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Papua New Guinea: Helping women – helping communities

Project participants comprised of women, their families and community members. | Photo credit: Morobe Development Foundation Inc. (MDF)

Canada in Australia
Women’s Empowerment
April 13, 2018

Collaboration on building healthy families and communities leads the way towards better equality between men and women, and can reduce the prevalence of gender-based violence (GBV).

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is home to hundreds of indigenous groups, each with their own unique language, customs and traditional norms that shape gender relations in the region.

In a male-dominated environment, women often lack leadership roles and are exceedingly under-represented in community decision-making processes. According to Human Rights Watch, over 70% of women experience some form of sexual violence, which makes PNG one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman.

“PNG is affected by one of the worst GBV rates in the world. Some statistics indicate that 70% of PNG women report being victims of GBV, and anecdotally the numbers are higher.” – H.E. Paul Maddison, High Commissioner

Encouraging women leaders

To address gender violence in the small rural community of Mumeng, the High Commission of Canada to Australia recently partnered with the Morobe Development Foundation Inc. (MDF) to empower women to reach their full economic and social potential, and increase their capacity to participate in local decision-making processes.

Sixty women took part in workshops where they learned tangible management and team leadership skills. Women leaders in the region often make decisions based on the needs of women and families to a greater extent than men, which contributes to a more gender equal community. Since MDF’s training facilitators were also women, many of the participants felt encouraged to voice their opinions.

Realizing economic potential

Photo credit: Morobe Development Foundation Inc. (MDF)

The women were empowered to become entrepreneurs and raise village chickens to sell their eggs and meat. Thirty women each received 10 chickens and 3 kilograms of feed to start their own business. Basic bookkeeping skills were also included in their training to enable greater access to and control over their new economic resources.

Economic independence strengthens women’s decision-making power, which frequently results in a range of benefits for the wider community. In fact, some evidence suggests that when women are empowered economically, increased food security and quality of life are reached sooner than expected.

Empowering women, both economically and socially also enables communities to tackle the challenges of GBV more quickly and effectively.

Healthier communities – one bite at a time

This comprehensive training also aimed to improve the community’s overall health, as this contributes to an environment more open to women’s empowerment and gender equality.

The main ingredient in most dishes is coconut cream. Research shows that coconut cream is a contributing factor to high cholesterol and weight gain. Women have learned how to buy and prepare healthier foods and cook nutritious meals for their families.

Using familiar local ingredients like pineapple and pawpaw, the women enjoyed learning how to make fruit jam, scones and bread!

The impact on the community was vast. Almost 500 family members indirectly benefitted from this program, with at least 60% of the beneficiaries being women. Men and boys were also essential to the project since the economic empowerment of women supports men, women and their families.

Collaboration on building healthy families and communities leads the way towards better equality between men and women, and can reduce the prevalence of gender-based violence.

Participants learn how to make healthy meals for their families.
Photo credit: Morobe Development Foundation Inc. (MDF)

“Through this project, Canada is helping women and girls in a rural community claim their right to be free of violence.” – H.E. Paul Maddison, High Commissioner

Innovative partner collaboration

The High Commission of Canada to Australia collaborates with community organizations like MDF, a local non-profit company that tackles the complex issues affecting rural communities in the biggest province of PNG, Morobe. MDF ensures women participate equally in the decision making of any project they undertake, and their community development projects promote women’s economic empowerment through farming and agricultural training.

Through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), the High Commission of Canada to Australia continues to support local organizations in their work to promote gender equality and reduce gender-based violence across Papua New Guinea.

Related Links

External resources

Morobe Development Foundation Inc. (MDF)

Morobe Development Foundation Inc. (MDF)

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