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10 January 2017


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I sometimes wonder how PNG women would be treated today if PNG did not gain independence in 1975 and if Dame Josephine Abaijah continued to be a member of parliament just like Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare or Sir Julius Chan.

Abaijah was a strong supporter of woman’s rights.

In 1974, Dame Josephine Abaijah led one of the most fearful and destructive strikes ever when she led thousands of women on the streets of Port Moresby and destroyed Konedobu, the seat of power.

She was disappointed when the newspapers and radio stations did not report anything about a woman’s protest meeting at Hohola, where women complained of low wages, poor conditions of their suburbs and the large amounts of money spent by politicians on overseas trips.

In her book ‘A Thousand Coloured Dreams’. Abaijah describes the march:

‘I spoke to the women over an address system and told them what we were about. When I called for their approval there were deafening roars of NAMO (good).

'The speeches over, we moved off together on a seven kilometre march, first along a cut in the brown cliff face, then onto white Ela Beach and to the centre of the town.

'I had always admired the courage of our village woman but never more than now, not only because they were on the march for the first time, but also because I was with them and my identity as a woman was reinforced…

‘Eventually, the long procession of shouting and banner waving women reached the main streets of the town. There we stopped traffic, business and everything else as the business fraternity and shoppers rubbed their eyes in the bright sun and gazed in amazement as we marched through the town.

'Half an hour later we arrived at the main government offices at Konedobu, by the shores of the Fairfax Harbour, where the British fleet seized Papua and promised us protection of our women and our land.

‘Now Papuan women were marching for their own rights for the first time. We had to put on a good show. We were emerging from a soul-destroying colonial experience and I felt that the spirit of Papua was on the march.

‘For the next two hours thousands of our women made their presence felt in a manner never seen before, and which some officials hoped they would not see again.

'Buildings were besieged, windows smashed, police threatened, offices invaded, drapes and fittings destroyed, an airport invaded, doors broken, women arrested and police harassed.

'There were scenes of pathos, anarchy, and moral courage as our women asserted themselves for the first time. And the forgotten hall of society made their presences felt in the restless search for a portion of pride and self-respect.’

Dame Josephine Abaijah said the women marched not only for the reasons expressed at the Hohola meeting but for woman’s rights, in a society controlled by men.

Although women have advanced fast in the last 42 years since that protest march of 1974 - and have penetrated deep into realms where men were dominant and in control, some men I believe will still learn to accept woman as their other half. This is particularly so in settlements and rural areas of PNG.

We have a long way to go in PNG to deal with the shameful act of violence against our women and girls. We also need to keep in mind that this is a worldwide problem although every society dresses it differently. There is a reason why Mrs. Clinton didn't win. Some liberated women and many men didn't vote for her.

Sounds great. How can I buy 10 copies?

The Kindle version is available from Amazon Books now. We'll let you know when the hard copy version is available. Probably in a few days at a cost of about $20 Australian - KJ

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