By Juanita Nonwo – EM TV Online
Addressing the rights and needs of women and girls around the world is a very necessary and vital step towards reaching a world free of poverty, achieving social justice and speeding up the progress on all of our global development agendas.
Despite the establishment of many international organisations that protect the rights of women and girls, many still have their rights violated through child marriage, trafficked into forced labour or sex slavery, or they live in fear of violence and abuse. For some it may be in the form of work place harassment, low income wage or minimal participation in decision making.
The United Nations (UN) has marked 8th of March as International Women’s day (IWD).
The day is celebrated throughout the world; where it provides a platform to address the various economic, social and political issues that hinder equal participation for women.
The day is also a celebration of the achievements women have contributed to the society.
With the new Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which followed after the 8 principles of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), women as a member of the society are part of that drive towards achieving these development goals.
In commemoration with the 2016 International Women’s Day, the International Federation of Business and Professional Women in Papua New Guinea (BPW International) hosted a breakfast event at the Gateway Hotel where women of all ages and of various professions attended.
In line with UN’s 2016 IWD theme “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”, the BPW’s breakfast was all about empowering women, embracing the subject “Pledging for Parity.”
The work of BPW International in Papua New Guinea helps to address the issues of disparity among men and women in all aspects of life; investing largely in Education, providing scholarships and giving girls and women the opportunity to continue their education where some were unable to do so. Its main aim is to empower women through education and to address the gender gap in education.
According to the BPW President, Susil Nelson-Kongoi, the scholarship program which was launched in 2014 has assisted young girls and women in 24 institutions in the country with one young woman graduating from civil engineering.
BPW’s three main goals are to:
(1) Promote the interests of and to encourage cooperation among business and professional women in Papua New Guinea and other countries;
(2) Encourage women and girls to further their education at every level, and;
(3) Work for equal opportunities and status for women in the economic, social and political life in Papua New Guinea.
BPW’s various projects help in assisting women to:
- Enter and re-enter the workforce;
- Start up and advance their business or profession;
- Protect their rights;
- Overcome their limitations; and
- Create a nurturing environment in work, education, health for women development.
“International Women’s Day is a global celebration of women’s economic, political, and social achievements in the past, now and in the future.”
These were the words from BPW’s Regional Coordinator for Asia Pacific, Susan Jones.
Like many other developing countries, Papua New Guinea has many challenges that stand in the way of development, one of which is the cultural barrier that bars men from discussing women issues such as health.
This was the main concern from the President of National Women’s Doctors’ Association, Dr Linda Sirigoi, who stated that the health of a nation is a vital indicator of women’s mortality rate, stating the link between ‘healthy women and a healthy economy.’
Dr Sirigoi also stated that there is a gradual progress towards establishing a law that will address women’s health in the country.
Literacy, a point addressed in goal 4 of the SDG is of main concern for PNG.
According to the US Central Intelligence Agency, PNG has a female literacy rate of 62.8% (2015 est.), that’s 2.8% less than that of male literacy rate. Although it’seems like a great figure to be at, apparently it is not- PNG’s Adult literacy rate is ranked as one of the poorest in the Asia-Pacific region.
Lightly addressing this issue at the event was Sharlene Gawi, a social entrepreneur involved with Bilum Export and Trade under UN’s International Trade Centre (ITC).
Ms Gawi expressed the challenges facing women in rural areas where there was high potential for skills but lack of literacy to understand how the world market operates.
Also, raising questions at the event was Michael Mom, the General Manager of National Rugby League Limited heading League Bilong Laif Program, who was one of the guest speakers whose message was to advocate respect at an early age and to address education, and law and order before the country can move forward.
“Are we having the right conversations? Is gender equality an everyday discussion between you and your husbands, boyfriends, families?” he questioned.
The breakfast event provided a platform to bring together Women leaders from different walks of life to accelerate gender parity while also to raise funds in order to educate and empower the younger female population of PNG.