SECSIP supports the Solomon Islands Electoral Office in the vast and challenging task of reaching people in approximately 5,000 villages located across 900 islands. With internet and mobile telephone penetration very low across Solomon Islands, UNDP SECSIP identified an innovative solution to reach into the remotest parts of the country: allow the information travel on Solrice’s 40lb bags of rice. In a pro-bono arrangement, SolRice agreed to support the voter awareness campaign and let it benefit from its considerable distribution network.
After a very successful information action for voter registration in 2018, SolRice has agreed once again to serve as a vehicle for the dissemination of 110,000 copies of a new 32-page Voter Education booklet that explains the fundamental elements of the democratic system in SI. Developed by the Electoral Office and SECSIP and, the booklet aims to fill an important knowledge gap among voters and the general population, providing explanations in simple language and abundant illustrations.
In a ceremony held at the SolRice warehouse on 11 February in Honiara, SolRice General Manager Nick Ellis referred to the company’s continuous commitment towards the people of Solomon Islands and ratified SolRice willingness to continue collaborating in similar actions in the future. ….
Olga Rábade, Chief Technical Advisor of SECSIP praised this excellent example of multi-partner cooperation. “This booklet provides information on election related topics and why is important for the citizens to exercise their right to vote. It also refers to the important role of civil society and media in a democracy. It is the result of a joint venture and illustrates the benefits of team-work, a team in this case comprised of the leading institution, i.e. the Electoral Office, private sector (SolRice), civil society (PWD), UNDP SECSIP supported by the generosity of international development partners, Australia and European Union. Today we are extending an invitation to join our team to the media professionals of Solomon Islands to give echo to this initiative, so the audience will look for this booklet when buying their bags of rice and share it with family and friends, she said.
Australian High Commissioner Rodrick Brazier said Australia was pleased to continue its support to the Solomon Islands’ electoral process, which includes voter awareness, through collaboration with UNDP and the EU in the SECSIP program.
“It is fantastic that SolRice, a subsidiary of major Australian company, SunRice, has joined up with the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission for another awareness campaign in the run-up to the General Election in April,” he said.
“We saw the success of this type of targeted campaign last year during the voter registration process. I am glad to see it being rolled-out again to provide critical information about where and how to vote.”
In his remarks, the Chief Electoral Officer Mr. Moses Saitala referred to the proclamation of the elections by the Governor General on 5 February which has triggered the commencement of the period of nomination of candidates ending on 20 February. He mentioned the continuous efforts made by the Voter Awareness team, led by Philothea Paul, to design a number of products including posters, leaflets and conduct actions such as radio programs and sms campaign to inform the citizens. He also referred to the institutional website which provides updated and reliable information including a search engine to confirm names and id numbers included in the final voters lists. For those who do not have access to internet, he encouraged them to ask questions through the Electoral Office telephone hotline at 72222200 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m available until 30 March.
The first batch of booklets started to go out on the rice bags in late January 2019 and distribution will continue for another few weeks. The booklet is inserted into a sturdy self-adhesive envelope that is stuck onto bags of rice before they are loaded onto ships that travel from island to island, reaching each of the country’s 9 provinces.
The task of preparing the envelopes for dispatch has once again been undertaken by the People with Disability Association (PWDA) of the Solomon Islands. A team of 10 worked for over 10 days to prepare the envelopes ready for sticking onto the bags. Said Davis Luabolana of PDWA “we are pleased to continue working together with the Electoral Office and UNDP SECSIP and contribute to disseminate voter awareness information. This is also providing us a direct avenue with the EO and SECSIP and we are currently exploring other possibilities of collaboration.”
The Voter Education booklet is a first step in an ambitious long-term plan supported by SECSIP and UNDP to boost knowledge among Solomon Islanders of the principles of democracy. It includes basic information on the election, the functioning of the Parliament and the role and responsibilities of MPs, civil society and media