Women are Heroes
By Pauline Mago-King
Port Moresby, March 8, 2017: The path to empowerment for women in countries like Papua New Guinea (PNG) is challenging. With women being one of the most vulnerable groups and culturally portrayed as weaker, they are at high risk of violence ranging from gender-based violence (GBV) to human trafficking. Yet amidst the violence and exploitation, Papua New Guinean women are thriving thanks to one of their own, Major Ridia Newae. Women like Major Ridia are able to impart the message of empowerment to victimized women which is key in her work as the manager of Salvation Army’s safe house, Haus of Hope.
“I’d like to say thank you to all our partners because it’s been of great help to our work at the safe house. The women that come here need counselling and a transformation of the mindset… and that’s what I try to help them see,” said Major Ridia.
Having worked at the Salvation Army for almost 31 years, Major Ridia recognizes the importance of fostering the growth of women, particularly those who have endured GBV and until recently, human trafficking. With GBV being highly prevalent and human trafficking gradually being recognized in PNG, Major Ridia’s managing of safe houses like Haus of Hope has played a tremendous role in rehabilitating countless women. Women that were once helpless have left Haus of Hope with life skills and the determination for a fresh start.
“I am so happy to say that most of the women who have come through Haus of Hope are now doing things for themselves… some of them when they came in they could not support themselves but now, they are doing things like selling food at the market and that is because of our Skulim Meri, Halivim Famli (Educate Woman, Help Family) program.”
She went on to add that women who have been rescued from human trafficking are gradually rebuilding their lives as a result of their care and counselling services.
“My job also involves counselling the women and fortunately through IOM’s trainings on identifying victims of human trafficking, my team and I are able to counsel them according to their needs,” emphasized Major Ridia.
The EU’s recognition of gender equality and combatting human trafficking in PNG has not only strengthened IOM’s work but partnerships with organizations like Salvation Army have greatly contributed to the advancement of women. In a country where safe houses are scarce and women lack access to services, the EU has supported IOM in filling these gaps. This in turn has meant vulnerable women rescued from exploitative environments are able to start fresh through such support to safe houses like Salvation Army’s Haus of Hope.
While the world is in a tumultuous shift, the need for women to empower one another is more significant than ever. With passionate women like Major Ridia, there is hope for Papua New Guinean womenfolk that planet 50-50 is possible by 2030.
“I always tell my team that the transformation of our mindsets must not only happen here (Haus of Hope) – it must also happen on a societal level as well. When that happens, I will be a very happy woman.”
The support to the 'Haus of Hope' is made possible through the EU funded project which aims to strengthen prosecution efforts and protection measures in combating trafficking in persons in Papua New Guinea implemented by IOM and partners.