Kessy Sawang is woman #2 in PNG parliament
09 August 2022
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.
The potential of women and girls to contribute to Papua New Guinea’s development and its sustainability is untapped and underutilized.
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.
Congratulations on your win. We need young visionary leaders who have vision to change our nation for the good of our current and future generation.
Continue to stand on your principles and what you believe in and your professional experience and lessons you have learnt in life to make independent decisions in parliament for the good of our nation's future even if it's means you have to stand alone.
Our nation has reach a point where we need independent thinking leaders that are willing to speak their mind on critical issues that affect the nation and find solutions to fix them.
PNG is rich with natural resources but they have been mismanaged by our leaders. It's time to fix that problem and many others that affect our nation today.
God's timing is perfect for you to be elected. May His blessing and protection be upon you as you serve this beautiful nation of ours.
God bless you and God bless PNG.
Posted by: Wills Motz | 20 August 2022 at 09:18 PM
Congratulation Kessy in your election victory. Your victory is a demonstration of you as a born leader. I have listened to many other women candidates including the district in which I live and work, but non of their talk/presentation of their political ideas/plans were not well articulated to capture and convince the attention of the voters. Where as for you, I do not know you by person, but you got my attention with your campaign talks through social media (face book), and began following the up-dates on the Rai Coast District election result till your declaration. Thank you to the people of Rai Coast District in recognizing you as a leader and have given you the mandate to provide the political leadership at the national level. I know you will do well.
I hope, Prime Minister James Marape recognizes your leadership qualities and qualification to appoint you to the Department of Agriculture and Livestock Ministry to serve the 85% of the population who live in rural areas, where their livelihood is anchored on agriculture.
Posted by: Robert Seneka | 16 August 2022 at 02:30 PM
Well done Kessy, I hope you are able to survive and thrive in this hotbed of politics that unfortunately tends to corrupt even the best of the rookie politicians who have gone in with the best of intentions. Over the years we have watched as the conga line of seemingly entrenched and judging from their growing girths and expanding business enterprises very personally successful politicians. Pity about the rest of you though!
Each election I always hope that amongst the newbies, youth, patriotism and a desire to help their fellow countrymen and women better their lives will drive them forward and become a force in changing the politics of this country.
As an ex didman/business man from Madang Province back in 70/s and 80's I was thrilled when Bryan Kramer was successful and has been again. Of even more personal interest is the success of the eldest son of my very good friend (now deceased) Ian Orme of who many kiaps will remember. Ian was also my business partner of the Bogia Hotel and his son Alexander Orme is now the Sumkar representative. I hope and pray Alexander you are successful in your new profession and help bring about change to the good. If you apply your fathers honesty and integrity I'm sure you will make your mark
All the best from your Dad's old friend!
Posted by: Robert Wilson | 12 August 2022 at 01:09 PM
That's the nature of not only politics but bureaucracy and business, Kindin. All three have the remarkable ability to absorb and corrupt newcomers in a very short time.
I've been trying to think of the names of politicians in Australia, male and female, who have stepped into the maw and maintained their integrity.
Tasmania's independent Senator Andrew Wilkie is the only one I can think of. Hopefully some of the Teals will survive.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 11 August 2022 at 12:50 PM
Well said Michael Dom.
There was a term this century when we had three women in PNG parliament.
They became part of the club in the big dark hole in parliament and not quite the supernovas everybody hoped for.
One was even very rude to a female flight crew member of Air Niugini on a Moresby-Girua flight.
The second one, from Lae, attracted some attention on how she ran her electoral office.
The third from Eastern Highlands did not appear to impress other women in the population.
Their electorates did not return them for a second term.
Posted by: Kindin Ongugo | 11 August 2022 at 09:41 AM
"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."
It's time to quit the childish "us vs them", "women vs men" idiot logic which is well proven to be a losing tactic.
Women have 50% of our collective brain power and a may have totally different experience, response and outlook on life and the issues that impact our communities than men.
This is a social, biological and psychological fact, we are utterly foolish not to utilise this difference to our best benefit.
Posted by: Michael Dom | 10 August 2022 at 10:01 AM
Congratulations, Kessy, on your Divine appointment!
May God grant you His Divine Wisdom as you take on the challenges ahead to champion change in Papua New Guinea.
We, the women of Papua New Guinea are proud of you and trust you will represent us well in parliament - with wisdom, intelligence, integrity and grace.
"God equips the Called"
Our prayers are with you, Kessy.
Posted by: Rosemary Benjamin | PNG Entrepreneur | 10 August 2022 at 05:26 AM
Corruption is systemic in PNG and rural areas have been totally neglected since independence.
Since Roman times only the population in the capital has power since they can cause the fall from power of a government.
I hope you can achieve an improvement in prosperity, health and education in your electorate and in the country. Good luck!
Posted by: Albert Schram | 10 August 2022 at 03:05 AM
Congratulations to you Kessy Sawang, now Hon Member for Rai Coast Open.
Your victory is for everyone because for many of us Madang people we know the hardship your people endure to just to make their daily living.
May God Almighty Bless you and fill you with his wisdom knowledge and understanding as begin a new chapter in your life.
Posted by: Colin Mileng | 10 August 2022 at 01:39 AM
Kez, well done, and congratulations to your electorate having a clear sighting of policy with values you are now to roll out.
No magic carpet, yet comfort even to their soles as they and you strive forward.
As of Customs, values are not borderline but central.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 09 August 2022 at 07:00 PM