Women's writing Feed

Writing showing pride in nation without naivety or sentimentality

Roxanne MartensROXANNE MARTENS

My Walk to Equality, edited by Rashmii Amoah Bell, Pukpuk Publications, 278 pages. Paperback $US10.53 or Kindle $US1.00. ISBN-10: 1542429242. ISBN-13: 978-1542429245. Available here from Pukpuk Publications. The book will be launched in Port Moresby on 8 March and in Brisbane on 16 March

IN a country that boasts over 800 languages and has a strong tradition of oral history and storytelling, it is unsurprising that My Walk to Equality is thoroughly engaging, entertaining and thought provoking.

That it is written entirely by Papua New Guinean women adds another layer of depth and complexity.

PNG women are an amazing breed; they carry a burden of family and community responsibility that encompasses wage-earning, fruit and vegetable farming, animal husbandry, childcare, aged care and home maintenance.

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Women get it - walk to equality must be a joint project with men

Winnie Kiap (Roland Kemp)WINNIE KIAP

Her Excellency Ms Winnie Kiap has been High Commissioner for Papua New Guinea in the United Kingdom since 2011. Ms Kiap is also chair of the Commonwealth Secretariat Board of Governors. She was previously secretary to the PNG National Executive Council. Her earlier career was in PNG’s Department of Trade and Industry and Investment Promotion Authority. Ms Kiap was emailed a substantial section of 'My Walk to Equality' prior to publication.

My Walk to Equality, edited by Rashmii Amoah Bell, Pukpuk Publications, 278 pages. Paperback $US10.53 or Kindle $US1.00. ISBN-10: 1542429242. ISBN-13: 978-1542429245. Available here from Amazon through Pukpuk Publications

THESE stories give me a sense of exhilaration as well as respect for these women writers and poets.

This group of mostly young writers has the courage to use literature as a means to participate in the conversation on a topic important not only in Papua New Guinea but around the globe.

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‘Be Bold For Change’ – PNG’s women writers are already there

Beboldforchange-iwd2017KEITH JACKSON

THE theme for International Women’s Day to be celebrated on Wednesday 8 March is for women to #BeBoldForChange – and, through contributions to the anthology, My Walk to Equality, nearly 50 Papua New Guinean women writers proved they already had taken this idea to heart.

And as the Oil Search Foundation, Allen’s Legal, Paga Hill Development Company, the Sir Brian Bell Foundation and other PNG organisations rally to the cause of this highly praised book, it’s clear that the call is understood and is gaining momentum.

My Walk to Equality will be launched in Port Moresby on International Women’s Day (IWD) and in Brisbane eight days later. The Moresby launch – by invitation only – will feature Dame Carol Kidu and Tanya Zeriga-Alone, two fighters for women’s rights in PNG. Rashmii Amoah Bell will be the star attraction in Brisbane. I will be at both events.

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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.

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Walk to Equality: refreshing in candour; informed in judgement

Andrea WilliamsANDREA WILLIAMS

My Walk to Equality, edited by Rashmii Amoah Bell, Pukpuk Publications, 278 pages. Paperback $US10.53 or Kindle $US1.00. ISBN-10: 1542429242. ISBN-13: 978-1542429245. Available here from Amazon through Pukpuk Publications

MY Walk to Equality, a first ever collection of women’s writing from Papua New Guinea edited by Rashmii Amoah Bell, is outstanding. It is inspiring, engaging, groundbreaking and important.

Given an excerpt of 80 pages to review, accounting for 14 of the more than 80 pieces in the book, I am impressed.

Through these excerpts we can smell the village fires, be astonished at the intuitiveness of these women and gasp at the ease with which they can flit between western ideology and village traditions, comfortable in both societies - yet we can also feel their patriotism and need to be valued.

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My Walk to Equality – voices of wisdom, optimism and hope

My Walk to Equality CoverTRISH NICHOLSON

My Walk to Equality, edited by Rashmii Amoah Bell, Pukpuk Publications, 278 pages. Paperback $US10.53 or Kindle $US1.00. ISBN-10: 1542429242. ISBN-13: 978-1542429245. Available here from Amazon

MY Walk to Equality is a remarkable achievement. Not only as Papua New Guinea’s first anthology of women writers but also for its inclusiveness, breadth of vision and balance.

