By EHEYUC SESERU
WOMEN have been fighting, and justifiably so, for their space in society, to have equal rights and contribute in decision making.
It is a known fact that many are victims of family and sexual violence, assaults and harassment within their family or communities. Many women, in the workplace, and at home, find that they cannot speak up or speak out against these atrocities. Even, if it involves their children or other children within their community. Many do not know where to begin.
In Bulolo, Morobe, Bank of South Pacific (BSP) has funded the building of an office to deal with these matters. The Family and Sexual Violence unit (FSVU) office was opened three weeks ago.
The building of the office came through hard work of women leaders and advocates in the small mining and forestry township, about a 2 hour drive from Lae.
One of the main voices behind the setting up of the office is police officer Cathy Guza.
She has been dealing with family and sexual violence cases since 2013. Being a female and a lone police officer in the section at the Bulolo Police Station has been challenging.
District nursing officer Rose Bosimbi and woman leader and counsellor Rose Muingnepe have been providing much support to Guza. Their work covers the six local level government council areas of Mumeng, Buang, Watut, Wau-Bulolo Urban, Wau Rural and Waria that hold three government stations of Mumeng, Menyanda in Watut and Garaina.
Much of this area is geographically rugged with no road access. Without a proper place to accommodate victims, most are taken in to live with the three until they recover, and receive help.
Advocacy work on women’s rights and reducing violence in communities in the district goes back to 1990s when Wau and Bulolo towns were tagged ‘cowboy country’ following an upsurge in wanton unruliness.
“We received a lot of different cases like gunshot wounds, axe wounds, knife injuries…at Bulolo rural hospital,” Bosimbi recalls.
“There were many times that I stood by helplessly watching them (women) dying on theatre beds, or dead when they reached the hospital. That was the time that I started working on trying to prevent these from happening,” she said. .
She started advocating for human rights and doing one-on-one awareness with patients while they were in hospital. She then moved out of the hospital grounds and took the awareness campaign out to the community. That resulted in a Community Justice Centre (CJC) opened in Bulolo in 2002.
Since then, she has attended courses in Port Moresby and Fiji.
Bosimbi is making sure there are other female health workers who are ready to also serve.
“It is a sensitive issue. Many times I accommodate female victims of domestic violence. When women get beaten by their husbands, most of the time my house becomes a safe haven for them.”
With help of other women, they held two major awareness campaigns on human rights and spoke against violence.
The group’s greatest problem was for a place to serve from.
BSP then stepped in to fund a new building at a cost of K25, 000 as part of its community service obligation to help victims of family and sexual violence. The FSVU office is the second in Morobe. The other is in Lae. The handover ceremony in Bulolo was officiated at by Morobe Rural Police commander Chief Insp David Warap and BSP Bulolo Training Officer Delma Mailau. Of course, people in Bulolo were also present to witness the special day.
Mailau said the project shows the bank’s commitment to be, not only best financial service provider, but also ensure that customers and stakeholders are looked after at community level.
Construction material was supplied by PNG Forest Products and constructed by The Copton Group with local BSP branch staff providing manpower.
Chief Inspector Warap challenged other district administrations and politicians to establish proper offices for FSVU in all nine districts of Morobe.
He said there were FSVU sections set up in rural districts with help desks but without offices.
“Help desks only do referrals to Lae but it can’t cater for all districts, because it is for Lae only,” said Warap.
He thanked BSP for funding the office and said the office will help Bulolo alone but the need for FSVU offices built in each districts of in the province was still there that it needs support of community and stakeholders.
The office will be manned by Snr Constable Cathy Guza and other women leaders and advocates of peace.
Guza said Bulolo police station receives five to six cases of family and sexual violence daily but this has increased due to economic investments and developments taking place in the district. It also serves distressed women from the neighbouring Menyamya district.
The unit still needs a vehicle to be able to move around quickly and independently.
Police station Commander Insp Leo Kaikas is planning to send two more police officers to undertake FSV training to boost the unit’s manpower capacity.
By EHEYUC SESERU