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    Solomon Islands

Project Background

Based on global research conducted by Plan International, adolescent girls seldom feel safe in cities. They experience sexual harassment, physical violence, exploitation and insecurity, and are often excluded from decision-making processes - impacting their safety, wellbeing and ability to access even the most basic of services. With cities and public transport primarily designed by men, adolescent girls’ experiences and their needs and opinions are hardly ever recognised.

After completing a Safer Cities for Girls baseline report in 2019, it was clear adolescent girls in Honiara also did not feel safe in public spaces. Of the 236 girls who participated in focus group discussions and interviews, only 7% of girls said they “always feel safe in public”. The key reasons adolescent girls did not feel safe in Honiara were the high levels of sexist behaviours and sexual harassment they have experienced, or fear they will experience, in public. The top five perceived safety risks for girls in public spaces identified through the Honiara research were:? (1) drunk and intoxicated people; (2) theft; (3) ?verbal harassment; (4) touching; and (5) rape?.

Improving safety in public spaces and on transport is often considered only a physical problem, one that can be solved by improving the built environment, such as increased lighting. While physical improvements can and do have a significant impact on real and perceived safety, it is important to understand safety is not only about changing physical spaces, it’s also about changing attitudes and behaviours.

Project Overview

The Global Safer Cities for Girls Program is a joint program developed in partnership between Plan International, Women in Cities International, and UN-HABITAT, carried out in 19 cities across 11 countries. Similar to other cities across the world, girls’ safety in Honiara, Solomon Islands is impacted by many factors including: the built environment, access to safe transport and services, laws, harmful social and cultural norms that enable the existence of unequal power dynamics, gender-based discrimination, and violence against women and girls.

The overarching goal is to build safe, accountable and inclusive cities with and for all adolescent girls. The program aims to increase girls’ safety and access to public spaces, mobility in the city; and increase their active and meaningful participation in urban development and governance.

The key focus is preventing and addressing gender-based violence, including sexual harassment in public spaces and transport sectors. The Honiara program works at multiple levels to increase inclusivity and safety for girls. This includes working with governments and public services to improve laws and services for girls; and with families and communities to challenge harmful social and cultural norms and promote gender equality.

Adolescent girls participate as active agents of change - building their individual capacity and collective agency to engage with decision-makers and communities. The program creates inter-generational dialogue in order to raise awareness on issues relating to girls’ safety and inclusion in cities, and to develop practical solutions to making cities more gender-equitable, safe and inclusive. Adolescent boys are also trained to promote positive masculinity, gender equality and support for girls’ rights to safety and public participation. The program aims to reach 400 young people, plus 150 government staff, police and transport sector staff.

Project activities include:

  • Conducting girl-led community mapping and safety walks of their local areas, with feedback on areas they feel unsafe and recommendations for improvements delivered to local government stakeholders and authorities.
  • Supporting young people to a host public art exhibition designed to amplify youth voices and raise community awareness of the gender and safety issues important to them.
  • Advocacy and influencing training for 50 young people to build their capacity to engage with local governments and the transport sector on safety issues that affect them.

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