In November 2014, the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby commemorated White Ribbon Day and PNG’s Twenty Days of Activism. Working with local PNG organisations, they held a number of events that promoted gender equality and reducing violence against women and girls. Sporting events between women teams promoted these messages too. Events were held in Port Moresby, Manus and Buka.
On 24 November, White Ribbon Day in Port Moresby began with the launch of a moving photographic exhibition entitled Crying Meri that showed images of women and children tortured through sorcery. The European Union funded World Vision to produce the photos, taken by Vlad Sokin. The exhibition marked the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It was attended by approximately 80 people. The Australian Government contributed US$5,000 towards the exhibition’s catalogue and promoted it on social media.
Australia’s High Commissioner to PNG, Her Excellency Deborah Stokes spoke at the exhibition launch and highlighted the importance of gender equality, reducing violence against women and girls, advocating change, and the significance of education in changing social norms.
On 25 November, Australian High Commission staff attended the annual White Ribbon Day Breakfast hosted by PNG’s Coalition for Change in collaboration with the Business Coalition for Women. The Business Coalition for Women (funded through Pacific Women in PNG) launched a family and sexual violence policy that will be adopted by many of the forty business members of the Coalition. The 2014 theme focused on ‘Businesses Say NO to Violence Against Women’ and was attended by 300 people from business, government and civil society.
Keynote speakers included local advocate Dame Carol Kidu and Pacific Women’s Advisory Board Member, Reverend Sereima Lomaloma from Fiji. Reverend Lomaloma focused on regional support and appealed to Pacific Leaders through the South Pacific Commission and the Pacific Island Forum to ‘raise much-needed awareness’ about gender equality and gender-based violence. She also commended PNG on its Family Protection Act (PNG’s parliament passed the Family Protection Act in September 2013 strengthening the legal response to domestic violence).
On 26 November, the Australian High Commission held a staff event in Port Moresby to commemorate White Ribbon Day. High Commissioner Stokes spoke about the importance of men’s role in ending violence against women, changing attitudes towards women and encouraging men to become agents for positive change. Australia has supported male advocacy through the development of PNG’s Public Sector Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) Policy. Minister Counsellor (Development) James Hall led a team of male staff in reciting the White Ribbon oath to become White Ribbon Ambassadors.
On 27 November, the Australian High Commission sponsored an additional showing of the Crying Meri exhibition at which Lady Winifred Kamit (one of the founders of PNG’s Coalition for Change and PNG’s Business Coalition for Women), Deputy Chief Magistrate Dessie Magaru and the High Commissioner spoke. The additional exhibition was timed to coincide with a Pikinini (Child) Witness Workshop. The Workshop was a PNG-Australia collaborative effort to reduce the acquittals of family and sexual violence prosecutions by improving the interviewing of child witnesses.
The Workshop, the first of its kind in PNG was attended by 40 PNG police, prosecutors and legal aid lawyers. It was organised by Australian Attorney-General’s Department Prosecutor Adviser and Australian Federal Police Advisers, and funded through the broader law and justice sector program. The Workshop was delivered by QLD police and Crown Prosecutors and an eminent child development specialist, Professor Martine Powell from Deakin University.
In Bougainville (Buka), the Australian High Commission, in cooperation with the Bougainville Women’s Federation (BWF) hosted a White Ribbon Day breakfast followed by a peaceful march to end violence against women. Three Members of the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s House of Representatives – Health Minister, Rose Pihei current Chair of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Pacific Region Steering Committee and Women’s member for North, Elizabeth Burain; and Women’s Member for Central, Joan Jerome led the march together with Acting Secretary of the Department of Finance, Brenda Tohiana and UN Women representative, Agnes Titus. Ms Titus called for an increase in the number of women in parliament, laws to protect women and male advocates.
In Manus, Radio Manus conducted an interview with women’s groups in particular, Lorengau’s Pihi President Elle Teanou and Los Negros Pihi President Dora Mayah to help promote White Ribbon Day. Both speakers focused on eliminating violence in the home.
In partnership with the PNG Rugby Football League and Australia’s National Rugby League, a ‘Women in Sports’ fun day was held on 28 November at the University of PNG. The event aimed to raise awareness of attitudinal change among men and boys to address the high prevalence of violence against women in PNG. It also aimed to highlight the role women can play in sport. The event was modelled on the League Bilong Laif program which promotes literacy, healthy lifestyles, respect for women and girls and social responsibility. Over 150 girls from four primary schools participated. In addition, Cricket PNG hosted a women’s cricket exhibition match based on the theme ‘Awareness starts at home’. Teams included forty women from Pari and Tubuseirea villages in the Central Province. Both events were well attended and were promoted widely through social media.
Article prepared by: Leilani Bin-Juda of DFAT, Port Moresby Post.