THE process of getting My Walk to Equality into the hands of the people of Papua New Guinea is proving to be long and arduous.
The anthology edited by Rashmii Amoah Bell and with contributions from 45 Papua New Guinean women - is a small but useful step in support of the complex goal of gender equality in PNG.
It is a collection of writing that is wise, gentle and inclusive - and it is a great credit to its authors.
We hope the book can provide some impetus in the journey of PNG women to stand alongside their men in the cause of building a great nation.
The other day, a hazy selfie I posted on Twitter (you can see it at the end of this piece) drew the attention of Natasha Stott-Despoja (pictured), a celebrated Australian politician who recently stepped down from the role of Australia’s ambassador at large for women and who is a member of the World Bank Advisory Council on Gender.
It was a clear sign that the #LetUsWalk hashtag, designed to motivate sponsorship for printing and distributing My Walk to Equality, was beginning to gain some traction.
Heaven knows, Rashmii and I had been working hard enough to garner funds to get the book to readers throughout Papua New Guinea.
We were both saddened and surprised to find that institutions and corporations that profess great commitment to women’s rights had been so unresponsive. Most hadn’t even offered a polite ‘no’. It was a silence that spoke much about the difference between fine rhetoric and gritty commitment.
It takes K50 and a credit card to get one of these books to PNG.
That short sentence hides the huge problem that such a straightforward purchase poses to most Papua New Guineans.
There are few bookshops in PNG and, even if there was one in every town, most people would have no surplus cash to buy the book anyway.
When publishing books for PNG, there are two major challenges.
The first is to produce an acceptable product – PNG writers; PNG perspectives; PNG narratives; nicely designed and easy to read. The Crocodile Prize taught us how to do that.
The second is more formidable – securing the finance to print and distribute books free of charge in this land of remote villages and hamlets and often not enough kina even to buy essentials.
If it wasn’t for Jo Holman (who donated for sale some magnificent paintings by the late Hal Holman) and Gummi Fridriksson and his colleagues at Paga Hill Development Company, we wouldn’t have even got to first base.
Rashmii’s superb and challenging idea to publish a collection of PNG women’s writing probably would not have seen the light of day.
We’re not finished yet.
We’re still hoping that some great institutions and corporations will help.
And we’re hoping our readers will make the few keystrokes it takes to buy one or more of these find books from Amazon. Just click through here.