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Gender-based violence: hurting the bottom line for PNG business

Lindy KananLINDY KANAN | DevPolicy Blog | Extracts

THE social, emotional and physical costs of gender-based violence are widely recognised and in recent years a number of studies have calculated the costs of gender-based violence for national economies.

But what are the costs of gender-based violence for individual businesses and how can they be calculated?

A recent report released by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Gender Violence in Papua New Guinea: the cost to business, seeks to answer these questions for PNG.

The study is the first of its kind in PNG, where gender-based violence has been described as being in epidemic proportions. The overall objective of ODI’s study was to highlight that gender-based violence not only has high social costs, but also significant economic costs, which impact on the business bottom line.

The study involved three firms in PNG. A total of 197 individuals were surveyed, including 100 women and 97 men. Information was also gained through interviews conducted with firm managers, finance and human resource staff and analysis of national gender-based violence data.

The survey results regarding rates of gender-based violence were largely in line with other studies in PNG, where it has been estimated that approximately two-thirds of women and girls experience gender-based violence in their lifetimes.

The ODI study found that 68% of survey participants experienced gender-based violence during the year leading up to the survey, with 47% experiencing ‘severe’ forms of gender-based violence (defined as rape from partner or other, sexual or physical assault from a partner).

Some of the key findings are:

The cost of staff time lost due to gender-based violence is high. For one of the firms, it is estimated to total K300,000 annually, and for another almost K3 million. These numbers represent 2% and 9% respectively of those companies’ total salary bills.

If other direct costs resulting from gender-based violence are included, such as counselling, recruitment and medical costs, the increase is marked. The total cost of gender-based violence to one firm increased by 45%.

On average, each staff member loses 11.1 days of work per year as a result of the impacts of gender-based violence: two days lost to ‘presenteeism’ (being present at work, but not being able to perform as expected due to injury, fatigue or being unable to concentrate); five days to absenteeism; and 4.1 days helping victims of gender-based violence.

For one of the firms surveyed, this resulted in an estimated 26,200 staff days lost each year.

On average, employees experienced a total of 7.8 incidents of gender-based violence in the 12 months prior to the survey and 2.4 incidents of severe gender-based violence. Women experienced an average of 9.4 incidents.

The study found that there was a high rate of gender-based violence reported by men as well as women.

For example, a high number of men reported that they had been raped (71 incidences for men, compared with 178 for women). The authors hypothesise that, as the category rape also includes attempted rape and marital rape, men reported experiencing ‘rape’ when they were ‘not in the mood’ for sexual activity with a partner.

The alternative conclusion is that a high incidence of male rape was identified. (PNG does have a high incidence of male rape. A 2013 study found that, in Bougainville, the perpetration of rape against a man was disclosed by 8% of male respondents.)

Men were also found to experience higher incidences than women in categories such as ‘physical assault – other’ and ‘forced marriage’. The authors believe this may be because of over-reporting, misunderstanding of gender-based violence concepts and the generally high rates of violence in PNG.

The authors found that much of the data they sought was not available, not provided by the firm or not disaggregated to the level sought. They also clearly struggled to interpret the results of ‘high rates of gender-based violence among men’.

These issues notwithstanding, the study clearly shows how gender-based violence costs individual businesses in PNG thousands (and in some cases millions) of kina. The challenge that remains is for firms to implement effective ways to assist in the prevention of gender-based violence, and to effectively support survivors.

Another study found that of PNG women who experience gender-based violence, 73% did not seek help from anybody. Among the women who do seek help, the most common person approached is a family member, wantok (tribe or clan member) or friend (67%).

This tendency not to utilise services (due no doubt to their limited availability) poses a challenge for firms wishing to provide effective support mechanisms for gender-based violence survivors working in their organisation.

Being able to cost the impact of gender-based violence at an individual firm level, including highlighting potential savings from investing in responsive and/or preventative measures, is an important step in building the case for business intervention.

If the humanitarian implications of gender-based violence are not enough to create action, perhaps the high economic costs will encourage businesses to act. Action will not only help businesses’ staff, but also their productivity and their bottom line.

This study makes an important case for investment by firms in gender-based violence programs in an era where the role of the private sector in international development is in the spotlight.

Lindy Kanan is a Visitor at the Crawford School of Public Policy and also provides pro bono policy and research support to Femili PNG. Lindy has previously worked as a Gender Equality Officer in Vanuatu and as a Head of Sub-Office with the World Food Program in Bangladesh


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Obed Ikupu

Gender based violence is a global epidemic that has impinged the progress of women.

In PNG the circumstances that bring about the violence that women encounter are enormous. And this is linked to the cultural ties which each society in the country upholds.

There are many factors that contribute to the detrimental effects of gender-based violence. Amongst the most common are domestic violence, unwanted pregnancies and arranged marriages.

In a report provided by the ABC news, domestic violence is prevalent and is described to be at pandemic levels. And it is believed over two-thirds of women face domestic violence more than the statistics reveal.

But this is not only the case which women face with domestic violence.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) regional survey, Seventy-five percent of children report physical abuse and about 80 percent report verbal abuse in the home.

Whist domestic violence prevails in PNG house-holds, unwanted pregnancies are also on the increase. Many women have encountered sexual penetration from their partners more often than “making-out”.

National survey data from Papua New Guinea (PNG) suggest that women are having almost 1.5 times the number of children they desire.

Women's ability to space and limit the number of children could have a significant impact on the country's high infant and maternal mortality rates.

And this situation is made worst with incest being the most encountered crime which children face with domestic violence.

In a report by the Sunday Chronicle, a man is alleged to have made his daughter pregnant but circumstances prevailed beyond reasonable doubt that the daughter conceived the child when she married through prior arrangements.

It can be presumed the girl experienced some form of violence before been handed over to the groom.

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