Book Review:  ‘My Walk to Equality

walk to equality

Walk to Equality

The theme for  the 2017 International Women’s Day was “Be Bold for Change”. The launching of the anthology on that day was a bold step toward putting the spotlight on woman issues  in Papua New Guinea.

The anthology is a 280 paged book containing 84 entries from 40 women writers – both established and emerging writers. The stories, poems, and essays contain accounts by women who are striving to create a better and stronger PNG for women with their words immortalized in this anthology.

The women, with brutal honesty tell their story, they give their solutions and ask the pertinent questions to probe further thinking that will require honesty and humility in addressing.

Rashmii Amoah Bell, the editor of the anthology says in her essay, ‘Embracing the dark future to see PNG emerge into the light’,  that change can happen through literature. She advocates the use of writing as a tool, to explore new grounds – including taboo subjects – as a means for starting conversations and looking for solutions.

This is one way PNG women can create a better and stronger PNG, by just telling our stories. Our stories may be accepted or they may be rejected but the stories will exist as a beacon in our walk to equality. Through our stories we walk into the dark future to emerge into light.

A. Be bold because courage is contagious

Being bold in the face of challenges is one way women can create a better and stronger PNG because courage is contagious.

Caroline Evari relocates with her family from Port Moresby to Oro and after a while, she moves back to Port Moresby by herself.

She goes through a lot of struggles but despite that she comes out a victor.  She says, “your mind is your greatest enemy, not the people around you.  Reach for the stars and keep running until you have achieved your goal.”

On the walk to equality, we have to be bold and courageous, because there are eyes watching.

As women, we ask for permission to do a lot of things, but the first thing we need to do is to give ourselves the permission to be great.

In Madlyn Baida’s story, a village lass, she wanted to learn to read and write and get an education. She allowed herself to dream. Once she knew her dream, she saw opportunities when they came up. Her husband was her support and enabled to achieve her freedom.

Be good at what you do because that is the currency that will take women’s voice onto the table for negotiations

To create a better and stronger PNG, we need to get more women into decision making positions so that they may show favorable consideration to the women’s walk to equality.

There is an adage that says, ‘if you are good at what you do, you will serve before Kings’. Do something with your life.

Be good at something. It does not matter what you do or whether you are as young as Iriani Wanma, the author of the grasshopper story or middle aged or somewhere in between. If you are good you will be favored. And when you are recognized, make use of your position to address the plight of the sisterhood.

We already have many role models who have done just that. Women can always match the stride of the society.  Some of these prominent PNG women include Winifred Kamit, Finckewe Zurenuo, Jane Mogina, Betty Lovai and the late Judge Davani, whose tribute can be seen in the anthology.

I am as proud of the sisterhood at the Division of Education in Simbu as told by Roslyn Tony. Despite a lot of push-back from a paternalistic society, these women acted with integrity and transparency and were eventually accepted as leaders in their communities.

B.      We have to be responsible for the sisterhood

Even if women make up 50% of the population, we are still treated as a minority due to our positions in the community. We have a duty of care to stand up for our sisters.

“If only I could save you, you’d still have a heartbeat.”  This eerie phrase from Vanessa Gordon’s Drum beat is haunting. It is full of regret. We have to take action to help a sister and the children and the helpless.

To help our sisters we have to know our rights.  Dominica Are tells the story of how Pauline saved her life by walking away from a bad situation all because she know her rights. Not many women have that knowledge.

It is our duty to teach as well as mentor other woman to be the best.  Alurigo does that with the XOX: We are Champions group. It does not have to be on the national stage but at our own little spheres of influence.

We have to support any form of education. The most inspiring story I read was by Alphonse Huvi from West New Britain.  Her father was against her education and did not make resources available, but, through support from her auntie Oripa, she became a teacher and was eventually accepted by her father. We have a duty to support our girls to get an education.

C.        Too big a work for women alone – Patriarchy can help

Patriarchy can play a big role to helping women build a better and stronger PNG.

In the anthology, there are six stories that pay tribute to patriarchy for being the source of strength for these six women. This shows the important role of the male gender in helping women in our walk to equality.

Helen Anderson in her essay Mixed race meri Markham pays tribute to her male relatives for helping her fit into her society. While Emma Wapki pays tribute to her male relatives for being fair, loving and supportive

The fine story by Alurigo on Sir Dawanicura is an example of leaders leading by example. He has brought a family friendly atmosphere to the PNG Olympics Committee. Family is the basic building block of society if we do not lead with wisdom and flexibility in this changing times, we can contribute to the breakdown in family, which will lead to breakdown in society, and eventually breakdown in the nation.

D.      The society will not change until the family changes

Families are the cornerstone of societies.  We learn how to be function as members of society by learning from within our family circles. We build from strength to strength when we have a stable roots.  A stable family can be the base for creating a better and stronger PNG.

Florence Jonduo   talks about parenting children says that the children are innocent, they are brought up without their permission and that is why, adults we have moral and legal obligation to look after them.  And whatever we teach them when they are young, sets them up for life.

But sometimes children turn out wrong. Whose fault is that when we observe generations of young people who have no plans for life,  “the lost men” as Marlene Dee Gray Potoura  describes the situation. Marlene asks a pertinent questions,  “Are the lost men the fault of women?”

Rosyln Tony also asks some very hard questions about why things are falling apart in our society. If we honestly answer the questions, we may find that it will lead us to families and that is where we may come up with long-lasting and meaning full solutions for the problems we see in our society.

