International Women’s Day 2017

March 8 is International Women’s Day… a day marked across the world that aims to celebrate, empower and lift up women from all walks of life. The IWD 2017 theme is Be Bold For Change. The theme urges each one of us – women, men and non-binary people – to step up and be leaders within our spheres of influence by taking bold pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.

Here at KTF, International Women’s Day can often be a day where we look around with great despair. When women comprise just 2.7% of the National Parliament, 1 in 19 women die in childbirth, and 70%+ of PNG women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, we have to ask ourselves how on earth will we affect the change that is required to gain gender equity in PNG.

But we know that challenges as great as these require an even greater response. A response from PNG women, and women who care about PNG women, that says that we will not accept the current state of play. Our women’s lives and futures are as valuable as our men’s and their voices must be heard at every table where there currently sits a man.

We are passionate about empowering women and giving them opportunities to access equitable education, primary healthcare, maternal and child healthcare, and income generating opportunities. And the women we are working with are BOLD. They are changemakers and they are poised for success.

From the women we train and engage as teachers and health workers in the remote and rural schools and aid posts along the Track, to the women who we support to establish solar shops from which they can earn a living, to the women who come with us on a journey of leadership development via our Archer leadership program… we are working with some PNG’s brightest and boldest women, who are committed to serious societal change under their influence.

2014 Archer graduate, Stephannie Kirriwom, joined KTF’s board of directors in 2016 – our first female, PNG director and she has recently taken up the Chairperson role of our two PNG companies – KTF PNG Limited and Partnering PNG Limited. In her spare time, she works as a lawyer for leading law firm, Dentons in Port Moresby, and runs a surf tourism social enterprise in Madang!

Another Archer graduate, Tess Gizoria, established UniMums, an NGO that provides psycho-social support for the wellbeing of young mothers and pregnant women who are attending secondary or tertiary institutions across PNG. Her NGO is having a remarkable impact on the lives of these women, their children, and their families and sends the strong message that they can complete their studies and love and raise their children. Women hold up half the sky!

80% of our graduates from Teach for Tomorrow (Bougainville) were women! These teachers have been working as volunteers in remote schools across the Autonomous Region of Bougainville for up to twenty years, waiting for the opportunity to complete their training. In December 2016, 135 female teachers graduated with their Certificates of Elementary Teaching and are now eligible for Government payroll positions in elementary schools across the region. These women hold up 80% of the sky!

We have countless more stories we could tell about the Stephannie’s and Tess’ and Momovi’s and Petra’s and Sebangaz’s and Caroline’s of PNG. Our women are the boldest changemakers we know and it is only when we engage them wholly that we will make progress toward gender equity in PNG.