Domestic violence in Papua New Guinea remains a stubborn and seemingly endless challenge. Levels of violence continue to be high despite major efforts by a lot of organisations to create reform. And whilst most commonly reported crimes are in urban centres — notably Port Moresby, Lae and Mount Hagen, it remains also deeply rooted in rural villages. Tribal violence occurs without legal recourse. Many women who are victims of violence face an impossible challenge to seek legal compensation.
The domestic violence must stop. It not only affects us emotionally and physically, but it remains a major burden on the economic development of our communities, Provinces, and nation. How are we going to stop this abuse against women and girls? Are we going to continue to blame our culture for the dominance of men over women? Is that fair? Are women really second class and cannot contribute to the development of our nation?
I suggest not. Even though many rural women have missed the opportunity to get a proper education, they remain the backbone of our families. They are the ones who ensure food is on the table, that school fees are paid, that community’s bond together for the betterment of everyone else.
Women deserve an opportunity to contribute to the development of our nation. Dame Carol Kidu, former Minister for Community Development in the Somare government, believes that “rapid population growth and increasing, unmanaged urbanisation and underlying social breakdown” are the biggest challenges Papua New Guinea faces in the next 40 years. I agree. Young people are looking for opportunities in the urban centres. They do not believe agriculture provides the sort of future they are looking for. But this is only because they do not know the future that agriculture can provide. Women know! Women know how important agriculture is to putting food on the table. Unfortunately, many women lack the skills to take agriculture to a commercial level, that is, not only putting food on the table but also securing a growing livelihood for their families.
Our country has vast resources, not just minerals, but fertile lands, beautiful landscapes and a rich culture that is predominantly harmonious. With a young population and all these blessed natural resources, our outlook should be positive, but the continued scourge of domestic violence, as well as the general lack of law and order and poor performing health and education institutions, make it difficult for our future.
It seems it is difficult to solve everything at once. Let us start with what we know we can do. We know agriculture, we know what grows well and we know what our community likes. It has been stated by so many people that our farmers have difficulty in accessing markets, how to work together to build a business that adds value to their crops and puts more money in their pockets. Let us start with this.
Let us educate our women to farm as a business. Let them take the next step to securing the livelihood of their families and building a solid financial future. Let us stop bashing them! Let us stop treating them as second-class citizens! Let us empower them to help drive the future of our most beautiful country Papua New Guinea.
Until next month.