By LORRAINE JIMAL
JULIE Rufas’ early Christmas gift this year is the chance to fly on an airplane and visit the capital city of Port Moresby – both for the first time.
“I ran out of words and thoughts because it was to be my very first time to leave the bush for a few days and fly on an airplane. It meant a lot to me.”
Julie, 31, a former school teacher, is a ward councillor in Milne Bay. She was told to come to Port Moresby to attend a training for women councilors.
She had to leave her teaching job in 2017 to contest the ward council elections, the only woman among men. Against all odds and expectations, she beat them all.
“In fact, I was not ready to take up the position as I am too young and still learning. I need support from people in high positions and those more academically qualified than me with degrees and diplomas.
“I was up against four men and did not expect to win the seat because politics has always been dominated by men.”
She couldn’t believe her luck when told early this month that she would be travelling to Port Moresby to attend a one-week training programme.
It was the first time for her to set foot inside an aircraft and leave her remote village where she was born on Nov 29, 1989, the second youngest in a family of five boys and four girls.
She is married to Dau Pomape. They have two children: Docas Rufas, 13, now in Grade Three, and Clive, 6.
Julie had served for seven years as an elementary assistant teacher at the Karagurutu Primary School in Milne Bay from 2009. In 2017 she contested the council seat.
She knew that she was too young and lacked the experience to take up a political role but decided to give it a shot anyway. Growing up, she had noticed the need for development in the ward.
So she contested the election, hoping to provide services on health, education and the development of women and young people.
Problems began to arise after she won. No one wanted to help her especially her predecessors who refused to brief her on reports and accounts of what they had done already and what else needed to done in the ward.
“I had to start from scratch and make my way up to achieve plans and goals I have in mind. My family was very supportive and still continue to motivate me to keep doing what I have started.”
Julie sensed a lack of cooperation from her male counterparts who underestimated her leadership qualities.
She ignored the negatives comments against her and stuck to her plans.
“I’m still working on my ward development plan confident that it will lead me to my goals. The challenge is communicating with former ward members.”
Julie had gained experience in public speaking, planning and management when she was a teacher.
“I also trust in the Lord who allowed me to win the seat. I will do the work to the best of my ability despite all the negative comments.”
Her first flight on an aircraft, and the trip to Port Moresby this month, have helped her to start thinking outside the box. Indeed it has opened up a totally new world to her outside the bushes of Karagurut. An early Christmas gift.
By LORRAINE JIMAL