‘Our cultures are changing and they are changing in favour of men and this has further marginalised women. There is this expectation from men that we still play our traditional roles while they move on.’
Ms Ume Wainetti, former National Program Coordinator of Papua New Guinea Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee.1
Papua New Guinea has an abundance of natural resources including minerals, oil and natural gas, tropical rainforests, fertile agricultural soils and rich marine resources, and is considered a lower to middle income country. Despite being resource rich, Papua New Guinea ranks at 154 of 188 on the Human Development Index2 and the country faces many development challenges.
It is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world; with a population in excess of seven million people, there are more than 7,000 cultural groups, speaking over 850 languages. Eighty-five per cent of the population is rural based and four out of five depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The estimated maternal mortality rate for Papua New Guinea is 215 per 100,000 live births. This is significantly higher than any other Pacific country included and 18 times higher than developed countries.3 There are deeply embedded gender inequalities that have come from traditional attitudes and defined gender roles.
Leadership and Decision Making
Papua New Guinean women are largely absent from political and administrative governance. The 2017 national election has just been held. There are now no women in Parliament. Cultural and systemic obstacles prevent women from participating in political life and holding office. Other decision-making structures including customary, religious and private spheres are also male dominated.4 The Government of Papua New Guinea has amended laws and introduced policies to promote equality. The Gender Equity and Social Inclusion policy5 includes targets to increase the participation of women within the public sector and the number of women in public service leadership positions to 30 per cent. Cultural attitudes of women and men remain barriers to women in Papua New Guinea playing greater roles in leadership and decision-making. Other barriers include low education levels and limited financial resources for women candidates.6
Gender norms and attitudes constrain women’s work and economic opportunities and hamper productivity. Although participation rates in the labour force are relatively even7, men are almost twice as more likely than women to hold a wage job in the formal sector and women are three times more likely than men to work in the informal sector.8 While women are over half of the agricultural workforce, crops typically cultivated by women earn half that of crops thought of as men’s crops.9 Low education levels amongst women, safety and security issues and cultural attitudes contribute to the low representation of women in wage employment. Papua New Guinea ranks 125 out of 128 countries on the Women’s Economic Opportunity Index. This is the lowest of the seven Pacific Island countries assessed.10
Ending Violence Against Women
Rates of violence against women in Papua New Guinea are high, and affect both women and men. An estimated two-thirds of women are affected although there is considerable variation in rates across provinces.11 Traditional practices like bride price and polygamy exacerbate the issue and perpetuate structural discrimination. The Government of Papua New Guinea has amended laws, established Family Support Centres in hospitals and Family and Sexual Violence Units in many police stations. In 2016 the Government endorsed the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence 2016-2025. Despite these changes, the response to end violence in Papua New Guinea remains inadequate and fragmented. Police have limited reach across the country and matters are normally settled at village court, where resolutions are in the form of reconciliation and compensation.
Gender issues are gaining momentum in Papua New Guinea and are becoming an important aspect of the country’s changing political and national development policies. Papua New Guinea has ratified the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Leadership and Decision Making
Papua New Guinea’s Parliament has no women as of the 2017 national election.
Only seven women ever elected to Parliament in 40 years.12
The Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Government requires two female nominees in local-level government. This should translate into the appointment of approximately 12,000 women in wards and local-level governments, but compliance is low.13
Women are equally represented, with men, at Community Government level across the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
By June 2014, women occupied 23 per cent of all senior management positions and 31 per cent of middle management positions in Papua New Guinea’s central government agencies but are poorly represented at provincial level and within the uniformed services.14
62 per cent of women participate in the labour force.
38 per cent of women versus 66 per cent of men are in waged employment.15
46 per cent of women versus 15 per cent of men are involved in the informal sector.16
8 per cent of small or medium enterprises are wholly woman-owned and 26 per cent have at least 50 per cent female ownership, consistently across urban, rural and remote locations of Papua New Guinea. This compares with 88 per cent with at least 50 per cent male ownership.17
It is estimated that less than 37 per cent of Papua New Guinean adults have bank accounts and that less than 12.5 per cent of women hold deposit accounts.18
Ending Violence Against Women
An estimated two-thirds of women are affected by physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.19
Women in the National Capital District, report they are 5 times more likely to be victimised at home than on the street.20
44 per cent of the 130 cases of family and sexual violence treated each month at the Port Moresby, Tari and Maprik Family Support Centres between 2007-2014 were for rape.21
78 per cent of surveyed women engaging in transactional sex had been sexually abused in the previous year.22
Recent work with a number of Papua New Guinean firms found that the impact of family and sexual violence resulted in the loss of 11 days on average for every staff member every year. Costing those businesses between 2 and 9 per cent of their salary bills.23
32.4 per cent is the contraceptive prevalence rate of women aged between 15-49.
As of 2014 the gender parity radio had increased to 90 per cent for early primary years, 80 per cent for primary school but fell to 64 per cent (from 68 per cent in 2002) for secondary education.24
60 per cent of women are literate compared to 65 per cent of men.25
Note: Statistics in this section are from the Asian Development Bank (2016) Gender Statistics: The Pacific and Timor Leste report unless otherwise stated.
Partnership with Pacific Women
Through Pacific Women, the Australian Government will spend approximately AU$66.4 million over ten years (2012-2022) on initiatives supporting women’s empowerment in PNG. Approximately AU$31.9 million has been spent delivering activities in-country (FY2012-2013 to FY2015-2016). More information on the partnership and nature of support is included in the Pacific Women PNG Country Plan Summary 2014-2019 valued at AU$58 million. This is PNG’s second country plan and several of the activities are ongoing and a continuation of the first country plan. Details on activities currently underway in-country with various partners are available via our interactive map. The list of program partners can be found here.