The 45 writers of these 81 stories, essays and poems originate from many different parts of PNG and its islands.

Their day-jobs include aircraft mechanic, nurse, educator, lawyer, home producer, student and administrator.

They write as mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, friends and neighbours as well as professionals in their respective fields.

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Why organisations like DFAT and UNDP are so pathetic

Foreign_aid_chain_of_lossPHIL FITZPATRICK

I GOT my first lesson in lateral thinking and innovation from Ross Allen, the Assistant District Commissioner at Mount Hagen in 1967-68.

Ross was one of those people who was difficult to categorise. On the one hand he frowned on my habit of wearing suede, elastic sided, desert boots and rolled down walk socks instead of polished brogues, but on the other hand, especially where it mattered, he had decidedly liberal views.

The lesson came in his innovative use of district development funds. On his advice I applied for funds to build a road that I had already completed using free kalabus labour and help from the local villagers who would benefit from its construction. They had done the job with simple spades and shovels.

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From the desk of the editor of ‘My Walk to Equality’....

Composition (Rashmii Bell)RASHMII AMOAH BELL

10 January: My Walk to Equality, the first-ever collection of writing by Papua New Guinean women, is released on Amazon in Kindle edition.

13 January: My Walk to Equality, the first-ever collection of writing by Papua New Guinean women, is released on Amazon in paperback edition.

17 January: #LetUsWalk Twitter hashtag adopted to point to the need to get My Walk To Equality printed and distributed to as many readers as possible.

THE voluntary collaboration of Philip Fitzpatrick (Pukpuk Publications), Keith Jackson (PNG Attitude) and 45 PNG women writers has accomplished what no other has literary endeavour in Papua New Guinea has managed in 41 years of nationhood.

That the book publication was achieved in three months is remarkable in itself. But that the entire process was undertaken without a prominent benefactor is demonstration of the commitment of the writers and administration team of My Walk to Equality.

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When “a great initiative” becomes a “can’t find a way” problem?

My Walk to Equality CoverKEITH JACKSON

I HAVE never met Bronte Moules who is our (that is Australia’s) deputy high commissioner in Papua New Guinea – an important post in the PNG-Australia relationship.

But if I ever do meet her – and I hope to on a forthcoming visit to PNG – I think I’ll like her. I’ve found Bronte positive, helpful and a person who clearly has Papua New Guinean interests at heart.

Last October, Bronte was also expressing encouragement about what was the forthcoming publication of Rashmii Amoah Bell’s landmark collection of PNG women’s writing, My Walk to Equality, much mentioned in these columns of late.

“This sounds like a great initiative,” Bronte wrote to me in an email. “It’s something that we’d be interested, in principle, in supporting in some way.”

We, in this case, being the Australian High Commission.

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A book to restore a proper balance between men & women

Tanya Zeriga-AloneTANYA ZERIGA-ALONE

THE author of ‘Let the C word Run Free: Desperately Seeking Collaboration’ has now made the C word come to life.

Much collaboration has now culminated in this anthology – a first for all the women of Papua New Guinea.

Rashmii Amoah Bell, a well read and articulate essayist, is the esteemed editor of this new body of work. Copies of the essays she has written can be seen on the PNG Attitude blog.

In all of her well-articulated and sometimes satirical essays, the one thing that comes out most often is her patriotism and heart for her country – Papua New Guinea.

It was in 2015 that her essay on the C word was penned. One year later this book was born.

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Appalling treatment of women is not a cultural norm

Elvina OgilELVINA P OGIL

The publication of My Walk to Equality – the first collection of women’s writing from Papua New Guinea – has been a landmark event. In planning the book, editor Rashmii Amoah Bell invited forewords from two Papua New Guinean women whose writing has impressed because of its candour, insight and intellectual honesty. To celebrate the anthology, today we publish Elvina Ogil’s contribution; tomorrow, Tanya Zeriga-Alone - KJ

IF PAPUA New Guinea is to claim its place among civilised nations, its women must walk with its men. Not behind, not beside but with.

