As Ms Hennah Joku stood up to talk at the high-level meeting on Gender Based Violence on 24 August, she dug deep into her emotions with a message to tell all: Gender-Based Violence has no place in Papua New Guinea.
She stood tall that day, reliving a nightmare that still haunts her. She spoke with a commanding voice and those that were in the audience were in awe of her having the courage to speak on a topic that is silently killing women and girls. A topic that has become normalized in PNG’s society.
Ms Joku is one of only a handful of women brave enough to come out and speak about her ordeal in the hands of a violent man. She wanted to share her experience, to represent the voiceless, to speak to the parliamentarians, heads of government agencies and development partners gathered - that it’s now time to act.
The fulltime journalist and mother eventually left a relationship after enduring physical, emotional and psychological abuse from her partner.
“I walked away from the second violent assault realizing that he could’ve killed me. He probably would have if I had stayed,” she recalled.
Why speak out? Why become an advocate? She is a mother and wanted to instill in her children that no form of violence is acceptable.
Ms Joku spoke about the importance of hearing first hand experience of women who have survived such violence. ©UNDP/C.Hawigen
“I’m a mother, I need to know I’m doing my part to ensure I leave my children to a safer society than what it is now. Violence has become too normalized and it’s disgusting, and the levels of violence are getting extreme. There have been groups advocating for as long as I have been a journalist and I feel there is still more that can be prioritized,” she said.
The High-Level meeting on Gender-Based Violence is a testament that the national government remains committed to prevent and respond to GBV. This has led to the formation of the Coalition of Parliamentarians against GBV with the Governor of NCD, Hon. Powes Parkop and Governor of East Sepik Province Hon. Allen Bird taking the lead to mobilizing parliamentarians to make a stand. Even development partners such as the United Nations Development Programme is doing its part to support the government.
“It’s good to see our leaders finally making a stance. But we need to focus on enforcement and the justice system and process. The laws are there. Less talk, more actions. Every day we spend talking and meeting and advocating, another woman gets bashed, hospitalized or killed. With the swiftness the government moved when addressing COVID-19, they must do so for GBV. It can be done,” Ms Joku said.
According to the National Gender-Based Violence Strategy 2016-2025, 65.5% of women in PNG have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence at some point of their lives. Ninety percent of women in prisons are serving time for murder. They acted in self-defense, in response to family violence. And 80% of children experience some form of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse.
“Violence isn’t a gender war. It’s not about men versus women. It’s not about religion, culture or background. It’s about educating our men to know there are laws against all forms of violence and building our young women up to know their worth. This has to happen simultaneously. Otherwise we keep hitting a brick wall,” she said.
Ms Joku followed in her father’s footsteps to become a journalist. She began as a 15-year-old at EM TV learning the trades from mentors such as John Eggins, Frank Senge-Kolma, Tarcisius Bobola, Sean Dorney, Rowan Callick, Anna Solomona and many others. Her first teacher being her journalist father, Mr Franzalbert Joku. Every chance she got during school holidays she would work at EM TV. Her career includes radio journalism and broadcast as well having working at both PNGFM and NBC and now is a part of TVWan News and Production.
“I fell in love with the newsroom and I’ve been in the media industry ever since,” she said.
In her capacity as a journalist, she would like the voices of those that have been hurt to be heard.
“Hopefully we don’t keep on the trend of violent incidents only hyping and trending for a while then dying away. This conversation needs to keep happening at all levels. What’s stalling and delaying GBV cases? How do we change that process? Victims’ families are still struggling for justice and survivors are at risk the longer a case takes and that’s why so many people, mostly women give up along the way.”
The establishment of the Coalition of Parliamentarians against GBV is a great step and a golden opportunity as it is the first time in the country that a Commission to advocate on GVB has been created. All these expected results will be monitored and updated in November during the main Conference on GVB again. NCD GBV taskforce under Governor’s Powes Parkop’s leadership in partnership with UNDP is leading the process in supporting the Government in addressing Gender Based Violence.
First ever coalition of parliamentarians formed to address Gender-based Violence in PNG
Parliamentarians that made a commitment to address Gender-Based Violence in the respective provinces. Photo courtesy of Wanpis Ako (NCDC)
A new coalition of ‘Parliamentarians Against Gender Based Violence’ (GBV) was formed recently to drive and implement strategies to address and stop GBV in provinces throughout PNG.
The 26 August meeting, conducted by the Governor of Enga Province Grand Chief Sir Peter Ipatas with the aid of NCD Governor Hon. Powes Parkop, saw close to 20 parliamentarians sign on to the coalition.
This is a first for Papua New Guinea to have its parliamentarians committed to addressing GBV in their respective provinces.
They acknowledged that GBV is an issue that needs a prompt solution as it continues to undermine PNG’s social and economic growth with violence, severely impacting women’s productive contributions.
“The most important resource we have is our people, we must empower them and also provide a safe environment in order for to them to thrive and contribute to the economy of our country, this means addressing all forms of violence including gender-based violence”, stated Hon. Allan Bird, Governor for East Sepik.
