INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL NON-GOVERNMENT organisations (INGOs/NGOs) are struggling to provide social services to the interior of the central cordillera and the countless islands and atolls while the Papua New Guinea government cannot diligently facilitate basic infrastructure development.
The PNG public service has only been able to deliver one year’s worth of work over the past ten years. That must be one of the highest scores ever for inefficiency.
The incompetence of the public service has resulted in worsening health indicators impacting mostly on women.
Girls are raped as they travel along rivers and gorges to reach the nearest school. Mothers still deliver on stretchers down in the gorges before reaching a clinic. The higher institutions are no longer accessible through merit but only via aristocratic bloodline.
A good number of girls, if they are not daughters of the fat cats, simply have to succumb to the sexual advances of some lecturers to enrol and pass their courses.
Alas, the educated PNG women are not safe either. They are vulnerable to abuses in the streets, work stations or even by their husbands. Some of the worst perpetrators are police husbands.
PNG had no traditional culture of misogyny but how these inhuman treatments abound has to be researched and solutions found.
The self-centred fat cats don’t care about improvements in basic infrastructure and the plight of women. They are so obsessed with pilfering and self-gratification. Gains from mineral extraction are siphoned off to Cairns and elsewhere.
Worse still, the PNG criminal justice system is subjective and manipulated by the fat cats to thwart the law.
In such a volatile environment our sisters have no hope of justice and can only flinch at every passer-by due to the fear of being assaulted - let alone walking through foreign tribal lands to attend schools.
Many sympathisers can only imagine the plight of women in the under-served interiors of the central cordillera and the countless islands and atolls moated by deep seas. The few glimpses we get of these unsolved social ills give meaning to why PNG is categorised as a barbaric society.
PNG women do not generally participate in decision making outside of the household. The country is rugged but rich and PNG women have great potential to advance if given opportunities and a good education.
It could be argued that the male dominated culture of PNG shaped the drafting of the PNG national constitution as found in Constitutional Planning Committee (CPC) Report (1974): ‘We leaders and people must know where we want to go before we can decide how we should get there. Before a driver starts a motor car, he should first decide on his destination. Otherwise his driving will be without purpose, and he will achieve nothing.’
The CPC at the time were all men and leadership was equated with male macho. The legacy lives on into contemporary PNG society.
The perception of most public servants and politicians are that gender issues are solely women’s issues and it can be best addressed by women.
On the flip side, educated women in PNG equate gender equity with taking revenge on men for the pains they have endured since time immemorial. These women were programed this way by the coining of the expression “UN Women” as the successor to the previous “UNIFEM”.
The current distortion of gender equity, which renders women as merely slaves at the whim of their men, is also a continuation from where the early missionaries left off.
‘Missionaries' wives taught their girl boarders to clean the house, wash and iron clothes, cook and bake, sew, and also singing, speech training and deportment. These girls became pastors' wives.... The poise, grace and wifely attributes shown by some of the girls who were boarders on mission stations have to be experienced to be believed.’
PNG has to break out of these shackles of Christianity, UN Women and PNG gender approaches and run concurrent programs for all human kind, including trans-genders and gay men and women.
PNG must mobilise resources and intermittently place INGOs/NGOs throughout the pockets of the country and coordinate them to make sure the ripples of their programs rub shoulders with each other consistently. At present they are cramped in Port Moresby, Madang and Lae.
Some of the African countries have used INGOs/NGOs strategically to advocate gender equality by tapping into the public/private partnership approach and have succeeded.
PNG is geographically treacherous but it is filthy rich with resources and can rely on the craving of multinational corporations for raw materials to open up the economic corridors but roads, wharves, airstrips and other infrastructure development projects must go through the transparent bidding process and the best companies must get the work done.
All stakeholders need to forgo the conservative gender approach and adopt flexibility. All segmented gender programs must be abolished and a holistic approach be supported.
Abort urban-centric programs and shift to the interior and far flung islands. Sustained by its vast resources PNG women will then be able to see the light of equality supported by men.
The current government must open up the economic corridors that the previous government only gave lip service to. PNG must have wharfs, airstrips and roads connecting all of the country for easy access to all and sundry.
Building economic corridors and making incisions into the topographically treacherous interior of the nation is important to counter men’s ignorance and catalyse and whet women and girls’ appetites for education.
* Warmil Kral is the pseudonym of a senior PNG public servant