When conceiving of a united nation of a thousand tribes and hundreds of languages, our forebears took the first steps in this walk, articulating the unequivocal role of women as equal partners in our development and progress in that magnificent document that is the Constitution of Papua New Guinea.

Our Constitution, richer than so many others in the sheer depth of rights it accords to its citizens, chief among them is its direction to equality.

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Quietly as a mouse she slipped into the world

Gerega_LeiaoLEIAO GEREGA

Quietly like a mouse she slipped into the world
Oh, but dad she’s a girl
my fate he held that night
And like in ink he wrote my story
Page by page my journey went
None for me all but for his glory

Ten and tall I stayed at home
everything a women did I learnt so well
thin and wiry like a donkey
day by day stooped with loads
20 kilos and more

twelve and round my flowered skirt
I held between my knees
eyes downcast I moved among men
loud they talk, proud and strong
beside the fire my back to them

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‘Walk to Equality’ is a confidence boost for PNG women writers

RashmiiINTERVIEW

THIS week My Walk to Equality, the first ever collection of women’s writing by Papua New Guinean authors was made available to the public through Amazon Books prior to its dual launch in Port Moresby and Brisbane on International Women's Day in March. Leiao Gerega of the PNG Post-Courier newspaper spoke with the book’s editor, Rashmii Amoah Bell….

Leiao - As the woman behind this remarkable project, please can you tell us a little about yourself, your journey with writing, the challenges you face and your current profession.

Rashmii - My name is Rashmii Bell and I am from Sio in the Tewaii-Siassi local level government area in Morobe Province.

Reading has always been a part of my life so it feels like a natural progression to move into writing. I grew up surrounded by books in my family home and I have been able to access community libraries in Australia.

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My changing life journey

Madlyn BaidaMADLYN BAIDA

I AM the eighth child of 10 in a family from Egefa village along the Hiritano Highway in the North Mekeo area of Central Province.

Now I live in Madang Province and want to share my experiences of how the Tropical Gems Rhythm Foundation changed my life.

My father was a subsistence farmer and we spent our time making gardens while my elder brothers would go hunting or fishing.

Because of the remote location of our village, I was unable to complete my education, leaving school after Grade 6 in 1992.

My father and mother passed away when I was young, and it was difficult for me as a young woman growing up in a community where women, according to our Mekeo chieftain custom, have a lower status than men.

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Let us honour Auntie Jessie Ume

Roxanne AilaROXANNE AILA

She is a Delena woman.
She is a daughter, a sister, a mother, an aunt, a grandmother.
She has her garden, the sea is her backyard.
She cares for her family.
She cares for her extended family.

She is part of the United Fellowship Group.
She and her team work tirelessly through the year to fund raise with bake sales.
She leads the fellowship and cares for her community.
She will travel from Delena, over the open road on the Hiritano Highway.
She will go past Age Vairu, past Brown River, past Laloki.

Once in Port Moresby she will cook and visit Port Moresby General Hospital.
And share food and presents with patients.
The hospital has patients from all over PNG, some without family or friends.
Does she do it for money or to be recognised?
She does it because she cares about our people, our country.


A message for PNG men: gender equality is nothing to fear

My Walk to Equality CoverPHIL FITZPATRICK

EVERY hunter who goes into the forest knows that one of the most dangerous creatures he is likely to encounter is a wild boar.

With razor sharp tusks, these formidable animals can disembowel a man and leave him dying on the ground.

When a genteel man ventures forth in the cities, towns, suburbs and villages of the modern world, he knows that one of the most dangerous creatures he might encounter is a liberated woman.

Why should a man be afraid of a liberated woman?

Perhaps some of the blame lies with the early feminists, who could be very prickly indeed.

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One day the males all bargained for a price

Leiao GeregaLEIAO GEREGA

One day the males all bargained for a price
Worth twice an elephant’s size
Who was it, we thought
But it was for a skinny little,
Skinny little girl
Hiding behind her mama’s skirt

Through big brown eyes she watched
The big bellied bouncy man
with pocketful a money
And her mouth watered at the thought
Of how many lollipops she could buy

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Family planning choices change lives: A reflection

Marie StopesLORETTA BELE KUWALU

SINCE I began work with the family planning service Marie Stopes International in 2014, I have learned to embrace the simple fact that choices change lives.

