By JOYCE INGIPA
PAULA Mek has never been to school but her name is synonymous with women’s rights and empowerment in the country.
The 75-year-old from the Moge tribe in Hagen Central is the Western Highlands Council of Women president and has been a leader of women groups since Independence in 1975.
She does not receive a single toea for what she does. But she loves doing it.
“I have never been to school. But is has not stopped me from becoming a women’s leader.”
She believes that such leadership roles should be held by educated women but they will do it for money only.
“Younger and educated women come in to join us but they give up when they see that there is no money in it.”
Paula is a mother of five. She is a widow with more than 30 grandchildren and great grandchildren.
“I have been here since independence and I’m not yet ready to quit. I am still strong. Until and unless I have no more strength left in me to speak for the rights of women in my province and country, I will continue.”
She strongly believes, and hopes Prime Minister James Marape is listening, that there should be women representatives in Parliament.
“ I have never been to school. But it has not stopped me from becoming a women’s leader.”
“Women must be allowed to serve in Parliament. Not only men. Men can be governors but give women the chance to be deputy-governors. We can’t continue to talk about gender equality when we don’t action it.”
Paula hopes that Marape will take up the 22 reserved seat concept for women in parliament raised by his predecessor Peter O’Neill.
“I know Prime Minister James Marape is a Christian and a good leader. I know he will encourage gender equality in parliament.”
Paula is also vice-president of the National Council of Women and looks after the highlands region.
She loves fighting for women’s rights in Western Highlands and the country.
She doesn’t get paid by the Government for the work she does. But it does not stop her from being the voice of women. She has been doing it for almost half of her life.
“I can’t think of doing anything else apart from representing women because I am a leader. Even if I don’t get paid, it doesn’t bother me at all.”
Paula has been recognised twice nationally for the work she does. She was made a Member of the British Empire some years back. Recently, she was again called up to Government House to receive the Order of the Logohu medal for her service to the community through her leadership role in women welfare and development, church and culture.
Her only regret today is never getting a proper education.
But that has not dampened her enthusiasm to fight for women’s interests.
She also believes that everyone is created by God to serve a purpose on earth.
“Regardless of one’s education qualification or background, each and every one was created for a purpose.”
Hers is to serve women and fight for their rights.
The country has twice acknowledged her for that service – all done for free.