Just before we departed from the Solomon Islands in May 2017, we were sitting under the canopy of a tree, trying hopelessly to escape the scalding heat of the sun. A silver-haired woman with a warm gentle face approached us and proudly introduced herself as the nation’s first police-woman. Marilyn Gedi was very pleased to see foreigners, who shared her vision for a better world, visiting her home island of Isabel.
She began telling us about how it important it is that people from different walks of life, different nations, come together to protect the land and sea. This, she said, was a pathway towards resolving conflict between all humans (perhaps, an important message for today’s world, as we sink deeper into throes of heated words between nations that tinker on the edge of war).
As an elder and chairwoman of the Kawaki Women's Network for Conservation, it has always been her dream to unite women and men in her neighbourhood - and, as a witness to the outbreaks of violence in and between communities and people she knows, during the dark times from 1999 to 2003, it is her will to make sure that this never happens, again.
Life is much better when you live in a peaceful society.
“But, how do you bring people together? How do you resolve disputes and bring about peace and harmony?” muses Marilyn.
“Conserving what is on our Islands of Arnavon [the nation’s first marine park] has been a benefit to all communities. It is a model for the world, knowing that conservation can help us to come together to become a ‘part’ owner of the resources. It is important, because it means that no one is left out.”
Marilyn says that after visiting other countries, such as Australia, PNG, and Fiji, she began to see that humans can best resolve violence through getting to know each other, through coming together, and so this is why she worked hard to help establish her nation’s first marine park.
“My life has been about asking the question 'How do I bring about peace and unity?'” says Marilyn.
“During the times of violence, it was hard to see that no one owns the land. The problem is, if there are resources there, then people want to claim the land.
“If no money was involved, this just wouldn't happen.”
One day, could the vision of this sliver-haired retired police-woman, inspire nations to come together to protect global hotspots where nations rival for power like in the China Sea? Fortunately, there is already a precedent for her vision, as nations with opposing agendas came together last year in October 2016 to create the largest ever marine protected area on the high seas, the Ross Sea marine reserve in Antarctica.
Maybe, just maybe, Marilyn’s dream can work elsewhere.