Many women in Papua New Guinea are deprived of their right to be independent thinkers. This is evident when our cultures, customs and traditions label women as domestic assets and only let men - the hierarchical leaders - make decisions.

Many times women are forced into early marriage, often as young girls. Deprived of their right to education they later become disempowered.

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The expectation of marriage

Watna MoriWATNA MORI

I WRITE in my journal. I write letters to self. I write social media disgruntles and discussions. I write submissions.

I can’t remember the last time I tried writing creatively. I first attempted writing this several months ago, to look back at and mark a low point in my 30 years.

A point, where I thought I had done everything expected of me that was within my control but it was still not enough. The expectation of marriage.

My experience, however, does not exist in a vacuum. It exists in the struggle of being a Papua New Guinean, more so a Papua New Guinean woman.

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The working class woman

Leila ParinaLEILA PARINA

IT was 5.45pm as Alice skidded through the traffic at the 4 Mile intersection on her way home.

She knew she was late. Her usual arrival time was 5.20. And home was another hour away.

Alice was a regular commuter who travelled between her village and her job in the city. She made it to the PMV stop just in time to hop on a bus that was just leaving for the village.

As the other passengers joked and chatted to each other, Alice sank into her seat in deep thought. She knew Rick would not be happy about her coming home late.

As a matter of fact, he had been unhappy a lot lately. He was often quiet and seldom joked with her – or had a good time. She knew it had something to do with work. He never wanted to hear her stories about work and he was always frustrated when she was very busy and came home late.

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Bougainville, 23 August 1993: The past alive in my mind

Marlene Potoura and newspaperMARLENE DEE GRAY POTOURA

Dedicated to my mother, Margaret Potoura

I AM in my forties now, but it is still vivid. It was 23 years ago and I was 23 years old, a trained primary school teacher, and three years out of teachers college.

My father, Nehemiah Gray Potoura, and two of my brothers Trevor, 20, and Jacob, 16, were abducted by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army on 23 August 1993.

The evening before, my father told my mother, Margaret, to take us and the other women and flee to a hide-out on his sacred land. We left in a hurry with my widowed aunty Aretai and her children, my 12 year old sister Linda, my mother’s niece Isabelle, who was five, and my four year old brother David.

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A culture of family is a culture of success

PNGOCALURIGO RAVURISO-KALI

“BUBU Mum, what is adapt?” asked six year old Chayil as he chomped on a piece of sunnyside egg.

“You know how you go to a new place,” I began to explain, with my sister Jan grinning and whispering in tokples Hula that I’d just been hit for a six.

Thirty minutes earlier, she had been searching for the adaptor to connect the electric fryer to fry eggs.

“Has anyone seen the adaptor?” It had been in one of her five kitchenware bags.

Now here’s Chayil asking his question totally unrelated to eating.

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Our fight, it's not in vain

WAVIE KENDINO

I awake, my head it throbs
My heart it beats, as though in my chest, it lobs
Oh how I wish I did not have to come out of slumber
"I'm fine, I can do this", I mumble

As I do every day, I start the day with the only way I know how, with a prayer
I ask God to give me strength, clarity, wisdom and the fight to deal with each naysayer
And suddenly I'm filled with unbridled energy, the kind that makes you take on the day without a care
That's just what I need, as the world we live in, it's just not fair

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PNG dystopia: The perils of life as a single mother

Marlene Potoura (2)MARLENE DEE GRAY POTOURA

AT 8pm on Tuesday 25 October 2016 the power went off. Black out.

I was over-tired; teaching year six teenagers and being a single mum to two lively children is not an easy task.

I held my daughter’s hand and we went to bed. She didn’t want to climb onto the top-bunk, which she shared with her brother, so we both lay down on the bottom one.

“Mummy, sleep with me here. Don’t go to your room,” she said, as we cuddled and said goodnight to each other.

