Photo: Part of the crowd of hundreds who turned up to hear the women spread the messages of health awareness and violence against women.
It was about midday on a Sunday, just after church service, when members of the Emmanuel Nazarene Church Women’s Ministry in Kudjip started loading a fifteen seater Toyota High Ace bus that would take them to Bunun Wou, a village in the Banz District of Jiwaka province. This was to be the location of the groups’ next combined health and gender violence awareness program scheduled for that afternoon.
This was a shorter and much more relaxing ride than the previous trip that took them on a long, rough journey over unsealed, rugged, bumpy roads to the remote Singiropa community located in the Lower Jimi District of Jiwaka province that also borders the Madang province.
There they delivered health awareness and provided a much needed solar panel and light to the Singiropa Aid Post to assist with safe childbirth, a well-known challenge throughout remote rural areas in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
In fact, the women had also visited and presented solar lights to three other health centres in the Minj and Anglimp Districts of Jiwaka and Dei Council in Western Highlands province over a two-month period. This trip was going to be their fifth outreach.
“The women realise and see the need and are passionate and committed to make these trips. However, funding for logistics and items for presentation was our major challenge. We are grateful that through Gorithie Tai, we were able to receive funding support from Oil Search Foundation (Foundation) to help us reach all these remote communities. Thank you,” said Elizabeth Kii, a primary school teacher and Head of the Women’s Ministry, as she got herself ready to get onto the bus.
The Emmanuel Church Women’s Ministry comprises of professional women in the health and education sector living within the Nazarene Mission Station in Kudjip.
The majority of the women work for the Nazarene Health Ministry, which manages
the Kudjip Hospital and Nursing college.
In 2017, the ladies decided to do five outreach activities to remote areas in Jiwaka province providing health education and basic health care. The women mobilised support from the Nazareen Church, Nursing College and Hospital and started raising funds for their mission. But by September 2017, they had raised only K600.
As a member of the Women’s Ministry, Gorithie Tai, a long-time employee of Oil Search, seeing the importance and benefits, applied for funding from the Oil Search Foundation’s Small Grants program to support the women’s initiative.
The program provides eligible Oil Search employees a small grant between one thousand to five thousand kina to support initiatives that extend the Foundation’s work on preventing gender base and family violence and improving women’s protection and empowerment in their communities.
“Our Small Grants Program is part of our broader Champions of Change strategy which seeks to enable the company’s multi-skilled and talented workforce to identify local solutions to challenges in their communities and equip them with tools to become agents of positive change,” said Serena Sasingian, Head of Expansions Program at the Foundation.
Gorithie successfully secured K5,000 from the Small Grants. This was Gorithie’s second time to be a recipient from the Program.
Her first award went into advocating to eliminate violence against women through the local Kuma Cowboys rugby league team in Kudjip. The impact of that successful campaign is evident at the local market today.
Success of the previous small grant funded activity had such a big impact, it set a benchmark for Gorithie. However, this time around, the funding assistance would support an activity with a greater reach stretching far beyond her community.
The thought of this put a sparkle in her eyes as the women arrived at Bunun Wou. On arriving, announcements could be heard from a village pastor and leader calling people together, asking them to find sitting places and prepare to receive very important messages from the women.
Within thirty minutes, the crowd had built up to over four hundred people. This got the women excited and signalled the start to the awareness.
Following welcoming remarks and introductions, the women went straight into their speaking points.
Starting on the importance of family planning and antenatal clinics, various women took turns to speak on topics which included cancer of the cervix, HIV prevention, child abuse and violence against women and girls.
Participation of the audience in games, skits and question and answer sessions made the program all the more engaging and informative.
As the sun slowly set on the gathering it was evident from the way the crowd engaged that the important information relating to health and social issues had been relayed.
As farewells and best wishes were exchanged, you could see those feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment on the faces of the women as they boarded the bus for the return leg to their homes and their waiting families.
The real impact of such outreach programs from the women’s group will be realised over the next few years but one thing is for certain, that with strong leadership from the women in the community and people like Gorithie with support from her employer, lots can be done to help address social and health issues in the community.
In 2017, eighteen Small Grants were awarded to Oil Search employees from nine provinces, creating a ripple effect that would transcend the company’s project impact areas, touching and changing the lives of Papua New Guineans.