This week, Papua New Guinea’s only female parliamentarian, Dame Carol Kidu, lost her portfolio after the dramatic overthrow of the Somare-Abal government. In 2007 Islands Business magazine declared her to be its Person of the Year and, to mark the occasion, she was interviewed by SAMISONI PARETI. To honour Dame Carol Kidu’s career as a highly effective minister, we republish extracts ….
HANDBAG BY HER SIDE and wiping her thin-framed glasses, Dame Carol Kidu is one of the world’s hopelessly-armed fighters.
To begin with, there is no army for her to lead, nor a financier with deep pockets to fund her cause. Her armoury of weapons is non-existent. And she’s white, and a woman.
Yet within this seeming paradox, lies the widow’s strength. For Kidu fights a different fight, one that doesn’t require guns and ammunition, or in the context of the country of her late husband and their children, bows and arrows.
There are no arms, just her strong debate skills. No war manoeuvring, just sharp intellect and a strong sense of justice and fair play.
For that fighting spirit, her never-say-die attitude, her sheer grit and determination to take on the might of Melanesia’s largest and most vibrant male-dominated society, for being the face and voice of the poor and the down-trodden, Kidu is the magazine’s unanimous choice for the 2007 Pacific Person of the Year.
For a woman of her stature, her work in social development is of gigantic proportion.
In the context of the islands of the Pacific, the problems in Papua New Guinea are immense and complex. It can even be deadly inside the sprawling shanty towns of Port Moresby or the remote corners of the Highlands. Yet, size it seems doesn’t matter to Dame Carol Kidu.
Slowly and determinedly, she is making a difference. And she is getting people including the male leaders of PNG to sit up and listen. Her community development ministry is now reclassified as a senior ministry….
Being the sole woman parliamentarian, the only woman cabinet minister and being white, Dame Carol Kidu makes no bone about where her allegiance and interest lies; fighting for the poor, the down-trodden and the unfortunate of a country she and her children have come to call their very own.
Thrust into national politics of Papua New Guinea following the sudden death of her husband in 1993, just six months after his term as chief justice was unfairly terminated, Kidu is synonymous with the fight against domestic violence, child abuse, HIV and AIDS, poverty alleviation and community empowerment in the country of her late husband and their children.
As the minister for social welfare and community development, Kidu has been the small ‘general’ leading from the front….
Nobody, least of all Kidu, needs reminding of the enormity of the task and the challenge.
For her, the fairy-tale [began] when the young, handsome Buri Kidu swept her off her feet with a rendition of the popular Neil Sedaka number, Oh Carol, at a school boot camp on Australia’s Gold Coast in the mid-1960s.
Later, when the idea of matrimony was raised in 1969, Buri laid everything bare about the difficult road with his Brisbane-born bride.
“Buri said, ‘Look, just understand one thing, if we marry, don’t ever ask me to choose,” Lady Kidu recalled in an interview she gave ABC TV’s Australian Story in 2004.
“And I said, ‘What do you mean?
“He said, ‘Don’t ask me to choose between you and my people. I’ll choose my people, I will not choose you.”