“We as elected leaders have a responsibility to address the growing law and order issues and gender-based violence is at the heart of this” said Hon. Garry Juffa, Governor for Oro.
The Parliamentarians are uniquely positioned to take substantial strategic steps to address key policy failings, and to use their collective voice to demand change.
Sharing his NCD GBV strategy, Governor Parkop said that women and girls have faced the impact of this epidemic and it continues to limit their ability to enjoy the rights as citizens of PNG.
“While we acknowledge all the work done to date to address this crisis, it has not been enough to seriously reduce or eliminate GBV, nor the underlying root causes: Inequality and discrimination,” he said.
This meeting was a follow up to the High-level conference on GBV that took place on Monday 24 August led by Hon. Powes Parkop and East Sepik Governor Hon. Alan Bird and supported by UNDP.
Beginning of a new chapter for Varirata National Park
As Mr Bisikau Mamana stood up to talk he took a while to compose himself, swallowing back his emotions that threatened to burst out.
Mr Mamana making a few remarks at the gathering. ©UNDP/C.Hawigen
Choking on his first few words, Mr Mamana paused again and cleared his throat. Composed, he began, slowly, this time making sure not to break down.
They were a small gathering - comprised mostly of family, friends and colleagues - joined to witness the closing of a chapter, and the beginning of a new one at the Varirata National Park (VNP). To be replaced by a new building, the old Ranger’s Quarters that many of them had called home would be demolished, taking with it the memories that lingered.
From 1974 up until his retirement in 2016, Mr Mamana had called VNP his home. It was here that he began his family. Here, he bore 8 children. Here, his wife and two children had passed away.
“There are so many fond memories. Our families grew up here. The building started out as an office, and then become single quarters for the rangers, and then to becoming a family home for many of us,” he said.
Like Mr Mamana, retired rangers, Mr Bulisa Iova, Mr Felix Kinbag, Mr Kore Serehu and Mr Kisea Tiube had all called this place home for 40 years.
The retired Rangers and their families and CEPA staff standing in front of the old Rangers Quarters. ©UNDP/C.Hawigen
Mr Mamana said the gathering had somewhat a traditional significance too.
“Before we take it down, we pay homage to it. For the loved ones we’ve lost along the way, we ask them to come with us. Although we are sad, we are also happy that changes are coming. It’s for the good of the national park,” he said.
Before the quarters became a family home, it was an accommodation for new rangers who were trained and sent out to the provinces to work. The structure was also transformed to an office at one time. It will now be replaced by a modern building with four bedrooms, living and dining areas, and will still serve as The Ranger Quarters into the future.
The Rangers Quarter removed to make way for a new one. ©UNDP/M.Goro
The UNDP in Papua New Guinea is working closely with Government through the Conservation and Environment Protection Agency (CEPA) to upgrade facilities at Varirata National Park. A new office was constructed at the entrance gate in June 2020. Renovation work will also begin on the toilet facilities. The Project has also funded 10 UNV Community Rangers to manage and maintain the Park and their presence in the Park has provided security as well to an extent. UNDP has also assisted in capacity building of VNP rangers through the Queensland Parks Wildlife Services, who are also assisting with the Business Plan for the Park.
Taking action to address climate change
L-R: Minister for Environment, Conservation and Climate Change, Hon. Wera Mori, Climate Change and Development Authority Managing Director, Mr. Ruel Yamuna, UNDPs Deputy Resident Representative, Mr. Edward Vrkic and British High Commissioner to PNG, Mr. Keith Scott officially opened the inception workshop. ©UNDP/C.Hawigen
There is no greater single-issue facing Papua New Guinea’s national development than climate change.
Taking urgent action on climate change requires a collaborative effort by all stakeholders, from affected communities to Governments, civil society organisations, the private sector and development partners. Papua New Guinea was the first country in the world to submit its national Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) - highlighting the urgency placed on addressing climate change by the Government.
Participants at the workshop. ©UNDP/C.Hawigen
A workshop on the revision of the Nationally Determined Contributions, reflecting Papua New Guinea’s continued commitment to progress climate action, was held at the Hilton Hotel Port Moresby on September 4.
Minister for Environment, Conservation and Climate Change of Papua New Guinea, Wera Mori, on officially opening the workshop, said climate change was one of the greatest challenges faced by humankind and represents an irreversible threat to societies and the planet.
Minister for Conservation, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Wera Mori. ©UNDP/C.Hawigen
“The Government is committed to take action to address these challenges through efforts to adapt and increase the resilience of our people, ecosystems and economy and at the same time contribute to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
Minister Mori urged all stakeholders to work together to identify actions that can combat climate change.
UNDP, under its Climate Promise Initiative, is supporting 110 countries globally to further their commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement. UNDP is proud to support this effort in partnership with the Government of Papua New Guinea and its Climate Change and Development Authority.
UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Edward Vrkic, said collaborative efforts to revise Papua New Guinea’s Nationally Determined Contributions showcase the true spirit of partnership among development partners.
“The NDC reflects a strong commitment to support the Government and its people on climate action,” he said.
Once the NDCs are finalised and presented to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it becomes a portfolio of actions that will deliver positive changes through sustainable development.