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 women 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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My Culture, my Pride.

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No-one can teach you how to be a Melanesian, the unspoken nuances we intuitively know – it is flowing in our blood, the blood of a proud people, warriors, headhunters , refined over thousands of years.

Our culture grounds us in our environment, for it was built for us and and suits us and it served our ancestors and is still serving us today. In our domain, among melanesians, we can maintain our own –  the Sepik is as good as New Ireland is as good as Enga and so on.

On a bigger stage, our culture is as good as any in the world. We can proudly take our stand with all other cultures in the tribal council. We are survivors, for we have survived as one nation made up of a thousand tribes.

But the fact of the matter is that the western culture has taken over the world. Their domination of the world is very thorough that all other cultures must be westernised to even register as a nation.

The western way of life has merits and demerits. The thrust of the western culture is to homogenise all cultures – from clothes to language to unit of transaction. Cultures are judged harshly for not fitting in. For instance, the nations of the world are ranked by the height of their stash of cash. If your stash is small, then you are a failed nation. But what is money to cultures who have no need for it? The western culture seeks to perpetuate their criteria –  a criteria shaped by their  value system.

The demise of our culture is perpetuated further when we  shun our culture as ‘kanaka’, because we have been brainwashed that ours is primitive and the glamour of the West is the standard.  In our  haste to fit in, we are found wanting because we will never become ‘westernised’ enough.

But the fact remains, our culture is our identification marker, suitable for us and it defines who we are. Our culture can only be as strong as we make it to be.

Our challenge now is to give prominence to our very own culture regardless of pressures from outside.

When people come to our land, let us show them that we are proud of our culture because it is our identity and it is worth the prominence of place we give it.

Commemorating 500 years of reformation in Papua New Guinea

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Flags at the 3oth Synod at Heldsbach Finschhafen, Morobe Province.: Lutheran Church flag, the PNG flag and the Morobe Provincial flag. Photo Tanya Zeriga-ALone

This year 2017, marks the 500th year since Martin Luther, a German monk and doctor of theology was excommunicated from the Roman Church at that time for suggesting changes  based on the Bible. Through study, Martin Luther was convicted by these four gospel truths: Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone and Christ alone: salvation is a free gift from God  given to those who seek after it  in faith and cannot be bought or achieved through good works.

Martin Luther’s purpose was clear – to correct the erroneous teachings on sin  and salvation and to  take believers back to a faith as was intended by  the forerunners of the Christian faith.

Martin Luther’s followers are called the Lutherans. Protestantism was born from this action in history. Protestants believe that only Jesus is the head of the church.

The Lutheran Church was in existence for over 3 centuries by the time it arrived on the shores of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the late 1800.  PNG was a dark and unknown place at the turn of the century – tribal fights, sorcery, payback killing were common. Isolated in their own little worlds, Papua New Guineans were animists, believing that spirits controlled their life.

The gospel arrived with Reverend Johannes Flierl, a Neuendettelsau Missionary from the Kingdom of Bavaria, Germany.  The gospel in PNG began in the Finschhafen and Madang area and spread into the rest of Papua New Guinea. As it was in the days of Luther, the gospel liberated people from the fear of the unknown and freed multitudes from the power of spirits and death.

The pioneer missionaries both local and expatriates paid a price for the freedom we enjoy today. In those early days, missionaries risked their lives for the sake of the gospel. They crossed tribal boundaries, brokered peace between tribal enemies.  These pioneers also uprooted their families and moved them far from the security of kinsman – all for the sake of the gospel.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG (ELCPNG) of the 21st century grew out from the work of the Neuendettelsau and Rhenish Missionaries from Gemany. When the World War II reached the Pacific in 1942, most of the early German missionaries were repatriated. After the war, the Lutheran Churches of Australia and America were tasked to reconstruct the church, which the parties did together as the Lutheran Missions New Guinea.

It was in 1956 that the indigenous church was formed and called the Evangelical Church of New Guinea (ELCONG). The first Bishop was Rev. Kuder from the American Lutheran Church.

It was in the 1970s, that the ELCONG changed to ELCPNG. The first indigenous bishop was elected in 1973 and since then, the church has been run by the nationals. At the 500th year of reformation, the ELCPNG has had 30 synods.  The current ELCPNG Bishop is Reverand Jack Urame.

Earlier this year, the ELCPNG celebrated 131 years off Lutheranism. The ELCPNG is the second most popular church in PNG with 1.2 million members out of the 8 million population.  The ELCPNG is made up of 17 districts. These districts are further grouped into circuits, parishes and congregations is the lowest church unit recognised by the church.

The freedom to worship we enjoy today  is because this reformer broke the chains of oppression that kept people in slavery for lack of access to the truth. The message of hope and freedom in this act of reformation is timeless – it was real then, as it is now.

Papua New Guinea’s position in the reformation history is similar to the parable of the Labourers in Matthew 20: 1-16. We are like the worker who was recruited at 4pm to work in the garden only to get paid same wage as the man who started work at 7am. We are privileged to be born at a time when the gospel is free. We have not sacrificed for the gospel, no blood was shed like in the days of Luther.

The gospel may be free, but we are faced with new challenges. In this age and time, the church is under pressure to conform to the standards of the world.  Fatigue has also set in. As one of the last workers in the field, maybe we are called to re-evangelise the church. Maybe with our youthful exuberance, we are called to keep the 500 year old flame alive into the future.  May we seek Gods will about our place in the reformation story.

As we celebrate this momentous occasion let us remember that reformation is not just an historical event rather it is process of continually walking in faith according to the word of God. Reformation in this day and time is about testing passing trends against the timeless wisdom in the bible. We as individuals as well as the body of ELCPNG must step up and take our place in the reformation story.

Amen.

 

..on educating girls

DSC_0240When you educate a girl, you educate a nation.

When you give opportunities to a girl to evolve to something higher than her current state, she inevitably raises everyone around her to that new standard.

Her man or any potential male out there wanting her attention has to raise their standard to meet hers.Same for other women in her life, be it girlfriends, aunties, mothers. And when she has her own family she raises them up to the standard she has been exposed to. She has become a role model.

Change happens just like that – one female at a time and when more women get an education, it totally lifts up our game.

If you have a daughter,niece, granddaughter – champion her education and personal development. Your investment will not be wasted.

We Need Champions

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Paradise High School Graduates 2014

We need champions and role models in our society today.

Most of us are first generation since PNG gained independence. We are the leading edge of change. We are the cutting edge in our journey from Stone Age to colonialism to independence to integration into this post-modern era. The future generation depends on our example. What examples are we setting?

It is easy to go with the flow, to stick with the familiar because the familiar is easy and requires no effort to maintain. Mediocrity requires no sacrifice.

Growing beyond the familiar takes hard work. The mental and emotional effort is as taxing as physical labour. Effort that makes you question yourself to reveal the authentic you; effort that makes you push back the doubts that you may fail and to embrace the chance that you may just make it.

Growing beyond the normal requires you to turn up when all you want to do is go back to sleep.  Growing means believing in the possibility of your dream, when other disbelieve you. It takes guts to push against the world to make space for your dream.

You fail but you keep striving because you know who you are and you believe in your dream and you know that only you can make that dream come alive. It is a lonely road, but, such is the price for the beauty of your dreams.

The world is looking for champions. Champions that keep breaking the glass ceiling of mediocrity to reach for the stars that beckon whoever wants to go for that wild ride. After all, your destiny is what you make it.

The future is watching. Their possibilities are tied to our destinies. We stood on shoulders of champions, the future need us to lift them up to see possibilities beyond our destinies.  Can we lift them any higher than ourselves?

 

 

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