Voice of Conflict: Charles Maeuta’s Story

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Charles Maeuta, 31 and the only one of his siblings still single, is worried about the future. He knows that on the Solomon Islands, someone like him – unemployed, a vocational school dropout – is unable to support a family. He doesn’t know if things will change, or how he can change them. To make a little money, he sells betel nut and cigarettes to his friends at a small market stall in his aunt’s driveway. Charles’s struggle typifies the experience of many young Solomon Islanders, especially in Honiara, the capital. There are few job opportunities, and those lacking basic qualifications such as a school diploma have little chance. Many of Charles’ friends are school dropouts who sit around each day drinking homemade liquor, smoking tobacco and marijuana, chewing betel nut and playing cards. “Sometimes we feel bored about doing the same thing every day,” Charles said. “When it’s like that, a friend will bring alcohol and we drink just to wrap up the day.” It wasn’t always so bleak.

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