I COME from a patrilineal society that elevates men and degrades women.
In traditional Engan folklore, men were the subjects of many stories told at bed time. They owned the land, fought tribal wars, made decisions, married many wives, made Moka rituals and were always in the limelight.
The women’s place was at home: feeding the pigs, tending the garden and looking after the children. Women had no place in the public arena. They were never regarded as dispensers of wisdom; hence they were never allowed to talk in public.
The coming of civilisation and modernity hardly changed the traditional Engan mentality of male superiority.
Men continue to hold hegemony over the affairs of Engan society. The ‘hausman’ is regarded as the custodian of Engan wisdom, and the young men are required to visit the place to receive wisdom from the elders.
Today, Engan women remain in obscurity, are regarded as inferior and are often subject to male domination and exploitation. They are regarded by the men as cheap objects to toy around with and satisfy their lust.
My choice to become a teacher in a male dominated society was very difficult.
My decision went against the cultural presuppositions and the expectations of a woman in Engan society.
I began to imagine the cultural backlash I would experience from the males when I returned to my village after the completion of my studies.
As I was wavering about whether to pursue a career in teaching or do something else, my mother encouraged me to give it a shot. She also prayed for me daily asking God to bless my goal to be a teacher.
I finally made up my mind to study teaching. After the completion of my Year 12 studies in 2012, I was accepted to study for a diploma in primary teaching at the newly established Enga Teachers College in 2014.
My acceptance was my ticket to pursue my dreams. I was excited that I was one of the privileged pwoplw who was offered a place to study. At the beginning of 2013, I went to the beautiful Enga teachers college to enrol as a trainee teacher.
Initially, it was intimidating studying with males on Engan soil. Many of the boys in the class tried to show a macho attitude. They wanted the women to be submissive and listen to them. But most of the girls had steel in their souls to stand up to what they perceived as male arrogance.
Sometimes female teachers and other wiser and experienced male teachers didn’t tolerate such bigots and reprimanded them harshly. Slowly the male students began to regard the women in my class as equal.
One of the ways I used to overcome inferior thinking was to study hard and do well in class. I did in-depth research on topics that were to be discussed and presented new insights that held my male colleagues spellbound.
The male students began to respect me as an intelligent woman and an independent thinker. Over time, they would ask my opinion of what they were doing. I began to realise they were no longer taking me lightly but looking at me with respect and admiration.
In the second year of my studies, both the boys and girls in my class bonded as brothers and sisters. We shared food and drink together. We worked together on projects.
During our field tips and our practical outings, we became closer as brothers and sisters. I think knowledge has liberated us from our traditional cultural mentality. Some of my classmates began to develop intimate friendships and life partners were found within the spirit that prevailed in class.
I completed my studies in 2014 and graduated from two year diploma program the same year. On the morning of my graduation, as I put on the graduation gown and marched along the aisle with my classmates, I felt great. It was one of the sweetest moments in my life.
As I surveyed the auditorium, I saw my parents and relatives standing close to the podium holding mobiles phones, ready to capture the moment I would receive my diploma and graduate. I was overcome with emotion. Tears of joy flowed down my cheeks as I wept.
After graduation, I went home with my family members to celebrate my achievement. A huge mumu of chicken, taro and vegetables was prepared by my parents. To top it off, my boyfriend deposited K200 in my account.
I was very happy. I felt I was standing on top of the world. I had broken the cultural barrier and at that special moment I was admired as a special person in the community. My status had been elevated.
I was offered a job as a teacher at Koemali Adventist Primary School in Enga Province at the beginning of 2015. I was tasked to educate and shape the young minds of my village and was given the esteemed role to teach Grade 6.
I have been put on the PNG Teaching Service Commission’s payroll. I work with the male teachers of the school as a valuable and respected member of the school and the community.
My immediate goal is teach and gain experience and later complete a BA in primary teaching. My long term dream is to complete a MA in Education Leadership and become a lecturer at a teachers college.
From that vantage position, I can inspire young girls who come under my tutelage to dream big, break the status quo and be equal players in the development of this nation.
Dyhane Kendo, 34, comes from Koemali Village in Enga Province. She is the fourth born in a family of six. She likes sport, visiting new places, reading, writing and listening to inspirational music.