We must stop cycle of violence


THE call by a senior government minister for Papua New Guinean men to break the cycle of violence should not go unheeded.
While National Planning Minister Charles Abel’s challenge is a big ask, it is not mission impossible.
As Abel aptly said: “Many of us come from violent homes and I don’t want empty pledges, I want sacrifice and commitment because that is what real men do.”
We couldn’t agree more with the Alotau MP who, not so long ago, also challenged the country’s clergy to “practice what you preach”.
All right-thinking and law-abiding PNG men should take the lead in campaigning vigorously to end violence against women, which is so common in this country.
They should start by convincing their violent fathers, brothers, sons and uncles to stop beating up their mothers, sisters, aunts and girlfriends.
As the campaign against gender-based violence gains momentum, there is another gender issue that needs to be seriously addressed.
And that is gender equality, which remains an elusive dream for PNG.
Despite its noble intentions, some pertinent government policies and programmes are far from being totally women-friendly.
Where the country has succeeded in achieving some degree of equality among the sexes, the outcome and benefits have been outstanding personal accomplishment and positive contributions to families, corporations and the country at large.
It is a proven fact that gender equality in all areas of nation-building is certain to bring out the best of every citizen, both men and women.
Indeed, our dreams of a fair and smart nation would come true if gender equality is achieved.
The Government’s Vision 2050, in more ways than one, depends largely on achieving such equality and it can be sure to make great strides in economic growth and improve our social standing indicators.
Critics may argue that PNG women are better than their sisters in similar situations in other parts of the world but much work remains to be done.
One has only to sit in some of our women’s forums to appreciate the challenges that they face. A few of these challenges, such as the ones facing local businesses, are common among women as well as men.
In countries where women have been given all possible opportunities to stand shoulder to shoulder with men, there have been great strides in social and economic advancement.
Western countries, including the United States of America, have been spearheading the campaign for gender equality and have focused their attention on developing countries such as PNG.
Last year, the US embassy in Port Moresby co-hosted the PNG Women’s Forum during which a number of important matters affecting women in general and specific aspirations have been discussed.
Among the topics of discussion, the forum was told of some outstanding government commitments as well as omissions or oversights in the formulation of legal and policy framework for the advancement of the womenfolk.
The proposed Small Medium Enterprise (SME) policy received some criticism because it did not adequately address women entrepreneurs’ issues. The SME policy was launched earlier this year and it is envisaged some of these niggling issues been addressed.
Interestingly, an official from the Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Committee (CIMC) is of the view that gender equality marginalises women in PNG.
She says there is no coordinated effort specifically for women, with the central agencies of government doing their own thing and there is little or no budgetary support.
If the Government is serious about addressing gender equality and gender-based violence, it should provide support in terms of allocating funds in the annual budgets and provide capacity and incentives for them, the official says.
Meanwhile, our universities and other tertiary institutions continue to penalise female students for pregnancies.
Many young women have suffered the indignity of being expelled from their studies because of pregnancies.
And where these institutions takes a hard line against students falling pregnant are given very little opportunity to continue and complete their studies, such policies need to be revisited or made fairer on both parties involved.
Gender equality should not only be preached in institutions of higher learning but practiced so that future husbands, colleagues, bosses or subordinates of women are made to learn to respect appreciate women as equals.
A level playing field must be the bottom line for gender equality in PNG.

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