Lowy Institute says PNG women face 'extreme challenges'
An Australian think tank says women in the Pacific, particularly in Papua New Guinea, continue to face extreme challenges.
The Australian think tank, the Lowy Institute, says women in the Pacific, particularly in Papua New Guinea, continue to face extreme challenges.
The institute has just held a panel discussion to highlight the big challenges for women in the region, such as domestic violence and poor access to political representation.
A 2013 study by Medecins Sans Frontieres found 70 per cent of PNG women will be raped or assaulted in their lifetime.
Its programme director for Melanesia, Jenny Hayward-Jones spoke to Amelia Langford.
JENNY HAYWARD-JONES: So domestic violence I think is the biggest one and it has been gaining thankfully better awareness in recent years including from national governments and at least the Papua New Guinea has now passed some legislation which enables the perpetrators of domestic violence to be punished in a court of law and sent to jail. There is much greater awareness throughout the region of the economic impact of violence and how this is really pulling countries back from achieving their development outcomes because women do not feel safe about going to work and carrying out their agricultural work which is the work of the majority of women in Papua New Guinea. And the other big challenges of course are women's' own economic empowerment, how women can advance their own positions both in the formal sectors in the Pacific, and as I said, in agriculture where they are suffering from safety issues that when they're suffering of non-recognition of their role, where they are having to travel very long distances to sell their goods. And thirdly, political representation we see as critical to advancing the case for women. We've only seen the situation for women improve in developing countries when political representation for women has increased and when equality has been recognised.
AMELIA LANGFORD: So what do countries like Australia and New Zealand need to do more of here to help with this, tackling these problems?
JHJ: Well Australia, for its part, is doing quite a bit through the aid program, particularly in helping for example set up refuges for women in Melanesia, particularly in Papua New Guinea or Solomon Islands that enable victims of violence to go and be safe. There's always more to be done. The feeling of the group was that there was a lack of access to justice in the Pacific and this is a problem in Melanesia in particular where government services were across the board problematic. One of the big problems identified was that women had to report to hospitals basically with their husband who had bashed them in toe. So there was no getting away from the perpetrators which is a huge problem and one that wasn't going to be resolved quickly. Now there are limits to what outside partners can do, a lot has to be changed and a lot has to be done within the societies themselves and more support given by the local government. But I think the general feeling was the more support and the more it gets just general sympathy, empathy and sharing of knowledge that could be shared between countries in our region was helpful.
AL: Ok. And there is some light at the end of the tunnel, do you think, in terms of people like Meg Taylor being voted in in the Pacific Islands Forum?
JHJ: I think role models are extremely important. And the greater number of women occupying senior positions, whether in the regional public service or in the private sector or generally in civil society organisations the more likely that women's' issues were to be dealt with. So I think the example that Meg Taylor will provide over her term as secretary general is going to be fantastic, because it will signal to every Pacific Island country that women can do a fantastic job at that very top level.
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