KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN | Supported by the Phil Fitzpatrick Writing Fellowship
WE ARE CONVINCED that the ‘pedestal’ women leaders in Papua New Guinea, who espouse demagogical rhetoric and make discriminatory speeches about the opposite sex at forums and courses for women from the highest echelons of society, are a wedge towards gender equality.
However most of them confuse gender equality with feminism. Their actions and speeches are usually and indelibly feminist and not about gender equality at all.
In any gender equality program men must be part and parcel of the program for some very obvious reasons.
Statistics tell us that men are the worst culprits when it comes to gender-based violence. Not only that, but men are currently in most positions of power at almost every level in PNG.
It seems that the United Nations Women and all the other UN entities use feminism in their approach rather than advocating gender equality.
For a start, if you visit any one of the UN offices in Port Moresby you will surely see more females employed than men. Any men there are usually only employed as drivers for the UN vehicles.
If you go to a workshop on HIV/AIDS in Thailand or Cambodia, for instance, almost all the program officers attending from across the Indian Ocean, Asia and the Pacific area are women.
This situation could lead one to believe that these programs and the gender advocates who go to them are half-baked.
Gender simply means the roles, responsibilities and relationships between men and women. Therefore gender also includes men who have sex with men, trans-genders and lesbians.
In contrast, feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic and social rights for women.
This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist is ‘an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women only’.
It was obvious that the UN Women’s advocacy for the 22 nominated seats in the PNG parliament last year was part of a feminist movement.
Other useful programs, like primary education for all girls, personal female viability and life skills and men and boys training on the right way to treat women are much more vital programs for the betterment of women than the 22 nominated seats, which will only really serve a few lucky women.
Don’t tell me that it worked in Rwanda. Rwanda has just come out of a terrible genocide. Women were totally marginalised, raped and massacred during the genocide. Now there is currently a higher population of women than men. Their constitution allows for 24 reserved seats for women because of the ugly inhuman behaviour from their menfolk.
Malawi, Uganda, South Africa and Namibia all fund a plethora of large organisations that take the advocacy programs far and wide throughout the country, consistently changing people’s behaviour.
According to a report on a blog at WordPress.com, women occupy only 89 out of 535 seats in the US Congress (16.6%). This is below the world average, below the average of North America (18.7%), and below the average for high-income OECD countries (23.4%).
Even countries in the west where many of these barriers have been alleviated, representation is still much lower. If that is the case how does UN Women and its proponents expect PNG to cope with such a concept overnight?
By the way, let’s address the false perception that women are better leaders than men. It is a populist fallacy. Not all women are good leaders, just like all men are not good leaders.
For instance, in Australia in 1996, Pauline Hanson cast aspersions on Aboriginal people, blaming them for higher-than-average crime levels, and suggesting that they had privileged access to entitlements.
She rejected outright the proposition that Aborigines were the most disadvantaged group in Australian society. Hanson delivered a broadside against special programs of all kinds for Indigenous Australians.
Her most incendiary allegation was, ‘I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians.’ She said that Asian migrants did not assimilate, formed their own ghettos and had their own religion and culture. Hanson also called for abolition of multiculturalism.
In the 2008 US presidential election, every time Hillary Clinton won primary or caucus votes Barack Obama got up there and congratulated her, but the opposite never happened. Clinton never congratulated Obama for winning the primaries or caucuses in any of the states.
Josephine Abaijah was the first woman to be elected to the PNG House of Assembly in 1972. She was re-elected in 1977 with Wariyato Clowes and Nahau Rooney and stood unsuccessfully for a third term in 1982.
Abaijah founded and led the Papua Besena Movement, which agitated unsuccessfully for Papua to become an independent country in its own right instead of being linked to New Guinea. If she had had her way Papua would have been an economic and social basket case in no time. She also absurdly expressed support for Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka’s military coup in Fiji in 1987.
Nahau Rooney was elected to Parliament in the post-independence general election of 1977. She was re-elected in 1982, becoming the only female Member of Parliament at that time, but was never subsequently returned to Parliament.
In 1977 Rooney served as Minister of Justice in Prime Minister Michael Somare’s cabinet. In 1979, during her term as minister, she wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kevin Egan, “urging intervention” in the case of politician and businessman John Kaputin being charged with failing to file company returns.
As a result, Egan had her sentenced to a nine month jail term for contempt of court. She was immediately released on license by Somare. She later served as Civil Aviation Minister.
Loujaya Toni has just dethroned a veteran politician and, according to media reports, before the excitement had settled, her pious SDA husband had knelt before senior male politicians and begged for wine and grog when the bars were closed, starting from Milne Bay to Port Moresby and up north to the Melanesian Hotel in Wopa Country.
Toni refused to talk to the journalists when she was probed about her husband’s behaviour. Why didn’t she stand her ground and tell the journalists that her husband needed counselling instead of hiding behind silence?
From this analysis, it is evident that being a male or female doesn’t make you a better leader. Individuals like Nelson Mandela, Aung San Kyi, Queen Elizabeth II, Enny Moaitz and Barack Obama are great leaders because of the principles they stand for, the decisions that they make and the actions that they take and not because of their sex.
International donors and development partners should advocate for basic primary and secondary education for all females, and males too.
In PNG large NGOs do not want to go to the Southern Highlands, Hela, Simbu, Enga, Western, Gulf and Sandaun Provinces. They prefer to sit comfortably in Port Moresby, Madang, and Lae and, if they like extend their branches to Milne Bay and East New Britain.
These are the signs and symptoms of organisations that are only half-hearted about helping our mothers, sisters and even our men in PNG and therefore they should be penalised.
In the programs get the culprits (men) to realise the benefits of having women educated and placed in strategic management positions. Ease out the blind funding organizations that step on each other’s toes in Port Moresby, Lae and Madang.
If this is done all else will unfold and soon educated and affluent women will find themselves elected to the PNG parliament on merit in droves and supported by their men folk.