Women taking the lead – heading up MSS as security provider to Tina project

One local company working with the Tina River Hydropower Development Project is changing the way the traditionally male dominated security service industry operates in Solomon Islands under the leadership of a female owner and manager.

Local firm, Mid-land Security Services (MSS), are providing services to the project as a sub-contractor under the management of female owner, Irene Atali Vouza, 58, of the Sarahi Tribe in Central Guadalcanal. Ireen owns and runs MSS with the assistance of her daughter, Elsie Len Bako, 26, as the Human Resources Manager (HRM) and Supervisor.

Founded in June 2021, Ms Bako said the firm’s first engagement with the Tina River Hydro Project was to provide security services to five sites operated by the Hyundai Engineering Company (HEC) in Lot 1, 2, and 3 of the project’s acquired land.

“Later in 2022, MSS was then additionally engaged by the HEC to look after the workers’ accommodation and campsite near Garivera, Grass Land,” she added.

To fulfill their work with Tina, MSS has a total of 32 guards, one accountant, a Human Resource Manager and a Security Manager.

Human Resources Manager, Elsie further explained that one the of pillars that MSS are proud of is that they provide equal opportunity for both men and women in the recruitment of guards.“It’s still early days with quest to employ more female guards and at the moment, we have one amazing female working with us.”

“But we are looking to employ more women this year. We have always encouraged more women to apply to join MSS,” said Ms Bako.

Ms Bako said that there are always challenges to face when you change from a traditionally male dominated industry to accommodate for women. She goes on to say that “some of the female guards have conveyed that the working environment was a challenge, especially due to the settings of the check points at the project sites which in some instances were makeshift tents.

“We provided services during day and night; but the condition has been a challenge for our females. Now with the lone female guard, we only permit her to work on the day-shifts. This is the solution we have come up with to accommodate the safety of our female guards,” she added.

However, despite the many challenges, the 26-year-old HR Manager said, the guards were also influential in resolving social issues that have stirred up in the past at some of the project sites.

They have done an exceptional job in managing roadblocks and other grievances raised by the people or groups that are related to the development that is happening in the project catchment.

“Most of our guards are well respected elders and people who also live in the catchment communities. In this part of Guadalcanal, culture and respect is highly valued. Therefore, when these respected elders took control of anti-social issues, the people always listened. That is a huge advantage in recruiting our guards from local communities,” Ms Bako positively stated.

She also highlighted that the performances in their roles as Security Guards has also been helped because her staff attended the CBSP Pre-Employment Trainings (PET); which they participated in before being engaged by MSS.

Staff have also had ongoing on the job training, as well as the onsite safety trainings conducted by HEC.Working with the Tina River Hydro Project has had many benefits for MSS and they feel grateful to have such an opportunity to be part of the project, especially given the focus Tina has on Gender equality and opportunity through the Gender Action Plan (GAP)

“Our company is very fortunate to be given the opportunity by HEC to provide security services during its current operations. This has benefited our company, as well as the people in the communities of the Tina catchment, especially in providing them jobs.”

MSS Security Supervisor, Anthony Vari said apart from the project’s community benefits such as roads and water supplies, he is also fortunate to be employed by the firm.

“As a member of the Tina Core Land Owning Company (TCLC), I am happy with my engagement as an MSS guard. After all, this is the type of work that is suitable for people like us that spend most of our time in the village.

“My employment with MSS also comes with a lot of social benefits, especially improving our standard of living. From the income I get from this job, I can now support my family with our basic needs and meet my childs’ education demands,” Mr Vari said.

Mr Vari has been with MSS for over a year and said he also enjoys the female leadership and said the management of MSS is very outstanding.

“Despite the challenges the company has had to face over time, the leaders have managed things well and I have not experienced any major setbacks that could have a huge impact on the company’s operations.”

“Most importantly, we enjoyed our work and we do love that we provided such an important service for the Tina River Hydropower Development Project.”

The lone female guard of Midland Security Services (MSS), Esther Leah providing security services at one of the check-points on the Project Site.

The lone female guard of Midland Security Services (MSS), Esther Leah providing security services at one of the checkpoints on the Project Site.