It is easy to see their plight.
Frequent tribal conflicts erupting in many parts of the province have dislodged families from their homes and robbed them of their livelihoods with the most vulnerable – women and children – seriously affected.
Throughout Hela the cry for peace has been growing.
Following the successful women’s leadership summit held in Goroka in 2017, Hela women requested Oil Search Foundation (OSF) support a forum where they can lead the dialogue around addressing violence.
The two-day workshop, attended by 24 women leaders drawn from Hela’s Tari-Pori, Koroba-Lake Kopiago and Komo-Margarima districts and representatives of the Hela administration, was encouraging and revealing.
The leaders agreed that:
- Economic development and employment opportunities are critical to achieve change;
- Working with young men is necessary to stop the violence;
- Family and sexual violence is common and increasing;
- School-age children are missing out on formal education and getting access to decent health services is very hard;
- The presence of security forces was only temporary, and a more permanent mechanism needed to be set in place;
- A community approach is needed for collective action to tackle violence, education and economic empowerment; and
It was further agreed that a Hela-wide Women Leader’s Conference be held in 2019 and that five-year plans of action against violence should be drawn for each of the three Hela districts.
The women were also introduced to citizens’ rights and responsibilities as contained in Papua New Guinea’s Constitution and leadership characteristics and responsibilities.
Workshop facilitator Iva Kola said: “I was delighted to see these local women leaders take ownership of their issues in Hela and develop their vision a five-year plan for the three districts.”
Participant and leader Janet Koriama said their fear is that there will be ongoing killings and violence because most deaths resulting out of tribal fights have not been compensated.
“Women and children are mostly and will be affected by tribal warfare. There aren’t any proper court hearings, Correctional Institutional Services (CIS) camps are not functioning, police are not arresting any perpetrators of rape and family and sexual violence.
“We would like by-laws developed to address these practices and have it passed as a Provincial Hela law to influence the attitude and behaviours that can provoke tribal war fares.”
OSF has agreed to work with women in Hela to further develop and implement a plan of action.
(Participants of the first Hela Women Leaders’ summit with their certificates)