Head of bilum group discusses challenges


THE head of PNG Bilum Export Promotion Association Sharlene Gawi has discussed some of the challenges facing bilum weavers in Papua New Guinea with a World Trade Organisation panellist.
Gawi attended the forum at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland from September 27 to 29.
She joined a panellist of six to discuss the economic empowerment of women through international trade.
“When asked (about) what were some of the challenges I faced with the Bilum Export Promotion Association, I gave some examples of the predominant lack of education and literacy of our bilum weavers, and in many cases the lack of birth certificates or even acknowledge birth dates,” Gawi said.
She said policies on fair trade and fair pay for women in different industries were great.
But one of the challenges was that in order to economically empower women, “I must first of all give them basic empowerment to have a name and face and participate and be recognised in their own country”. “For me to pay them for their products, they must have bank accounts,” she said.
“In order to have bank accounts, they must have NID cards or birth certificates as a form of identification.
“This was one of the many challenges I face in my role – getting the women to make quality bilum and bilum products for export to the international market.”
The PNG Bilum Export Promotion Association aims to work towards steady growth of bilum handicraft trade and industry, and to economically empower women artisans in PNG by encouraging the adoption of bilum handicraft production as their profession.

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