The nanny was sitting outside the house waiting for the electricity to come on so she could clean the kitchen and wash the cooking utensils.

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Anita - A woman magistrate in a remote village court

Magistrate's Manual PNGROXANNE AILA

IT IS a challenge being a magistrate and there are risks with high profile cases but Anita Bacca, based at Bosim in Milne Bay Province, does it to build the community, ensure people know their rights and share information and knowledge.

There is no police support in Bosim, the nearest police station is a one-and-a-half hour boat ride away. But Anita finds her job to be rewarding.

ROXANNE - How long have you been a village court magistrate?

ANITA - Six years now.

Roxanne - Why have you chosen to be a magistrate?

Anita - I guess because of problems I had and needed to study law. I went through a lot of problems and needed to understand my rights.

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The rejection & acceptance of a mixed race Markham meri

Helen AndersonHELEN ANDERSON

IN the 1970s I moved schools to a rural outer suburb of Brisbane in Australia. I was in Grade 5, nearly 10-years old, and you could find me most mornings crying on a swing in the school playground, dreading the classroom.

I was the only person of colour in the entire school and quite a novelty. It was assumed I was an ‘Abo’ an awful abbreviated for Indigenous Australians, or Aborigines. A term used as an insult. A term to set you apart – make you feel less.

As a mixed-race Papua New Guinean-Australian, I’ve encountered racism in various guises in both PNG and in Australia, the country my parents chose to move to when leaving PNG in 1972 prior to independence. Or, as the Europeans said at the time, before it all “went to shit”.

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A New Normal

PNG womanVINZEALHAR NEN

I read a novel, "Toropo the Tenth Wife"
Set in the 1960's, I saw a different PNG
A PNG dictated by the decisions of men
Young Toropo wanted to be educated
She worked hard to win her father's favour
Instead her father sold her as a commodity
To a man old enough to be her grandfather
The love she had for a younger man
Her dreams of being educated all burst into flames
A time difficult for any woman in PNG

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Gender equality: Women must not be victims of a zero sum game

Tanya-zeriga-aloneTANYA ZERIGA-ALONE

LIFE is a series of cycles.  The mitosis, the circadian cycle, the menstruation cycle, gestation, and the big one that encompasses them all is the life cycle – birth, senescence and death.

This is as nature intended; that we successfully pass on our genes. 

Humans have developed habits to give our genes the best chance of survival. These habits become culture; culture, both good and bad becomes a way of life and children are immersed in it from birth. 

The women used to be a revered gender because she was the garden that grew the tribe. Sex was just a holy dance for procreation.

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XOX - meeting place of champions

Vision City MallALURIGO RAVURISO-KALI

HA! An XOX? A rare champion of a cause for another cause. By a woman.

Imagine that lady over there, see, might actually be a champion. One who dares to walk her dream. Awe inspiring? You bet! Meet the XOX: You are the champion!  

A rainbow of emotions. Diverse beauty. Strong. Simple love. Gentle. Kind. Radiant. Happy. Respectful. Grateful. Sincere. Humble. Open. Friendly. Courageous. Funny. Fearless. Every day each XOX commits to master one of these virtues.

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Ups & downs of the first collection of women’s writing

Rashmii & Keith meet for the first timeKEITH JACKSON

EDITED by Rashmii Amoah Bell, My Walk to Equality, the first ever collection of women’s writing from Papua New Guinea, has entered the final stages of production.

The book, of more than 200 pages, is published by Pukpuk Publications and will be launched in Port Moresby and Brisbane in March.

The collection of 70 essays includes commentaries, stories and poems by 40 writers and has been elegantly organised to provide a comprehensive insight into the range of issues that affect women in PNG today.

The first section, a compilation of writing, concerns relationships – how they operate, become dysfunctional and can be revived.

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A love letter to PNG, where it was my destiny to be born

Wakpi_EmmaEMMA WAKPI

MY motherland, I am writing this letter on the eve of Christmas to let you know how much I love and appreciate you.

This time of the year reminds us of what we should be thankful for and of what love is really all about.

Often times we argue so much about what is wrong and right and how it’s supposed to be done nowadays but at the end of the day, you are family, you give me my identity and I find my comfort in your coarse gruffness which conceals a heart so fiercely loyal to me.

