By GYNNIE KERO
BORN in Urip village in the Boikin/ Dagua local-level government area of East Sepik in 1962, Veronica Simogun is a Papua New Guinean activist on women’s rights.
She is the daughter of the late Sir Pita Simogun (1900-1987), a former soldier, politician and community leader.
Sir Pita served as a sergeant during WWII.
He was the only Papua New Guinean to serve on all four legislative councils between 1951 and 1963. Elected to the first house of assembly (1964-68) for the Wewak-Aitape electorate, Sir Pita was an influential member and under-secretary for police.
His daughter, Veronica, has a certificate in civil aviation after attending the Civil Aviation Training College.
She worked for six years in civil aviation before returning to her home at Urip.
In her village, Veronica worked to improve the community.
She campaigned for women’s rights in response to the high levels of family violence that she was seeing in her community.
Veronica founded the Family for Change, an organisation which has supported over 6000 victims of gender-based violence and aims to overturn the cultural norms that negatively impact women.
Last year, she was given an International Women of Courage award.
Veronica has taken a courageous stance in rescuing and caring for vulnerable women and children in the face of violence and verbal intimidation.
Because of her work to protect victims from abusive partners and relatives and to find safe homes for them, she has become a hero to thousands in her community.
The organisation has also repatriated or safely reintegrated more than 60 survivors of domestic violence, providing solutions in a society where there are few options for women who choose to leave abusive relationships.
On Tuesday, the Queen recognised Veronica as the 14th Commonwealth Point of Light in honour of her work.
In the lead-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London on April 19-20, the Queen is thanking inspirational volunteers across the 52 member nations for the difference they are making in their communities and beyond.
Each Commonwealth Point of Light will receive a personalised certificate signed by the Queen.
Veronica’s award was presented by Simon Burton, the British deputy high commissioner in Papua New Guinea.
“This is a great privilege and an honour for me to receive this award. I would like to thank the British High Commission and the Queen for the award,” Veronica said.
Burton said: “I am delighted to be able to present this award to Veronica. It’s recognition for the great work she has done to establish Family for Change. Veronica has established a strong team in Papua New guinea, supporting over 6000 victims of gender-based violence. “She is also working with schools to increase literacy levels among women.
“The support Veronica offers has touched the lives of so many and having spoken to people she has helped, and members of the community supports, I know she is a very worthy recipient of this award.”
The Commonwealth is a diverse community of 52 nations that work together to promote prosperity, democracy and peace. The heads of government meeting will bring together leaders from all the 52 member countries to reaffirm common values, address shared global challenges and agree on how to create a better future for all citizens, especially young people. Voluntary service is a vital part of this agenda, which is why the Queen has chosen to recognise outstanding volunteers across the Commonwealth in this special way.
The Points of Light awards recognise outstanding volunteers every day of the week – people whose service is making a difference in their communities and whose story can inspire others to creative innovative solutions to social challenges in their own communities and beyond.
By GYNNIE KERO