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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Planning is a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy

There was a little news article in The National Newspaper from the 20th Sept., 2012, which I thought was the most important news article of the day. However, that was all it was – a small article on page 7.

The Deputy Prime Minister,  Hon. Leon Dion was briefed on the findings by a report on the Risk Assessment of Catastrophes in the Pacific. The reported states that, in the next 50 years, PNG is expected to incur loss exceeding US$700 million with casualties over 5,000 from natural disasters.

In PNG, we expect disasters and losses, however, we never monetize the costs of disasters. When we do, as was done in that report, and compare with the money we have, we begin to realize how unprepared we really are to future natural disasters. The disasters, when compounded with the unpredictable impacts of climate change – the cost as well as number of casualties will certainly go right up.

The current trend on how we approach disasters, is to just turn up and contribute money after the disaster has already happened. This shows a lack of forethought and anticipation of future happenings.

The Deputy PM made a good call for readiness, when he called for effective coordination and adequate financing to be made available for planning for disasters. Sadly that is all he says.  There is no mention of a strategy for implementation or a reassurance that a strategy would be discussed.

If that speech lacked a strategy, a strategy is now being set down in the Climate Change Policy being developed by the Office of Climate Change and development (OCCD). The document from the OCCD places great emphasis on proper planning and coordination to mitigate climate change, optimum utilization of renewable energy sources, strengthening climate resilient initiatives and driving forward a low carbon growth pathway in the future.

A strategy for PNG must  be informed by well-researched and scientifically credible data. The recently launched books containing  scientific assessment of climate change in the Pacific contains data collected over time that can be mined to support plans for climate change adaptation.  This and other scientifically credible data can greatly inform and fortify any strategy the country comes up with.

A workable plan, in my opinion, will be for the government to direct all government sectors and line agencies to align their scope of responsibilities with the climate change policy.  This means that OCCD must pass the Climate Change Policy which has been in draft for a number of years.  After the policy is done, funds must be made available for those initiatives.

A few initiatives that come to mind are as listed below.

The strategy must include climate-proofing infrastructure. In designing infrastructure,  the responsible organisation must work closely with best engineering practices, supported by good data and credible science on the effect of climate change on infrastructure. Construction of climate-proof infrastructure  will save money and time in the future.

Furthermore, the government must put more money into health education. Health concerns arising from water and food contamination always come to the forefront with natural disasters. Money must be spent on preventative education to ensure  that the affected people can apply first-aid on themselves – this step will minimize the number of casualties as well as the cost of treating those affected by the disaster.

Since bulk of Papua New Guineans still depend on agriculture to sustain their livelihood, money must also be put into agriculture research. The National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) must continue with its excellent programs on food and seed storage techniques, so that food and seeds can be kept over long periods of time over unpredictable weather  conditions. NARI also has programs on propagating drought resistant crops, likewise, effort must be put into propagating crops that can tolerate a lot of water.

The  National Weather Service’s must also be well- funded and equipped with state-of –the art instruments to predict the weather  and inform people who will take steps to move themselves out of danger as first line of defense.  Furthermore, the Provincial Disaster Offices must be well equipped and well-funded as the first line response to disasters. 

In conclusion, we must anticipate future events and prepare for them using as many information sources as possible. A well thought out plan is in itself a climate change adaptation strategy.

(Ref: The National (2012), Dion: Country expects loss. The National Newspaper, 20 September 2012, pg 7)

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