Women and girls in rural Jiwaka, Papua New Guinea are being devalued and abused. Non-profit organization Voice for Change seeks to eradicate these gender-based injustices.
This NGO, with the help of local communities and law enforcement, aims to create safe spaces for girls and women in the Jiwaka Province by building community networks that empower women.
The group’s journey began in 1996 as a voluntary Rural Women’s Development Initiative with the goal of allowing women to discuss their issues and find solutions to overcome them. In 2004, the group was registered as a formal organization and in 2010 it became Voice for Change.
Leader of the organization Lilly Be’Soer started the initiative after being deserted by her husband and left to care for her six children alone. In an interview with Stop Sorcery Violence, Be’Soer says “It’s about time that people have to speak up for what is not right.”
From the Jiwaka-based office, Voice for Change runs various mentorship programs that provide women and girls with the skills necessary to overcome the challenges they face. These programs inform the women about relevant topics such as economic empowerment, gender-based violence response and prevention, peace and security, and leadership.
The organization also conducts surveys within the community to expose the extent of violence and gender discrimination in the area. A survey conducted in 2013 identified domestic abuse as the most common form of gender-based violence in the Jiwaka Province. According to the survey, the top three most common forms of domestic violence were wife-beating, rape, and sorcery-related violence.
The 2013 survey also reported that very few women take their grievances to law enforcement, and of those few cases, strong biases against the women are shown in the court proceedings. The participants of the survey expressed their concern, stating that this lack of legal aid creates feelings of helplessness and exclusion.
These women and girls believe that there is no justice for them in their community, and Voice for Change has been working to alleviate those feelings. In a geographical area where it’s generally accepted that men have power over women, Voice for Change provides hope.
Voice for Change suggests various ways to eradicate this gender-based violence including improving access and affordability to safe housing, health care, and legal support for women. They also encourage having conversations with the men and boys of Jiwaka who want to change their violent attitudes and urge everyone to collaborate with other organizations that care about decreasing violence and increasing education for women.
If you want to help support Voice for Change in their mission to empower rural women, you can donate to the organization here.
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