At times I pine for things other nations can offer their children and am ashamed to admit that in my youth I’ve oft rued the fact that destiny saw fit to make me a Papua New Guinean.

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16 powerful & inspirational Papua New Guinean women

Betty WakiaBETTY WAKIA

DESPITE domestic violence, gender inequality and other challenging issues, Papua New Guinea has produced many powerful and inspirational women of real accomplishment.

The next International Women’s Day on 8 March will be a wonderful opportunity to honour these heroes and, with the assistance of PNG Attitude and Pukpuk Publications, the collection of women’s writing, My Walk to Equality, edited by Rashmii Amoah Bell, will do just this.

Traditionally, Papua New Guinean society views women as playing a role that is second fiddle to men. As a result, PNG women who journey along the path of equality and independence find it a road less travelled.

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Women can always match the stride

In memory of Justice DavaniWENDY JEROME

This poem is dedicated to the memory of late Hon Justice Davani, the first female Papua New Guinean judge and a role model to many, who died too young in 2016

On the Bench, I sat
In confidence, holding time in suspense
My head held high, shoulders square, eyes flared
Fighting back tears, laughing at my fears
Looking back, at the chapters of my lifestory
Being the first female Judge, would go down in this country’s history
An additional, exciting sequel
The struggles and sacrifices, made me soar like an eagle
I have conquered, have accomplished, and am now proud,
To be called ‘equal’.

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A modern woman in what is very much a man’s world

Exercising my freedom to be a woman and wear a bikini without harassment by men (Esteem Imagery, Cairns)GEN HOBDEN

GENDER equality has been an issue for decades.

In earlier centuries, laws were written by men and women were largely kept out of decision making, voting, and owning property.

Women were to bear children, take care of them and perform chores like cooking and cleaning leaving the important decisions to men.

Over time, women became involved – or forced their involvement - in various activities, including paid work, holding higher office, exercising the right to vote and engagement in other areas. Women began to emerge in society with equal rights and opportunities as men.

I grew up up in the 1980s, mostly in remote places of Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea. Dad was a primary school teacher and mum a housewife. We moved every year and life in these small and remote places was tough - friends were left behind, new environments had to be adjusted to, there was no electricity, few shops, sometimes no roads and mostly no resources in the schools.

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It was a challenge: First woman on the clan committee

Madeleine RugaMADELEINE RUGA

IN MY early childhood, I lived in the village with my grandparents and often heard them discuss the common talk of villagers that sending girls to school to get an education was a waste of time.

Some people said girls sent away to be educated would bring home a husband, fall pregnant or run away with an outsider and never be seen again. 

Even though the village had a mission school for lower primary and a government school for upper primary to Grade 6, many parents stuck with that attitude that girls should be kept at home.

Beyond Grade 6, all students who qualified for secondary education would be sent to boarding school and many parents did not want to commit their daughters to that.

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Run hard - & don’t look back until you achieve your goal

Caroline EvariCAROLINE EVARI

DAD resigned as workshop manager with NCDC Parts & Services in 1997 to contest the national elections that year and we moved to Sakai village near Musa in Oro Province.

We vacated our nice big house and sold the car and other belongings we did not want to not take with us. I was only nine and had completed Elementary 1 the previous year.

There were limited schools in Musa. One, about 16 km away from where we lived, had Grades 1-6. To get there I would have to wake up at around two in the morning and walk. Being new to village life, I was not prepared for that.

The nearest school only had a Grade 5 class but I was supposed to be in Grade 2.  My dad was hesitant to enroll me in Grade 5 but saw the teacher and I started going to school.

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Through the camera lens

Tania BasiouTANIA BASIOU

MY FATHER was a hobbyist photographer. When he wasn’t taking photos of the varieties of hibiscus he grew in our backyard at Waigani, he turned his lens to a somewhat reluctant subject – me.  

Sanap pastaim” he would say. “Wait…wait”, as he peered through the camera viewfinder, adjusting the focus while I decided whether to run or oblige him.

