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Rhetoric is not commitment: A walk of many steps & setbacks

Natasha Stott DespojaKEITH JACKSON

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.

KJ & the bookBut Jo and Gummi got us up and running and now we need to keep pressing forward to ensure the ideas and propositions in My Walk to Equality can work some magic on PNG women and men.

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.

 

Comments

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Philip Fitzpatrick

I think we've uncovered a great scandal here Keith - the people and organisations that talk the talk but don't walk the walk.

It seems like there are a lot of them and among their numbers are a great many institutions supposedly and specifically set up to walk the walk.

The situation reminds me of Aboriginal affairs in Australia. Aboriginal Affairs has often been called an 'industry' with many stakeholders, including the people who work in it.

Those people have a vested interest in NOT solving all the problems of Aboriginal people. To do so would put them out of a job.

With reference to 'My Walk to Equality' I'd suggest we've somehow tapped into the 'women's equality industry'.

Those people in that industry don't seem to be interested in progress. Progress would put them out of work, diminish the opportunities for 'feel good' but meaningless rhetoric and reduce their profiles as benefactors.

I think we're in the age of 'Fake Philanthropy'.

If I added up the time and effort I have put into editing and publishing The Crocodile Prize anthologies, 'My Walk to Equality' and some 30 odd books by Papua New Guineans and charged my normal consultancy rates I'd probably be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars.

These institutions are dealing with taxpayers' and other peoples' money and they are manipulating it for devious reasons.

I've become cynical in old age but there are good reasons for that I think.

Rashmii Bell

I may expand on the below comments at a later date:

1. The professional email etiquette of the majority of the PNG organisations and individuals I have approached leaves a lot to be desired.

2. The direct email for relevant contacts have been 50/50 male and female. Big thank you to the PNG and expat men who are by far outnumbering the women in being efficient in acknowledging my email and courteous in response. Special thanks to John Nilkare at SP Brewery for his professionalism.

3. The lack of support (let alone acknowledgement of email receipt) by PNG women I've approached (especially those whose organisations fly the banner of 'women's empowerment') is atrocious.

Those who requested a copy of the promotional PDF copy of the anthology, to which I efficiently responded, weeks later I still await your response.

4. Thank you for all those supporting me across social media. I am new to project work and so, with the exemplary guidance of Keith and Phil, I am finding my way around this slowly. Tania Basiou, Roxanne Aila, Elvina Ogil, Fiona Hukula and Lisa Renee - I really appreciate your support this week.

Thank you to all those on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts supporting 'My Walk to Equality' through reposting, retweeting, sharing etc.

#LetUsWalk

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