By MARJORIE FINKEO
GENDER-based violence is a cross-cutting and sensitive national issue which many people cannot easily handle at home.
I met Rose Marai at Port Moresby’s Kaugere clinic during one of my news runs. I walked into her office nervously when she gave her best smile and I could see from her eyes that she really wanted to me tell untold stories she had been dealing with, knowing I was a media personnel.
Being female and knowing that she will be the only one to make changes in her surrounding communities, she stood with confidence amongst more than 5,000 people in Sabama, Kaugere, Kokeva, Joyce Bay, Horse Camp, Kirakira village, Kila Barracks, Gabutu, Badili, Korobosea, 2-Mile Hill and Koki market. She is passionate about change and creating awareness on gender-based violence is something she does from the heart.
“I started going around in the communities talking to families and especially women who are victims of abuse, domestic violence, rape and torture based on false accusation of sorcery,” she said.
She said gender-based violence was “underneath your carpet and doormat at homes” while many people kept denying the struggles they have faced at home with husbands, wives and children.
Marai, originally from Madang and Southern Highlands is the coordinator for gender-based violence and family sexual violence based at Kaugere Health Centre. She has worked for more than three years in Port Moresby.
Every day she sees more than 10 women walking into her little room with bruises and cuts all over their bodies, being physically hurt and emotionally tortured. She takes them in for counselling and many of them have progressed and have seen changes in their homes and communities.
She said a few nurses now worked in the clinic together with her in attending to survivors of GBV for stabilising and counselling.
She said most such cases were referred to by them by police because they were providing counselling and medical reports.
“It (GBV) is a very sensitive issue in the country and it is really crippling our nation.”
She said working class women experiencing violence at their homes were mentally affected at their work places and could not perform normally.
“Most of them are affected and abused emotionally, socially, physically,” she said.
A safe house is not just a home for women and girls seeking refuge but also for short stay trainings conducted and many of them have come out with news knowledge and skills to start up their own small businesses for a second chance in life.
Husbands of women sheltered at the safe house looking out for them front up at the centre and both husband and wife are counselled again with the ultimate aim of restoring healthy family life and preventing separation or divorce.
“Husband, wife and children are three in one and they must remain a solid unit,” she said.
According to Marai, many families experienced this ugly truth of violence but were too ashamed to let their communities know and sometimes women were fearful of losing their only means of support provided by their abusive husbands.
Marai started creating awareness on GBV with the help of community leaders, mothers, pastors and youths.
“I saw that there was a need for awareness so I started writing letters to leaders in the communities making arrangements. I go out and speak to them.”
She said there was positive feedback from the people and many were happy about it and wanted more awareness in their communities.
She said she has been receiving a lot of requests now and she needed to budget her time well to attend to all who need her help in the communities she is involved with.
She said many survivors now knew where to get help from and referrals were done to Port Moresby General Hospital and the courts.
Attempts to get Community Development and Religion Secretary Anna Solomon to comment on the need for more awareness were unsuccessful.
By MARJORIE FINKEO