Women empowered

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday, 27th May 2011

AFTER 15 years of the Moran oil project existence in Southern Highlands not much has changed in the lives of Homa Paua villagers, the resources owners.
The status of women remains very low. A polygamous society, most of their husbands are either living in Port Moresby or elsewhere with new wives. Many women are left to look after their children without any support from their husbands.
Julie Hale, a young woman from the area whose dreams to transform the lives of women will soon become a reality.
Ms Hale is the chairperson of the Moran NGO Women Group. The group recently was a recipient of international donor funding and will this month provide money to Community Development Initiatives (CDI) Foundation to support the development aspirations of their women.
The project will involve women empowerment programmes, agriculture promotion and facilitation of life skills training for its 1,000 women members.
A resource centre will also be built for sewing and other training courses to be carried out by non government organisations and service providers. 
“The impact of oil discovery is yet to be experienced by the majority of our women,” Ms Hale said.
“Hardly have we benefited from all the royalties since 1996 when Moran oil was first commercialised,” she said.
Ms Hale and her eight women directors have big dreams for their women and believe that successful community partnerships are essential for sustainable projects.
It’s for this reason Ms Hale invited NGOs World Wildlife Fund, CDI Foundation Moro and Bank South Pacific staff to come together for the first time for a pig killing ceremony on 14 May and witness her public announcement of this life changing project.
Many women who were present at the ceremony voiced their overwhelming support for this project and aired their frustration about lost opportunities, though Moran oil project which was on their land and had produced millions for so called landowner associations and the National Government.
The women blamed male leaders for failed promises and projects over the years. They said many landowner fathers and husbands spend their oil derived money on booze, pokies and women in Port Moresby.
“Instead of investing in projects that empower women with information, knowledge and skills so families can become self reliant at home, women here are still waiting for cash hand outs.” said the NGO rep, Augustine Rilipu, who challenged men at the ceremony to work with their wives and mothers to make up for those lost years.
Rilipu said the lack of economic opportunities for Homa Paua women in terms of agriculture and life skills are elevating the poverty level thus affecting the children and youths.
“In this modern time, life is very difficult for our poor women. With all the money obtained by our leaders, one may think our community would be better off but as we see today our mothers still can’t afford education for our children.” Ms Hale said in local Hela language.
“Poverty is robbing them of their dignity, their potential, and in some cases, their very lives,” she said.
The agriculture and life skills project is a milestone for Homa Paua area because for the first time a local women group is able to fund a community development organisation to implement life skills activities for its members. 
The typical scenario at Homa Paua is that many young girls do not complete school and get married off to landowner sugar daddies while young boys roam around aimlessly with guns or get involved with drugs. 
Homa Paua villages are often a no-go-zone for the operator and PNGLNG gas contractor vehicles. Regular police escorts are required for company vehicles due to continuous warfare fuelled by their own leaders fighting over leadership positions or pay-back tribal fights.
A woman’s face remains the picture of poverty in Homa Paua.
But Ms Hale is confident that with such a large project being undertaken by Moran NGO Women Group and its partner organisations things will slowly but surely change for the better for women.
Ms Hale believes a change of attitude by the current Homa Paua leaders and total support of this project can forever change the face of Moran women.
The future is now for them.