This afternoon Kessy Sawang joined Rufina Peter in Papua New Guinea’s parliament as the Rai Coast seat was declared in Madang Province. Two women and 116 men. Anyway, here’s what Kessy wrote after her first attempt at election, in 2017, saw her finish a close third….
RAI COAST - My name is Ms Kessy William Sawang (family and friends call me Kez).
I’m an aspiring political leader and blogger who advocates for good governance in PNG’s public sector as it is critical for development. I would like to see transformation of rural PNG in inclusive development and there is shared prosperity.
I recognise that the empowerment of women and girls, and particularly women in leadership roles, and entrepreneurship is the greatest tool for inclusive and sustainable development.
I live in Rai Coast, a remote rural District in Madang Province, along PNG’s northern coastline. I am a mother of a beautiful 21-year old young woman, studying to be an agricultural scientist.
I grew up in our family-owned farm where we raised cattle, chicken, pigs and farmed cocoa and coconut.
We had three dogs which were very good hunters and helpers in managing the cattle. My childhood bestie was my pet dog, Yegi, who deserves this acknowledgement.
My beloved Dad, William, was an health worker who served the community and the District selflessly.
His efforts in eradicating leprosy and voluntarily serving the people even after his retirement is also worth acknowledging because they both instilled in me empathy and taught me leadership.
Much has happened in the last 12 months that actually changed and impacted my life.
The biggest challenge I took was contesting for the Rai Coast Open Seat in the 2017 National General Elections.
I did my best, finishing third in the most corrupt election ever in PNG’s history. Quite a good result for a woman and a first timer though.
I’m deeply grateful for that experience. It taught me more empathy and t’was an humbling experience being in rural PNG and experiencing the life of hardships faced by 85% of Papua New Guineans.
The disheartening outcome of PNG’s 2017 election is that no women were elected into parliament. Zero women represented in a democratic country where over half the population is female!
My political journey connected me with the rural youth, women and girls. Listening to their aspirations, challenges and hopes birthed in me a passion to make a difference where it matters most.
The active participation of women in leadership and decision-making roles is a development agenda, and not an equal participation or ‘women’s leadership’ issue.
One area where PNG needs more women participation is in political leadership, a topic I am passionate about.
Indeed, I am passionate about good leadership, rural development, and especially empowerment of rural women and girls.
How can we enhance and increase women’s participation in PNG politics and representation in parliament?
Can we have women leaders in parliament who are the mouthpiece of all PNG women, girls and children rather than for their own electorates?
In an answer to my own question, I have resigned from my employment with the Public Service to participate in politics.
Why politics? Because in PNG, everything rises and falls on political leadership.
We need political will and support to make laws and policies that will empower women and girls.
I also see that there is a great need for genuine, caring and honest leadership at the political level for my people in this remote rural district.
All the infrastructure put in place by my late Dad during his two-term reign as the Provincial Minister for Health and Works & Supply in the 1980’s have deteriorated without any replacement in more than 20 years.
The evidence of successive governments’ budgets is not seen much in rural PNG, where the majority (85%) of our population lives. Our social indicators have regressed.
Let me share my professional views on government’s fiscal and economic issues and public sector corporate governance.
My analysis is simple, independent and neutral. I’m able to provide such educational commentaries and analysis drawing upon my professional experiences in government revenue administration, taxation and fiscal policy, Customs, and border management.
My roles in the last six years (2011-17) have been as Deputy Commissioner of Papua New Guinea’s Customs Service and Head of the Secretariat of the Tax Review Secretariat at Department of Treasury.
I love this area, the gift of life, the amazing people around me, organic food, a simple life and enjoyable nature – especially the sea and the beach, the flowers, rivers, mountains and rainforests.
I am deeply grateful to family, friends and Papua New Guinean women and men who support this cause – enhancing women’s political participation.