Walter Lini in 1980, year of Independence

Richard Butler | RNZ | Mike Esrom Kaun | Feb 21, 2019

A hardworking 22-year-old ni-Vanuatu woman in a rural community has shared her beliefs on being independent and her dreams.

“Father Lini and our forefathers fought hard for us to be independent,” said Sandrina from Avunatari community, west Malo. “It is our duty to be glad for our independence and be independent. My dream is to be able to build a guest house here and a shop to be able to provide for my family.”

With a drop in cocoa production and low copra prices, it has not been easy for anyone to make an income, let alone a young single woman in a village.

Sandrina’s options are limited and it is a battle for her. However, seeing the fuel business that she had set up and had been operating for the last six months to provide money to support her family, this did not appear to be a far-fetched dream.

“As prices for goods have started to climb while financial income has dropped, a promising life is a dream and it seems life is about maintaining a level of security rather than having the confidence of being successful in pursuing our dreams,” stated Chief John Vuti.

“Not only are the opportunities and options limited and seem to be diminishing with the changes that we cannot control but it is also a costly exercise to travel to Luganville daily to make an income,” Chief John added.

However, the pressing times have pushed out some of the best in the community. After World Vision introduced village based savings groups last year, the community has continued to see benefits – from establishment of little shops to assisting with building of homes to being able to pay for school fees more easily.

The light of excitement in the eyes of Sale Vuti, a young father from Sandrinas village, is dazzling as he not only speaks of the small food business and kava bar he has started, but also as he speaks of his plans to invest in other business ventures.

The same light shone in the face of Lyn Binihi a mother of a three-month-old baby in Sandrinas’ community as she stood and gazed on the new four room concrete house she and her husband were building for their young family.

While World Vision introduced savings groups to Avunatari and other communities on Malo, it has been community members themselves who have demonstrated successful self-governance of the groups to ensure that all members could continue to receive benefits. The World Vision economic development project has ended, but the communities on Malo continue to manage the savings groups independently.

As Sandrina filled fuel bottles in her little station she remarked, “It was a challenge being a woman and being told by my peers and some elder members of my family that I would not be successful. But I have seen my mother’s hard work, and now that I have more knowledge about income generation, I feel like I have the tools to make it happen. I will do it by standing on my own two feet and working hard to get what I need.”

Sandrina now understands independence is not about an idea or waiting for help to come, but realising and acting in a manner that shows independence is the responsibility of each person.

With a calm look on her face and a firm, steely voice Sandrina said, “I will build my guest house, I will build my shop. I have the money, I have the experience and I have my vision. Nothing will be able to stop me from my dream.”