PNG is also supported by Pacific Women’s regional program, details of which can be viewed on the interactive map under regional activities.
Pacific Women works in the following areas within Papua New Guinea:
- Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2016) Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration Trend
- United Nations Statistics Division, Minimum Set of Gender Indicators
- Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2016) Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration Trend Assessment Report 2012-2016
- Summary Report for Papua New Guinea Millennium Development Goals 2015 (2016)
- SPC Stocktake of the Gender Mainstreaming Capacity of Pacific Island Governments (2012) Papua New Guinea
- World Bank, Papua New Guinea, 2011-2012 Gender Country Assessment (2013)
- National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence 2016-2025
- Gender-based Violence in Papua New Guinea: A Review of Literature and Interventions 1975-2015
Stories of Change
The findings of research are clear that reducing children’s exposure to family violence has significant benefits for their development and has the potential to break the cycle of family violence. A pilot project in Western Highlands and Madang in Papua New Guinea has supported mothers and fathers to learn positive parenting techniques. Following training, parents reported that they know more about child development and have significantly reduced harsh parenting practices.READ MORE
The Nazareth Centre has trained a network of 498 women human rights defenders and 201 male advocates. These women and men work towards making their communities safer for women and children, drawing on their training on gender-based violence, human rights, women’s rights, the role of women human rights defenders and peace and conflict resolution.READ MORE
The Burnet Institute, the International Women’s Development Agency and WaterAid Australia have conducted a landmark study uncovering challenges experiences by women and girls in managing their menstruation. The research also examined whether these challenges make it difficult for women and girls to fully participate in school and work, and engage with their communities.READ MORE
Educators, defenders, advocates and activists these are all roles that women human rights defenders (WHRDs) play in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. In the project From Gender Based Violence to Gender Justice and Healing (Justice and Healing), participatory action learning research is being used to provide opportunities for reflection during project implementation that, in turn, give direction for the future of the project.READ MORE
1Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (2015) First Progress Report 2012-2015
2United Nations, Human Development Indicators 2015
3Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015 Estimates by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division
4SPC Stocktake of the Gender Mainstreaming Capacity of Pacific Island Governments (2012) Papua New Guinea
5Department of Personnel Management (2011) Gender Equity and Social Policy
6SPC Stocktake of the Gender Mainstreaming Capacity of Pacific Island Governments (2012) Papua New Guinea
7Asian Development Bank (2016) Gender Statistics: The Pacific and Timor Leste
8Asian Development Bank (2016) Country Partnership Strategy: Papua New Guinea, 2016–2020, Gender Analysis Summary
9World Bank et al (2013) Papua New Guinea Country Gender Assessment 2011–2012
10Economist Intelligence Unit (2012) Women’s Economic Opportunity 2012
11Ganster-Breidler, M., (2010) Gender based violence and the impact on women’s health and well-being in Papua New Guinea, Contemporary PNG Studies, Vol 13, November. While national statistics are not available, this study used a validated WHO instrument designed for multi-country use. 65 3 per cent of 200 women surveyed in rural areas in coastal, highland and island provinces in 2009 were identified as survivors of family and sexual violence.
12World Bank et al (2013) Papua New Guinea Country Gender Assessment 2011–2012
13Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (2016) Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration Trend Assessment Report 2012-2016
14Haley, N., (2015) Australian National University State of the Service – Women’s Participation in the PNG Public Service In Brief 2015/60
15Asian Development Bank (2016) Country Partnership Strategy: Papua New Guinea, 2016–2020, Gender Analysis Summary
16Asian Development Bank (2016) Country Partnership Strategy: Papua New Guinea, 2016–2020, Gender Analysis Summary
17Tebbutt Research (2014) Report for SME Baseline survey for the Small-Medium Enterprise Access to Finance Project. Prepared for the Government of PNG.
18Information available on the Centre for Excellence in Financial Inclusion website to 31 March 2017.
19Ganster-Breidler, M., (2010) Gender based violence and the impact on women’s health and well-being in Papua New Guinea, Contemporary PNG Studies, Vol 13, November. While national statistics are not available, this study used a validated WHO instrument designed for multi-country use. 65 3 per cent of 200 women surveyed in rural areas in coastal, highland and island provinces in 2009 were identified as survivors of family and sexual violence.
202009 National Capital District Crime Victimisation survey. Cited in Lakhani, S. and Willman, A.M. (2014) Trends in crime and violence in Papua New Guinea, World Bank: Research and dialogue series: the socio-economic costs of crime and violence in Papua New Guinea Paper no.1.
21UNDP, The Equality Institute, and the Department for Community Development and Religion. (2016) Understanding Gender-Based Violence to Secure Sustainable Development in Papua New Guinea. Port Moresby: UNDP and the Department for Community Development and Religion.
22Norbetus, M. (ND – 2010 research) Link between gender-based violence (GBV) and most at risk populations (MARPs), PowerPoint presentation, FHI360. Cited in UNDP, The Equality Institute, and the Department for Community Development and Religion. (2016) Understanding Gender-Based Violence to Secure Sustainable Development in Papua New Guinea. Port Moresby: UNDP and the Department for Community Development and Religion.
23Emily, D. et al (2015) Gender violence in Papua New Guinea The cost to business: Overseas Development Institute.
24Department of National Planning and Monitoring/UNDP (2015) Papua New Guinea – Millennium Development Goals Final Summary Report 2015
25UNDP (2016) Seeding Social Enterprise in Papua New Guinea