Then I would hear the familiar click of the shutter, and I would hurry off to avoid getting roped into more awkward posing.

I showed more interest in being behind the lens, but seeing as I was too young to handle a real camera, I insisted he buy me one of those wind up Kodak disposable cameras. 

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Tania's vivid imagery complements 'My Walk to Equality'

Woman with bilum (Tania Basiou)RASHMII BELL

WITH submissions to the historic My Walk to Equality anthology about to close on 31 December, the project team is in the final stages of cataloguing and editing what we have received.

Phil Fitzpatrick of Pukpuk Publications has commenced the process of compiling the master copy of the first collection of Papua New Guinean women’s writing in preparation for publication in early February.

In addition to the writing, one of the important decisions that had to be made concerned the book’s design – and especially its cover.

Tania Basiou’s evocative, black-print image of a woman bearing a bilum will feature on the cover of the anthology. As a first-of-its-kind book publication for Papua New Guinea – to be launched on International Women’s Day, 8 March - we needed something special and Tania certainly provided it.

Tania, a full-time nursing student, was introduced to photography in childhood by her father. During weekend and university semester breaks, she now offers freelance photography services across the Brisbane and  Toowoomba regions of Queensland.

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It’s not often easy but we girls find a way of getting there

Martinez WasuakMARTINEZ WASUAK

AS THE daylight diminished and the cacophony of evening insects began, the slim figure of a man emerged in the small Sikau Range village of Sinengu.

To my dismay, it was the familiar figure of a malicious man of my departed mother’s generation who was paying a visit to my father’s house.

Here he would relay a message that sent its roots deep into my heart, stirring an unconcealed hatred towards him.

As he hurried to the house, I moved silently across to listen on what he said.

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My journey: Parents who shaped me & how I view life

Roxanne AilaROXANNE AILA

“MUM, this is not fair!” I hissed angrily. I was 10 and had been relegated to the kitchen to do the dishes, while my older brothers laughed and played.

I was vocal in my fight for cleaning equality in the household. I didn’t win that day, but fought a good fight. I also wrote furiously and angrily into my diary, my escape as a 10 year old.

In Kairuku, Central Province the head of the family is the oldest male. In Milne Bay, the head of the family is the female. I am the youngest out of my parent’s children. I am boss meri when I am in Milne Bay and in Kairuku I take a backseat.

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My Walk to Equality

Two young girls from Papua New GuineaJOYCE DINBI ONGUGLO

The door ajar, my feet move towards the entry
My thoughts run wild of adventures unknown
And so I dream of a life eternal,
You only live once they say
Life is too short they say

Time has its limits, I cannot wait -
I want to climb mountains, I want to ride the waves,
Chase the sun and rest beneath the stars
But your place is inside the home, I hear them say
Your hands are made to cook, to clean and to feed

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My difficult, wonderful choice to become a teacher

Dyhane KendoDYHANE KENDO

I COME from a patrilineal society that elevates men and degrades women.

In traditional Engan folklore, men were the subjects of many stories told at bed time. They owned the land, fought tribal wars, made decisions, married many wives, made Moka rituals and were always in the limelight.

The women’s place was at home: feeding the pigs, tending the garden and looking after the children. Women had no place in the public arena. They were never regarded as dispensers of wisdom; hence they were never allowed to talk in public.

The coming of civilisation and modernity hardly changed the traditional Engan mentality of male superiority.

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I know of a woman

Matilda KondMATILDA KOND

A contribution to ‘My Walk to Equality’, the first anthology of PNG women’s
writing, to be published on International Women’s Day in March next year.

I know of a woman in Mundow, her glittered eyes barren, cold
Yet gives life to everything she gazes upon.
The scars on her caramelised skin shine like they were eloquently carved on, positioned perfectly.
Her tired rooted feet and shoat-oiled knees evened her royal poise.
Oh let me tell you about her esteem as I watched her through the fluent flames,
She was exquisite like the brim of untouched morning light,
Piercing every pain her scars held.
Who would have known a sleep ago she was
Here again and again on ashes with claret clothes on fresh contusions.

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Drum Beat

Mt Hagen drumsVANESSA GORDON

A contribution to ‘My Walk to Equality’, the first anthology of PNG women’s writing, to be published on International Women’s Day in March next year.

