Educating women for sustainable development

Weekender

By THEO YASAUSE

When we educate a girl, a woman and a mother, we are educating a nation. Dreams, visions and expectations are achieved through the womb. Politics and business have their source from the girl, woman and the mother you see every day..
Napoleon was once asked “What is the greatest need for France? He answered:“A nation’s progress is impossible without trained educated mothers.”If the mothers of any country are not well-educated, that country will be ignorant of progress. To educate a girl means to educate a future family lives. It is the mother who is the first teacher of the child. If she has no light how can she light the lamp?
A woman plays many roles and responsibilities in the course of her life. We all expect her to do some things in her lifetime. Education teaches a girl and a woman, what she should be and how she should do it to be a great daughter, sister, woman wife and a mother. An educated girl or a mother is a good friend, a clever nurse and a useful adviser and a true helper. She is admired for her courage, outstanding achievements and noble qualities.
From “zeroine” to heroine
Every girl, woman and mother needs to be valued. Poverty and harmful cultural practices often denigrate them to lower status in our society. There are devastating consequences for that behaviour and attitude because it impacts on our survival and progress as a nation.
We could say that as a nation, we have graduated in elevating the status of women and girls by appointing them to positions of power and influence in the likes of late Margret Elias, Winnie Kiap, Dame Josephine Abaijah, Nahau Rooney, Anna Solomon, Lucy Bogari, Babara Age, late Justice Cathy Davani, Justice Hitalai Polume, Meg Taylor, to name a few.
Others are teachers, lawyers, nurses, warders, policewomen etc. These are just a minority; we need more women like these ladies to be shining examples to rise up to playing greater roles in business and politics. But all these depend on leaders and society at large to change mindsets to create the environment conducive for more women to take up these influential leadership roles in all sectors of our society.
Educating a business class woman in a prison
Empowering women and giving them the opportunity to a shine light in a family, community and country is crucial to achieving gender equality, inclusive, open and prosperous society. The Human Development Institute (HDI) in collaboration with the management of the Bomana Prison, under commander Kiddy Keko has started a very inclusive business skills training programme for the female inmates and their wardens.
The premise is that the PNG economy cannot be fixed if the entrepreneurial base is not stimulated. Papua New Guineans continue to be bystanders in business as cashiers, cleaners, waitresses and informal market buai sellers and gamblers.
The ground zero is the milked cow, all the nutrient and essential milk is taken out of the cow. We will have issues at our hand in the near future as is the present business climate of unemployment, high inflation and incidences of poverty across various segments of our society.
The experience of acquiring business management skills in a weird environment is something else. This is because starting a business is a dream for many to find financial freedom. It is true empowerment in creating income and employment. However, getting an idea off the ground can be an incredibly intimidating process. Is there a climate for it? The results are mixed from the prison experience.
Of the 200 participants that took up the business class educational training 80 per cent were male participants – 50 per cent dropped out. The females (inmates, wardens and youths, mothers) made up 20 per cent.
For the male participants that dropped out, many faced sales and marketing issues as not enough revenue was coming through their ventures. The women remained steadfast and carried on their business plans each time changing their business strategies to cater for the market – their customers. For many of them, their customers were paramount for the survival of their business. They focused on high value clients and looked at networking and contacts to market their products.

Adding value in a prison setting for rehabilitation
Many of the women have passed their levels of training.
Esther Soto for instance, prepared food on special occasions and sold it to high value customers. She sold food for K150 to K200 per dish. Her colleague Kwalaro Wafihuambi however, specialised in catering for nangu (sago) eating clients. Depending on the customers she was able to increase and decrease prices of plates of nangu to generate the revenue for her venture.
Livos Kubu on the other hand specialised in producing cassava pancake as well as catering for high paying customers to make her group’s revenue. Another lady, Maisen Henry also catered and made sales and has had a similar experience.
Many of these women are single mothers who have taken it upon themselves to make ends meet in an environment in which they never dreamed of earning a skill set that would change the cause of history.
They all have indicated that education could really break barriers and bring new meaning and light into their individual lives. The HDI business class educational training has opened up their eyes; it is truly enlightening and empowering for the female inmates.
Initially they all felt useless and helpless but the business class personal viability educational training set the foundation for them to face any challenge ahead.
Masisen Henry says she intends to operate a catering business, whilst Livos Kubu plans to operate a tailoring business specifically for PNG meri-blouses. Esther Soto plans to operate a retail and wholesale operation whilst Kwalaro Wafihuambi wishes to operate a specialised restaurant for PNG traditional food.
For these women the last eight weeks of practical experience have built their confidence to go out in the market place and survive as a real business woman.
For them knowing something and doing something are two different things. They not only know, but they have done it and the evidence speaks for itself.
The evidence is very clear: (1) get your spending habits right and your business will be right; (2) identify what you are good at and do it well; (3) be disciplined and free from outside influence – stay focused on the tasks; (4) diversify your business within business to grow the business.
Networking and business mentoring, coaching and public relations are essential ingredients critical for assisting the new entrepreneurs to stay in business regardless of the many difficulties faced.
With the revenue generated from these planned ventures, they plan to lead and manage their children, and employ other Papua New Guineans as a way to contribute to the community and country.
For Keko, investing in women and girls does add value to society for empowerment and sustainability.
We all need to make every effort to facilitate for the women and girls to have resources and opportunities for nation building.
Keko says for women and girls to achieve sustainability the building blocks are: (1) ensure women and girls have a seat in decision making;(2) remove barriers to fuller participation; (3) increase awareness with stakeholders; (4) collect and use data that is inclusive; and (5) build better but improved accessibility for accessing educational and up-skilling opportunities.
This is his vision for the next five years to see real change and for the inmates to contribute back to society for sustainable livelihood.

  • The author is part of the coaching staff under the Human Development Institute (HDI) business class education system Rehabilitation Training Program at Bomana.

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