By HELEN TARAWA
I T took village court magistrate Shirleyanne Sakaiya Sadoka four years to be able to travel from Alotau to Port Moresby to receive the meritorious community service medal she was awarded for her services to the people.
The 47-year-old mother-of-five, from Haibala village in the Wavili ward of the Huhu Local Level Government in Alotau, simply could not afford the airfare to come to the capital city after hearing about her award in 2017.
Only recently did two kind gentlemen – Huhu LLG president Lelena Metuwo and area manager Mazella Lopi – pay for her trip to receive her medal at Government House on July 16.
She is staying with relatives in Port Moresby while waiting for someone to pay for her airfare back to Alotau.
“This award will encourage me to help more people and be a role model. For simple village people, you do not have to work in an office to be recognised. It is your hard work in the community that counts.”
Husband Leo Sadoka also served as a village court magistrate in the Gwavili ward. But due to lack of funding, he had to stay at home and help his wife. Their eldest son is now 27 and the youngest is seven.
“My job often requires me to leave home, but my husband Leo is understanding as he was also a village magistrate.”
Her father Champion Sakaiya had worked for the PNG Electricity Commission (now PNG Power) training center. Her late mother was a secretary as the Alotau Hospital. She died in 2013.
Shirleyanne attended the Hohola Sacred Heart Primary School from 1981 to 1986 before spending a year at Marianville High. She completed her education at the Hagita High School in 1990.
In 1991, she joined the Goroka School of Nursing in 1991 but left after a protest. Back home in Alotau, she involved herself in HIV-Aids counselling.
“The village courts at that time were made up of only elderly people. I was taken on board to assist with counselling in the village courts. Eventually I joined and became a permanent magistrate in 2009.”
She was not only the only woman among the seven magistrates and peace officers but also the youngest. Part of her work involved marriage counselling, land mediation and resolving sorcery-related cases. She is also assisting the Queensland University of Technology on researches into sorcery and witchcraft cases.
“Because there are many land disputes, witchcraft sets in and the result is the fight over land. In one week, I can cover up to five mediations.
“While conducting a mediation process at a village, I will be told that there is another case in another village. So I have to conclude that case and travel to the next case.”
The biggest difficulty was transport. She often walks long distances to conduct her duties in the nine wards.
“Because the cases involved customary land, we resolved most of them in the village. Only a few are referred to the district court or higher courts.”
She had to deal with many domestic violence cases and school disciplinary issues on smoking, dressing and general behavior.
“I am empowered to do more because I do a lot of work for women and it’s something for them to look forward to.”
She urges women not to sit back and let men do everything.
“There are people who need our assistance and we must be willing to rise up and meet those needs.”
By HELEN TARAWA