Joyce raises her hand for Kiriwina


She is a familiar name in the halls of politics and along the corridors of the National Parliament. For 20 years, she has been in the engine room of the National Alliance Party working as the General Secretary. She is one of the few Papua New Guinean women who have had the honour to work alongside the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, and once even received a letter from the Governor-General inviting the National Alliance to form government. Yes, the letter was addressed to her as the National Alliance Party’s Public Officer. Today, she has walked out of the engine room and raised her hand to run for the 2022 National General Election. This is her story.

Joyce Grant at the recent National Allian Party convention in Port Moresby.

MY dad is Scotish. He was a kiap but a Papua New Guinean by heart. He travelled the country’s length and breadth, he was passionate about PNG and was always vocal and fought for indigenous people to have rights, and he speaks like a hundred Papua New Guinea languages.
He met my mum, a young beautiful woman from Nulosaida village, Lousia, Kiriwina, and here we are.
Growing up, my father who I mentioned speaks a hundred languages, was a passionate linguist, so you can imagine, we were encouraged to speak in our mother’s native language. I was born and raised in Port Moresby but every school holiday, Christmas holidays he would send us home to Kiriwina.
He would tell us, “You have to have a belonging”, as he understood our culture and knew that we came from a matrilineal society. It didn’t matter if we had a white father, we fit right in, unified, united, we knew where we belonged, and we knew our roots. Years later and I now do the same for my children sending them back home on holidays, making them learn and speak the mother tongue.
But I guess growing up and moving back and forth between the city here in Port Moresby and my village in Kiriwina, I felt sorry for my people. I didn’t pity them but I was just sorry for the way they lived, and I wanted to help them but I didn’t know how.
One Christmas, I was 18 years old and as is usual we went home for the holidays. It was raining and there was a storm that night, and lighting struck a nearby house, so I got scared and was trying to run to my grandma’s room when the floor broke and my leg went through it and I was stuck. It was a horrible experience and an eye opener at the same time.
The next day, I took out all my savings, which was around K800 but back then K800 was a lot of money, and I gave it to my uncles and told them to go buy materials and build my grandma a new house. And her house, became the first modern house in our village as all the houses were built from bush materials at that time.
That’s when I realised that I could help, that I could make a change too. So over the years, I’ve got to help my village, my people, in my own small way.
And for 20 years, I dedicated my life to working in the “engine room” of the National Alliance Party, and it has been an amazing journey. I still went home every holiday, and helped my brothers build their houses and bring about little changes where I could, I became my brothers’ keeper. But always at the back of my head, that one question remained, where do we draw the line as citizens to help and where does the government come in?
Anyways, so a few years back, I went back home for the holidays and I sat there looking at my family. They didn’t have access to basic services like clean water, health services, education and I just sat there, feeling like my heart would break. I’ve travelled the world, I’ve travelled across the country but every time I come back home, I see and hear the same story. So I made up my mind to stand up and for once you know to stop complaining about the lack of services and just raise my hand and contest for that seat so that I can actually do something so that I can bring in those much needed services to my people; that I can bring change instead of just complaining.
But I didn’t tell anyone of my intention, until one morning. I brought in the late Grand Chief Sir Michael’s coffee and he jokingly said to me, you know you should be made a dame and I said no, I want to be knighted and he says women can’t be knighted and we both laugh. And just like that out of the blue I said, I’m contesting for the Kiriwina seat in 2022, and he smiled and said that I had to first get the blessing from my uncle, who was like a son to him. I told him I did and he said, “Good, go for it, when you’re ready, I’ll come.”
And that was that and here we are. Losing him, was the hardest thing to face, you know. I always thought he’d be around to see me contesting but he’s gone. He’s gone but well if you knew him, you’d understand when I say his magic rubbed off on me.
He was a charismatic guy, you know, his voice, the way he spoke, it just inspires you, motivates you, and that’s the magic I’m talking about. Losing him makes me want to fight harder in bringing change to and for my people. So yes, I’m raising my hand, I will contest the seat.
Grant who has had years of experience in the world of politics is also reaching out to other women candidates with the message that it is now time. Time for women to stand up.
“Mothers know best, every women knows, they don’t rest until their family is fed, their homes are clean and everyone else has gone to sleep. We need more women in the Parliament, we need mothers, to clean up the house and ensure the welfare of our children.”

  • As told to Rebecca Kuku