IT WAS a week in which PNG Attitude reported that the seemingly impossible was happening in Papua New Guinea. The incidence of violence against women and children was increasing.
It is a “national disgrace” PNG Attitude said. And so it is. The statistics are a condemnation of the national government’s gross failure to turn the tide of brutal criminality against the most vulnerable people in society.
Then on the same day, there was some positive news.
We drew readers’ attention to the brainchild of PNG Attitude contributor, essayist Rashmii Amoah Bell, who will edit the first collection of women’s writing to ever come out of PNG.
The anthology of 150-200 pages depicting the theme, ‘My walk to equality’, will be published next year on International Women’s Day - Wednesday 8 March.
And we've called for essays, short stories, articles, poetry and illustrations to be submitted for publication and we're encouraging the many many talented women writers in PNG to participate.
For further details about the project, go to Rashmii’s introductory article here. It's already received nearly 250 Likes.
In enthusiastically learning of Rashmii’s idea, I was reminded of the first year of the Crocodile Prize national literary contest in 2011.
With close of entries looming, it seemed PNG’s women were reluctant to get involved.
So, at speed, I arranged for a special award for women’s writing to be included. Dame Carol Kidu kindly agreed to lend her name to this. The inaugural 2011 award was eventually won by poet, Lapieh Landu (left).
As it turned out, I need not have worried. PNG’s women were just about to deluge us with entries and, even as we announced the special prize, it was clear that there would be no shortage of contributions.
Not only were the women of Papua New Guinea ready to write, they were ready to write with great skill and creativity.
And so PNG readers for the first time were exposed to the names of some wonderful women writers: Marlene Dee Gray Potoura (top picture), Samantha Kusari, Rashmii Amoah Bell, Agnes Rita Maineke, Bessielah David, Betty Gabriel Wakia, Caroline Evari, Dominica Are, Doreen Bauloni, Emma Tunne Wakpi, Euralia Paine, Florence Jonduo, Hazel Kutkue, Julie Sugoho, Lapieh Landu, Diddie Kinamun Jackson, Charlotte Vada, Lorraine Basse, Martinez Wasuak, Pauline Riman, Roslyn Tony, Sandra Maineke, Tanya Zeriga-Alone and Wendy Dogura. There were many others.
In 2012, the second year of the Crocodile Prize, there were no less than five women winners: Charlotte Vada (short story); Emma Wakpi (essay); Lorraine Basse (heritage); Angeline Low (student); and Imelda Yabara (women’s).
In 2013, in which there were only three prizes on offer, Lapieh Landu won again, this time for poetry. And in 2014, Agnes Maineke (short story), Iriani Wanma (children, left) and Diddie Kinamun Jackson (poetry) were successful.
And last year, Hazel Kutkue (short story and young writers, two awards) and Joycelin Leahy (children) were winners.
With 13 women winning top awards in the five years of the Crocodile Prize so far, there has been no gender imbalance in PNG’s top literary contest.
And now Rashmii Amoah Bell’s wonderful idea of a collection of words, ideas and experiences from the women of Papua New Guinea will emphasise for people all over the world the strength, resilience, beauty and creativity of PNG's women.
In many ways, they are the saving grace of modern Papua New Guinea. This book will be a great tribute to them.