MY SISTER, my sister did you hear the drum beat?

My brother, my brother did you hear the drum beat?

In the still of the night with no one on the street the hollow sound tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, keeps me pacing on my feet. The boom is on time without skipping a beat. Who could be drumming at this hour, with no power and in this heat!? The rhythm speeds up, so loud and obnoxious, can anyone else hear this?

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Alleviating cultural dysfunction through women’s literature

Jyoti SinghRASHMII BELL

IT is around 9:30pm on 16 December, 2012. Jyoti Singh, a 23-year old paramedical student, and her male companion have just watched a screening of Life of Pi.

Wanting to return home, they board an off-duty public bus after being old it is heading towards their destination. On board are five male passengers, including a youth, and the driver.

As the bus moves along, Jyoti’s friend notices it is not taking the expected route and he questions the driver.

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The smart Hela woman: a subordinated mother of invention

Betty Gabriel WakiaBETTY WAKIA

A contribution to ‘My Walk to Equality’, the first anthology of PNG women’s
writing, to be published on International Women’s Day in March next year.

THE famous bow and arrow combination used by Huli men during tribal fights were invented by Hela woman who also taught the men how to use it.

Women taught Huli men how to build houses and invented the first Huli musical instrument.

These innovations and others are mentioned in Hela history but men try to ignore this and regard women as inferior child bearers.

The work of these women inspires Hela today but they receive no recognition.

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Story times are precious - & so are sisters

Theresa MekiTHERESA MEKI

A contribution to ‘My Walk to Equality’, the first anthology of PNG women’s
writing, to be published on International Women’s Day in March next year.

IT ALL starts at home: story times are precious.

Children are usually quick to point out what is fair and what is not.

When I was a kid, I would fight with my younger brother, Avdoh, about small things - who gets the single seat sofa or who holds the television remote. Being older, I felt it was my right to have things my way.

Also, I harboured a small fear that, if I didn’t fight for my rights, he would get his way as the only boy. Did my parents love him more? Thankfully, I have a wonderful mother who understood a nine year old’s anguish.

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My dear Rabaul town - A bitter sweet reunion

Rabaul town damage, October 1994JULIE MOTA KONDI

A contribution to ‘My Walk to Equality’, the first anthology of PNG women’s writing, to be published on International Women’s Day in March next year

I WROTE this poem to honour the memory of a beautiful town of Rabaul and the people of East New Britain who have shown great resilience in the face of great tragedy of the twin volcanic eruptions in 1994. I have learnt a lot of moral values and great lessons from the people and their town now buried in ash, abandoned yet proud in its history. I have worked on several human rights projects with the East New Britain Council of Women under the leadership of Elizaberth Pawa, Relly Manning, Mrs Malori and others who have advanced the status and welfare of their womenfolk. I dedicate this poem to these women leaders who have taught me a lot about the road to gender equality.

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True to Myself

Lapieh LanduLAPIEH LANDU

A contribution to ‘My Walk to Equality’, the first anthology of PNG women’s writing, to be published on International Women’s Day in March next year.

Today I found myself quite broke
A pocket full of dockets
A closet full of fancies
And pretty much everything else.

I bought makeup cos they looked at me funny
Heels cos they told me I was short
Hair cos he said he liked it long  
Shapers cos they said my curves were protruding    
Wheels so they’d perish with envy
I bought a lifestyle not quite my own

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Yu Husait

Gordon_VanessaVANESSA GORDON

A contribution to ‘My Walk to Equality’, the first anthology of PNG women’s writing, to be published on International Women’s Day in March next year.

“YU HUSAIT?”

Who are you to dictate my fate or think that my life, my worth, or my body is a term that you can negotiate?

“Yu husait?”

Who are you to doubt me? Who are you, sir, that needs to know more about me, why do I astound thee?

“Yu husait?”

Who are you to tell me to cover up my shame? Is my skin colour to blame? Is my naked breast too dark; is that what you detest? My child needs food you see, hence my exposure. I hope my only means of nourishing her does not offend you kind sir.

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