TANYA ZERIGA ALONE | Em Nau PNG Blog
PORT MORESBY - It was just 80 years ago that the hausman [men’s house] ruled.
Some of those men have just transitioned from the village hausman to the national hausman, also known as our parliament.
In Papua New Guinea’s paternalistic society, no woman sits in the hausman with the men.
This current generation of women is just one generation removed from PNG’s cultural past, and women in this age and time are still bound to the cultural roles of women, no matter how educated they are.
It is hard to fix culturally indoctrinated women and men. The present push to get women into parliament has never worked in the past – it is hard to liberate women who still live beneath the shadows of a culture of deferral to men.
It is hard to change men who are still stuck in a culture that dictates that women have no space in decision-making.
Our hope for change is in the next generation. Our hope rests on our girls and boys.
The real measure of an equal society is when girls can go to school and have same privileges as boys: when young women can run for the office of student representative, the same as young men; when women can stand up and speak their minds at a big meeting.
The strategy going forward must be to build confident girls who are assertive; while at the same time building confident boys who accept that women are as good at leading as boys are.
In time, confident boys and girls will transition into confident adults and function in an environment where women are judged on their leadership potential and not on their gender. That is the transition we should be pushing for as a 15-20 year strategy.
An immediate activity that may fast-track positive change right now is that the parliament, by law, should ensure that half of the senior, decision-making bureaucrats’ positions go to women.
In government, the rubber hits the road at the bureaucratic level not in politics. Politicians tend to be rubber stamps. The real decisions-makers and implementers of government programs are in the bureaucracy.
When a woman is in a decision making role, she will be inclusive - that’s a women’s trait. After all we run households and we are aware of and cater for all the people in our households.
Even if parliament is 100% men, decision-makers including 50% woman will be more considerate of the plight of women.
Women bureaucrats can change the society in five years; we don’t have to wait for 20.
And in time, it will be easier for a senior woman bureaucrat to transition to parliament because she will be good in what she is doing and she will know the working of the government.
She will have the respect of her male colleagues and she will be confident in her wisdom and knowledge.