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18 July 2018

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Some anthropologists have written seriously about the role of women in traditional PNG Highlands society.

For example Polly Wiessner, 'From inside the Women’s House: The lives and traditions of Enga Women' (1992) and Marilyn Strathern, 'Women in Between' (1972).

If I remember correctly both of these authors saw the women in Enga and Hagen as having more influence that was at first obvious.

That having been said, it is perhaps fair to say that the best account of the role of women in current highlands or coastal society will be written by PNG women themselves.

In addition, while PNG cultures are unique in so many ways, one can always learn by comparing with other cultures, especially other folk cultures.

Reminds me of my widowed aunt who has no education, no material wealth and no sons but is highly respected because she has a good understanding on tribal issues and is always the first person to tie a pig at the stake.

However, she is not infallible and her weaknesses are shrugged off as what should be expected of someone of her stature (i.e a silly old widow).

All in all, she gets the best of everything with her virtue remaining intact! On the other hand, the men have to tough it out! Phew!

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