Conclusion

No woman or group of women can fully address those pertinent questions single-handed. We need the help of society through policies and laws.

As we look at shaping policies for the future, I hope we all take those important decisions from the perspective of young mothers.

Lapieh Landu in her poem Fear Unbearable writes about her fears for her baby as she contemplates the future.  If all people responsible for creating laws can make those laws from the position of new mothers, looking at her helpless infant, then we may take all the necessary steps to secure a better future for the generation yet to come.  For we are fighting a cause that is not for us but for the future generation.

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The Nothofagus

Some 100 million years ago, the ancestors of Nothofagus first appeared on Gondwana. Today the  Nothofagus is common in South America, New Zealand, Antarctica, Australia, New Guinea and New Caledonia. The present distribution of the plant is evidence that these landmasses might once have been joined.

Nothofagus is commonly referred to as the southern beech and is a genus of 35 species of trees.  According to the recent data, the Nothofagacea has four subgenera; the Brassopora, the Nothofagus, Fuscospora and the Lophorzonia. Living specimen from those four subgenus are found in New Zealand; South America; New Guinea; New Caledonia.

Fourteen species of Nothofagus are currently recognised in the taxonomically distinct subsection Bipartitae, occurring in New Guinea from 700 – 3,150 m above sea level (asl), mostly above 1400 m asl., in areas of high rainfall and cool climates, except for the New Guinea low altitude occurrences which are normally cloud-bound (Read and Hope 1989).

All members of sub genera Brassospora are gregarious species, commonly dominating the canopy (Keast 1981; Read and Hope 1989). The large canopy tree can grow to 20-50 m high but rarely grows to 60 m and are flat topped. They have a cylindrical bole (up to 150 cm diameter which is straight for up to 25 m long). The tallest tend to occur at valley bottoms or stable slopes; mid altitude slopes canopy ~ 30-40 and comprise one or two species; however, at very high altitude or in environment that is under suboptimal conditions the tree tends to be stunted and shrubby.

Nothofagus is a monoecious trees, accommodating both the male and the female flowers on the same tree.  The male flowers appear earlier than the female and wind dispersed seed results in very poor and regeneration within a short distance of the tree. In addition due to the seeds being wind pollinated, there is a lot of hybridization and introgression, giving rise to seed capsules that are sterile; furthermore, a large proportion of the seed is destroyed by insect predation or fungal attack (Ash 1982).

Tropical Nothofagus are affected by low temperatures because, the tropical Nothofagus are not exposed to extreme temperatures like the Southern species, as a result are not able to photosynthesize in extreme temperatures. Therefore, the New Guinea showed a lower frost resistance than southern species (Read and Hope 1989; Read et al. 2005) which is related to the geographic and climatic range of these species.  This has implications for the climate change. This tree family will be affected as the world heats up further.

Furthermore, Ash (1988) observed dieback in Nothofagus stands on Mount Wilhelm. The dieback was not related to any drought period (Arentz 1988). A possible explanation reached by Ash (1988) and Arentz (1988) is that even aged must die from stress as a result of, nutrient deficiency or infection by a pathogen. Periods of heavy frost which are often associated with drought may provide an additional trigger for stand-level dieback of Nothofagus. However studies of die backs in Tasmania show that the die back is the result of a pathogen attack.   The tree has also been observed to regenerate from diebacks by lignotubers and epicormic stems that coppice after the die back (Arentz 1988).

Nothofagus is widespread in PNG within their attitudinal range. Due to the widespread nature of the tree there is currently no conservation effort. However, because of its slender and straight bole as well as the characteristic of this tree to grow in even-aged stands it is a good building tree. However, in PNG the tree is not exported in significant numbers because grows in inaccessible slopes in the interior.

The Nothofagus species is a remnant of vegetation which was once on the super continent Gondwana, therefore, it is a legacy from that period in the geological history of the earth.

References

  1. ARENTZ, F. (1988) Stand-level dieback etiology and its consequences in the forests of Papua New Guinea. GeoJournal, 17, 209-215.
  2. ASH, J. (1988) Nothofagus (Fagaceae) forest on Mt Giluwe, New Guinea. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 26, 245 – 256.
  3. READ, J. & HOPE, G. S. (1989) Foliar frost resistance of some evergreen tropical extra tropical Australian Nothofagus species. Australian Journal of Botany, 37, 361-373.
  4. READ, J., HOPE, G. S. & HILL, R. (2005) Phytogeography and climate analysis of Nothofagus subgenus Brassospora in New Guinea and New Caledonia. Australian Journal of Botany, 53, 297-312.
  5. READ, J., JAFFRE, T., MCCOY, S. & HOPE, G. S. (2006) Does soil determine the boundaries of monodorminant rainforest with adjacent mixed rain forest and maquis on ultramafic soils in New Caledonia? Journal of Biogeography, 33, 1055-1065.
  6. VAN VALKENBURG, J. L. C. H. & KETNER, P. (1994) Vegetation changes following human disturbance of mid-montane forest in the Wau area, Papua New Guinea. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 10, 41-54.
  7. HYNDMAN, D. C. & MENZIES, J. I. (1990) Rain Forests of the Ok Tedi Headwaters, New Guinea: An ecological analysis. Journal of Biogeography, 17, 241-273.
  8. KEAST, A. (1981) Ecological biogeography of Australia, Junk bv Publishers, The Hague, Boston,.

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