ONE of PNG’s oldest women’s organisations, the Country Women’s Association (CWA) which has been inactive for nearly 10 years, is out on a membership drive to make its presence felt all around PNG.
Interim national president Rachel Gware and secretary Gemo Johns told The National recently that the association has just come out of a long-running court battle which hadaffected the its operations.
“We are now on a recruitment drive to go down to as far as district and ward level to get women to be part of the association,” Gware said.
The association has so far registered members in its Port Moresby branch and is also reaching out to parts of Central.
When the former expatriate members and executives of the association left the country following independence, they sold all their assets except for the guest houses in Madang and Port Moresby.
Nationals took over in 1981 but owing to certain issues, the association was as active as it should have been.
The current interim executive hopes to revive and grow the association again, Gware said. Other officials under her are deputy president Martha Kaia, secretary Johns and treasurer Monalisa Rumints.
What CWA stands for
CWA is non-political and non-sectarian voluntary organisation whose main aims are: To improve the welfare and conditions of family life; to encourage women’s education, both formal and non-formal; to provide recreation information and enjoyment for members; to promote international friendship and understanding between women throughout the South Pacific and the world; and to encourage environment conversation wherever possible.
From 1950 to 1980 the expatriate members were the only ones in the executive and decision-making body of CWA.
The association raises its own funds through various activities and from member contributions.
The Port Moresby branch also runs the CWA guest house which was built next to the Port Moresby General Hospital with the aim of catering for women flying in from outside the capital for medical care at the hospital.
Today, there are also the Paradise Private Hospital and Pacific International Hospital nearby and the guest house provides affordable alternative accommodation for patients.
The guest house, named after one of the founding members of the CWA PNG, Jessie Wyatt, even caters to medical personnel at the Port Moresby General Hospital, Gware and Johns said.
The accommodation facilities comprise six self-contained rooms and a common kitchen for guests to cook their own meals. There is also a community hall for hire that caters for up to 100 people.
Revenue from the guest house is used to assist the operations of the PMGH children’s ward, Chesire Home, Laloki Psychiatric Hospital and CWA branches outside of Port Moresby.
The idea was for the CWA to provide accommodation for women and other necessities, especially maternity products for those visiting the hospitals, Gware said.
Throughout its years of operation in the country CWA has trained many young girls and they have become outstanding professionals and community leaders, Gware said.
“Women have joined CWA and have left because there is nothing that CWA gives. It is a fundraising-based organisation and women want to be where there is money involved.
“We give our time, resources and ourselves freely without recognition or appreciation by putting a smile on a less fortunate mother or a child. We walk with them, talk with them and always lending a helping hand as and wherever possible.”
Gware said the membership drive would continue this year when the association executives visit the provinces. So far there are branches in Sogeri, Gereka, Boroko, Hanuabada in Central/National Capital District, and Gagidu in Fischhafen, Morobe.
Branches join together to achieve larger goals through the national council. Some of the national interests include nutrition and pre-school education.
Each year the national council offers two scholarships to the South Pacific Community Training Centre in Suva, Fiji and organises leadership training workshops.
CWA of PNG is affiliated to the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW).
The CWA branches contribute annually to the Pennies for Friendship fund which is used by ACWW for project worldwide.
The ACWW has a consultative status with the United Nations agencies concerned with women and children’s welfare.
Members of ACWW who live in rural and urban areas are representatives of many races, nationalities and creeds. They believe that peace and progress can best be advanced by friendship and understanding through communication and working together to improve the quality of life for all people.
How ACWW works
ACWW, the largest international organisation of rural women and homemakers, has a uniquely down-to-earth approach in offering mutual support friendship and practical help to its members. The organisation currently has a membership of 10 million through its 370 member societies in over 70 countries.
The projects committee encourages member societies to establish support of each other through educational project development.
This committee of experienced members and experts oversees the allocation of projects and trust funds.
By matching finance and working with specialised UN and other agencies, a wide range of projects has been completed successful in rural communities, where women still do most of the agricultural work.
Projects cover such areas as leadership and skill training, health nutrition, literacy, small-scale agricultural and income-generating schemes – all of which benefit disadvantaged women, their families and their society.
How it began
Towards the end of the 19th century, rural women’s groups were set up quite independently in various countries. Later, communication was initiated between groups, so that many more women could come together in friendship, pool knowledge, and work towards similar goals.
The first official step to combine resources was taken in Geneva in 1927, when the International Council of Women decided to “consider the conditions under which women’s rural organisations work.”
Three years later in 1930, that same council agreed at its conference in Vienna to form a liaison committee of rural women’s and homemakers’ organisations.
This committee became the ACWW in Stockholm in 1933. It continues to build on the traditional values of family life, helping women to communicate their views to decision-makers locally, nationally and internationally.
ACWW supports development projects through:
- Water for all fund which supports clean water and sanitation projects, providing water tanks, bore wells and hand pumps;
- Women Feed the World fund for subsistence food production and training in farming techniques and credit saving schemes;
- General Projects Fund for family planning initiatives, HIV/Aids awareness, small business schemes and skills training;
- Nutrition Education Fund for promoting good nutrition, improve hygiene and production;
- Lady Aberdeen Scholarship Fund offering scholarships and courses in home economics, welfare and citizenship for leaders in rural communities; and
- Elsie Zimmern Memorial Fund which provides advanced training in organisation and leadership.