By PHOEBE GWANGILO
MOTHER-of-three Doreen Ruben has been living in Port Moresby for more than 20 years, providing for her family by selling vegetables she grows in her garden at the Somare Circuit in Waigani.
The native of Kainantu in Eastern Highlands has never been to school and does not know her age. But the one thing that’s very clean in her mind is that she must support her husband, a motor mechanic, in providing for their three children – a daughter aged 19, and two sons aged 15 and 10.
“I must do gardening and marketing Monday to Saturday so that my children can eat and go to school. Sometimes my husband uses his money on beer and that’s why gardening helps me.”
There is a vacant piece of land along the Somare Circuit near Parliament House in Port Moresby used by women such as Doreen to plant vegetables.
“ I must do gardening and marketing Monday to Saturday so that my children can eat and go to school. Sometimes my husband uses his money on beer and that’s why gardening helps me.”
Every now and then, City Hall sends its rangers to chase the women away from their gardens as it is not their land. The rangers even damage the gardens and what the women are selling. But women such as Doreen have no other choice but to return and re-do their gardens as it is their only source of income.
“Sometimes the NCDC rangers turn up and destroy our market. Despite that, I need to start it all over again for the sake of my children.”
The area is commonly known as the Apo Fire Corn Market along the Somare Circuit.
Doreen spends Mondays to Saturdays gardening and marketing Chinese cabbages.
Gardening and growing vegetables require intense labour especially watering the gardens. Fortunately, water is freely available in adjacent drains. All they are need are watering cans or buckets.
She initially bought vegetable seedlings for K100 which are allowed to germinate in her small nursery. Once they are ready to be planted, usually after two weeks, she plants them in a row and continually waters them because of the dry conditions. They are ready for harvest after three weeks.
While waiting for the cabbage to mature, she buys more seedlings to germinate in her nursery. It means she does not run short of vegetables to sell.
Doreen, like other women there, has 10 plots.
“From each plot, I make at least K80 to K100. I come here every day, carry water from this nearby drain to water the crops three times a day. I do this from Monday to Saturday. It’s a very tiring job. Other women give up and leave. But I have to continue for the sake of my children.”
There are millions of women such as Doreen who, despite not been to school, are blessed with a human will to survive, an in-born mother’s instinct to use resources around them to provide for their children and family.
She takes home up to K30 a day “for my children’s lunch money, and to buy rice for dinner”.
Almost insignificant, compared to the hundreds of public servants occupying nearby government offices, or those neck-tied authority-exuding MPs discussing national affairs in the big building almost a stone’s throw away, but you can bet your bottom Kina Doreen is as much a role model as any can be.