Sixty-four-year-old Solomon Islander Jully Makini Purcell could not have been a more fitting recipient of the 2017 International Woman of Courage Award from the United States Secretary of State, which she received in June. For several decades now, Jully has been courageously speaking out on issues that have long been considered taboo in her country such as violence against women and children.
A published writer and poet, Jully has used her gift for storytelling to connect with remote, rural communities in order to advance women’s rights. Following a wide-ranging career in Honiara that saw her lead women’s advocacy groups and advocate for sustainable environmental practices, Jully returned to Gizo in the Western Solomons in 2008 where her family roots lie.
In the years since, Jully has helped to secure funding to build a women’s refuge in Gizo. The second largest city in the Solomon Islands, Gizo is still without some essential services for survivors of domestic violence. Jully and others were prevented from beginning a shelter but this didn’t stop her from going back to the drawing board to reassess how women, the survivors of domestic violence could be supported in the province.
This led to the formation of the current Gizo Family Support Centre, a small volunteer based NGO currently funded by the UN Women Ending Violence Against Women (EVAW) Pacific Fund. Jully’s motivation for FSO is educating women, and the community about abuse, and the different kinds of abuse in the home. For the last five years she has travelled throughout the Western Province raising awareness, seeking community leaders to be involved in addressing the cycle of violence and making women aware of what abuse is and helping those women who suffer from it to find a solution to their problems.
“She is a true grassroots activist and inspires others to make a difference,” says Ashleigh Lustica, who worked with Jully on ending violence against women at Family Support Organisation, adding: “Her courage is commendable”.
The 70 Inspiring Pacific Women campaign has been produced by the Pacific Community (SPC) in partnership with Australian Aid and Pacific Women. The campaign marks the 70th anniversary of SPC, and leads up to the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women and 6th Meeting of Ministers for Women in Suva (Fiji) from 2nd to 5th October 2017.