My Walk to Equality, edited by Rashmii Amoah Bell, Pukpuk Publications, 278 pages. Paperback $US10.53 or Kindle $US1.00. ISBN-10: 1542429242. ISBN-13: 978-1542429245. Available here from Amazon through Pukpuk Publications
MY Walk to Equality, a first ever collection of women’s writing from Papua New Guinea edited by Rashmii Amoah Bell, is outstanding. It is inspiring, engaging, groundbreaking and important.
Given an excerpt of 80 pages to review, accounting for 14 of the more than 80 pieces in the book, I am impressed.
Through these excerpts we can smell the village fires, be astonished at the intuitiveness of these women and gasp at the ease with which they can flit between western ideology and village traditions, comfortable in both societies - yet we can also feel their patriotism and need to be valued.
This journey is explored through four key themes - relationships, self- awareness, challenging gender roles and legacy.
The courageous women who collaborated to share these diverse personal accounts open their hearts, painting vivid pictures. The content is sensitive, constructive and offers more than the title suggests. Their stories reflect an era of change whilst retaining their cultural identity.
Emma Wakpi writes with passion about her family and her country, taking the reader on powerful journeys from traditional cultural life to contemporary Papua New Guinea.
Drum beat by Vanessa Gordon pulses through the reader- the crescendo of drumbeat echoing the explosion of voices wanting, collaborating, to be heard and acknowledged.
Leila Parina's A Paradigm Shift reflects an extraordinarily mature outlook. It is a contemporary and profound take on conciliation, traversing custom and modernity.
PNG, a country of 800 languages, speaks with a common voice and a clear message. Traditional excuses for violence against women can no longer be tolerated and the tenuous thread which persists needs cutting - its place now in literary history.
As Elvina Ogil writes in her foreword: “The path to equality isn't an isolated, single issue journey but one which traverses how we behave in our villages, our homes, in our work place and even in our larger institutions. It begins with 'a conscious effort to raise our daughters with an unwavering belief that they can do anything.”
Change happens everywhere, all of the time. Papua New Guineans’ cultural beliefs and tradition are longstanding, important to PNG society and, in the main, deserving of our respect.
All countries, Australia included, still have trailing intergenerational differences where daughters can remain unheard.
Blending old with new in a fast paced world is challenging but small changes in our views can sometimes make great differences, ensuring a more hopeful and progressive future.
PNG women need to feel safe, with boys and girls being encouraged to grow up respecting each other. With enormous scope for collaboration the spin- offs are endless. Engaging male champions on this issue is a priority.
Congratulations to Australians with a PNG heart - Phil Fitzpatrick and Keith Jackson who have walked with these women. The issue is now to find more Papua New Guineans, both men and women, to share and support these endeavours, both individual and national.
This book is a significant contribution to PNG progress and history. Tanya Zeriga-Alone writes in her foreword: “Our children will not have an understanding of their culture like we do. And the generations thereafter will eventually lose that knowledge.”
The book includes the occasional un-interpreted saying in Tok Pisin, something that we, who grew up in PNG, are want to do, but which may raise an occasional eyebrow from those not familiar with the language.
It is an easy, enjoyable read. If the rest of the book is of this calibre, it is a masterpiece.
Editor Rashmii Bell and every person who has contributed to this collection deserve congratulations.
Andrea Williams is president of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia. Andrea and her family have a long association with PNG