| United Nations Development Program PNG
PORT MORESBY - Wesley Serber is a man on a mission, determined to end the cruelty and abuse caused by sorcery accusation-related violence (SARV) in the remote communities of the South Fly region of Papua New Guinea.
A large number of sorcery accusation-related violence cases use glasman or glasmeri (akin to witchdoctors) to falsely and maliciously accuse men and women of sorcery for financial gain.
Their targets are then subjected to extreme acts of violence, torture and rape, and many are eventually killed.
In most cases, glasman and glasmeri receive a payment for their services.
On 25 February last year, the PNG parliament took a major step forward to pass amendments to the Criminal Code which introduced provisions to criminalise sorcery accusation-related violence (SARV) and the glasman and glasmeri often involved in such cases.
Wesley is the public officer for the Aramba Development Foundation, a community-based organisation which is committed to working to address SARV and gender-based violence (GBV).
In December, the Aramba Development Foundation was one of 13 civil society organisations from across PNG to be awarded grant funding from the Department for Community Development and Religion in partnership with UNDP.
The funding will support civil society organisations working across the country to prevent gender-based violence and SARV, and to provide related crisis response and recovery service.
The grant funding is co-funded by the national government and UNDP through the European Union - funded Spotlight Initiative to end violence against women and girls.
Notably, in 2022, the Department for Community Development and Religion was allocated K7.93 million to address GBV and SARV through partnerships with civil society organisations.
Providing direct grants to civil society organisations which already have the networks and knowledge to effectively engage with local communities is a major part of the Department’s strategy to more effectively address GBV and SARV.
The grant will allow the Aramba Development Foundation to mobilise church leaders, teachers and auxiliary police personnel to raise awareness amongst communities about the harm being caused by GBV and SARV.
“We are planning to hold sensitisation training on human rights using a train-the-trainer approach,” Wesley Serber told the UNDP. T
The aim is that the people trained will spread the message to at least 3,000-5,000 people in Aramba’s four tribes, Suki, Seki, Kereki and Morehead.
“This activity will take us at least two months to complete,”’ Wesley explained.
“We will be taking seven-hour boat trips and walking for up to three days to spread awareness.
“But we are grateful that we are able to take this journey.
“This issue of sorcery accusation-related violence is happening all across the country and is hurting people.”
Wesley stressed that funding opportunities provided by Department and UNDP should be celebrated.
It can be extremely impactful in areas like South Fly, which has limited economic opportunities, as many locals depend heavily on trading at the boarder for food, necessities and resale of goods and supplies.
Wesley also paid tribute to the work that churches, police and land mediation courts and villages courts do to maintain peace and order in these communities.
He is confident that the Aramba Development Foundation’s advocacy and awareness programs will complement that work and save lives and promote human rights.