This is 21st century, and globally women are enjoying more freedom and power than ever before virtually in all aspects of life. Women have gained equal access to education, health care, capital, decision-making powers in the political, social, and business sectors. Certainly, things are changing for better for the women of PNG as well. Despite PNG’s strong patriarchal system of society, women have come a long way in achieving much stronger roles in education and politics. PNG women from all walks of life are trying to break the social taboos and set benchmarks for other women.
Today, we have women achievers in PNG who are an inspiration to hundreds of women and girls. Dr. Esther Roibete Apuahe – the first lady surgeon of PNG attributes her success completely to her father who supported in her journey towards being a doctor. She is a live example for every woman in PNG who wish to excel in life. Women empowerment can be achieved only when the family realises the importance of its support to girls/women in fulfilling their dreams. During the June 2012 elections, of the 3500 contestants, 135 contestants were women candidates and 3 of these women were successful in becoming new members of the House – Hon Delilah Gore (Sohe Open), Hon Loujaya Toni (Lae Open) and Hon Julie Soso (Eastern Highlands Regional). Hon Soso was elected from a regional seat, entitling her the position of a Governor of her province.
Women like these are bringing about a change in the mindset of the people in PNG.
Though small strides have been accomplished in brining gender equality in PNG, much needs to be done. A larger section of women in PNG still face domestic violence, sexual assault, poor health status and many harmful traditional practises. The change that we wish for PNG can only happen when there will be a shift in the mindset of people regarding the importance of the role of females in the family and society.
PNG has some of the worst health indicators in the world for women. This majorly includes:
- Poor Maternal Health
- Cervical Cancer Deaths
Women in PNG are particularly disadvantaged, as evidenced by poor maternal health and lack of access to family planning. The maternal mortality ratio is 230 per 100,000. PNG National Department of Health and many others estimate that at least 5 women die in childbirth every day. High incidence of sexual assaults on women contributes to their risk of catching HIV or other STI.
The changing trends – a ray of hope
With the changing times, there is more and more involvement of females in the decision-making roles in the society; we foresee a brighter future for females of PNG. Australian government is supporting PNG’s legal system and police service, to help deal with family and sexual violence. But, change will need to come from within. Ultimately efforts to fight gender inequality must be led by Papua New Guineans. However, in 2013, the parliament passed family protection legislation first drafted back in the early 1990s which criminalises domestic violence, strengthens protection orders, and directs police to pursue family and sexual violence. But, practical efforts to tackle the violence are still not seen as a priority (Low Institute Organisation).
This International Women’s Day there is a need for awareness among PNG women to know about their rights. Women of PNG need support and they should be encouraged to partner with organizations and centres who can help them.
PIH wishes all women Happy Women’s Day and congratulates its women doctors and staff for their achievement as service providers. They are an inspiration to many women in PNG.
Kudos to our team ladies!