Photo contest entries focus on social issues and women’s economic empowerment

May 30, 2017

Photo Contest WinnersPort Moresby, Papua New Guinea – Social issues affecting the Pacific, including poverty, informal sector economic activity and the effects of natural disasters were recurring themes amongst the images received in the inaugural 2017 Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) Photo Contest.

Notably, the subject of the top three finalists all featured Pacific women either engaging in an economic activity or overcoming environmental challenges, suggesting that Pacific Islanders recognize financial inclusion as an issue particularly impacting women.

The photo contest, which ran from January 20th – February 28th 2017, called for photographers to interpret the theme ‘Growing Financial Inclusion’ in the Pacific in a creative way.

The winning image was taken by 30-year-old amateur photographer and university student Collin Leafasia from the Solomon Islands.  He was awarded his prize last night by PFIP Manager Mark Flaming in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG).

“We are excited to see how photographers were able to capture the essence of the human face of financial inclusion in the Pacific region, with human strength and resilience a resounding theme amongst the winners,” Mr Flaming.

“We are extremely happy with the quality of entries received during the contest, giving our judging panel a difficult time in selecting the winning images,” he added.

Leafasia’s photograph features a lady using a hand drill to make a string of shell money, a traditional form of currency in the Solomon Islands. The photograph portrays the vital role of women in the Solomon Islands as the financial backbone of the economy and their role in keeping alive a craft that continues to hold significant importance for ceremonial currency and payments in some Pacific Island Countries.

“I think capturing a photograph of a woman making shell money tells a story of the powerful role that women have in our society, although it is quite sad that this role is not always recognised and valued,” Leafasia said.

“I am passionate about photography and I saw the photo contest as an opportunity to highlight the major role of women in the economy and their gradual role of becoming the main breadwinners of most families in the Solomon Islands, although unfortunately only a handful currently have access to formal financial services,” he said.

The second prize was won by Hannah James, a self-taught amateur photographer based in Port Moresby, PNG.   In PNG, her talents have led to 17 of her images being published as postcards.

Her winning image featured an elderly lady selling bilums (traditional handmade string bags) under a flimsy umbrella in the rain among many other competing market vendors, speaking to the subject’s tenacity amidst adversity.

The third prize was won by Adi Kautea Nacola, an award-winning professional photographer based in Fiji whose expertise ranges from photo journalism, weddings, portraits to commercial photography. Nacola’s entry featured an Indo-Fijian lady searching for water at ground zero (Ra Province) after last year’s Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston which caused widespread devastation in Fiji.

A total of 60 entries were received during the contest, giving the judging panel a difficult time trying to select the winners as there were many talented photographers who had submitted beautiful images.  The winning images can be found on the PFIP website:

Due to the interest and awareness that the contest created, PFIP is looking to run it again next year.



About PFIP

PFIP is a Pacific-wide programme that has helped 1.5 million low-income Pacific islanders gain access to financial services and financial education. It achieves these results by funding innovation with financial services and delivery channels, supporting policy and regulatory initiatives, and empowering consumers.

PFIP operates from the UNDP Pacific Office in Suva, Fiji and has offices in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands.  It is jointly administered by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and receives funding from the Australian Government, the European Union and the New Zealand Government.


For more information please contact:
Erica Lee – Communications Associate   Phone: +679 3227538    Email:     Website: