“MUM, this is not fair!” I hissed angrily. I was 10 and had been relegated to the kitchen to do the dishes, while my older brothers laughed and played.
I was vocal in my fight for cleaning equality in the household. I didn’t win that day, but fought a good fight. I also wrote furiously and angrily into my diary, my escape as a 10 year old.
In Kairuku, Central Province the head of the family is the oldest male. In Milne Bay, the head of the family is the female. I am the youngest out of my parent’s children. I am boss meri when I am in Milne Bay and in Kairuku I take a backseat.
Despite the general view in PNG that women are the lesser sex, and despite my fights with my brothers about cleaning inequality, my parents gave me the same opportunities to be educated as my older brothers and every opportunity when growing up to participate in training to achieve my study and personal goals.
For that, I am eternally grateful to my parents.
It has shaped me and how I view myself, the world, fairness and equality in a country that does not always give equal voice and equal opportunities to males and females.
For me, that was critical growing up and even now. I was and am treated as an equal to my older brothers. My brothers are physically stronger but we do have frank discussions and can each share our opinions. Even though opinion sharing can and does get heated as we disagree!
Conflict, disagreements and discussion is critical to progress. The point is, we are not afraid to speak. As a female in a country where domestic violence against women is high and likened to the domestic violence rates in war torn countries, I have a voice.
My Mum drilled into me at a young age – study, open up your opportunities, the world is your oyster. Take the opportunity to study abroad while you have it.
“Yes it is tough going to boarding school at 13 years of age, but this will hold you in good stead for years to come,” she said to me in a stern voice while I looked at her with eyes brimming with tears.
I was heartbroken at the time and desperately wanted to be in the comfort of my childhood room at my Stage 2, Gerehu house.
“This is all about character building,” Dad said to me.
I cried and cried, but when I think back now, I am grateful for the opportunity to gain the same quality education as my brothers, the support and love which has been important in my road to being on an even playing field as my brothers, where in my household, my opinion is heard.
My opinion is valued. I am equal.
Roxanne Aila says she is “a proud Milne Bay and Kairuku woman”. She was born in Port Moresby and works as a brand manager in Brisbane, Queensland. She loves travel, yoga, the beach and spending time with her family.