct and translates effectively, and that it is about management, balancing use, and finding rules that will work. This is why everyone in communities needs to be part of the discussion so when rules are discussed, it does not discriminate against women in rural areas fishing for their family.”
Dorothy’s hope for the successful Solwata Blo Iumi radio show is that it can go a little deeper in the future to improve understanding, and ensure that important messages stick. However, she points out, this will take commitment from the Solomon Islands Government and other campaign partners to help push forward.