Men Champion Change



By Amanda Anderson

Fourteen men gathered one afternoon to talk about a problem close to their hearts and discuss solutions to a shared challenge. These men were a diverse group, representing businessmen and public servants, community leaders, sports stars and young men just starting their careers. They participated openly as equals, coming together as fathers, sons, brothers, community members, neighbours and employers all seeking a safe home, community and nation for women and girls.

Every man at the table had a story to tell. Most had suffered or witnessed violence as a child and understood the fear, pain and injury this can cause. Each man, in his own way has rejected gender-based violence as the “normal” way of life and made a conscious decision to ensure the strength and value of all Papua New Guinean women is nurtured with love and respect.

Internal Revenue Commissioner Alois Daton shared with the group that he is a male champion to end violence because the only solution to this problem is for men to work with men. As both a leader and an active advocate he stood proudly in his Internal Revenue Commission uniform which read “Treat Her Right” while pointing out the female version reads “I Am Equal”.

Male champion Eddie Aila noted that too often men lack the confidence to accept responsibility for their actions. He recounted the moment when he realised he had the power within himself to end his own violent behaviour and accept responsibility for his actions. He feels all men can change, and there is an essential role that other men can play to help. He felt so strongly he founded Warrior Culture, a local program which supports men in overcoming violent behaviour and personal challenges charting a path for change.

A small group of confident and passionate young men who work for UN Women’s Sanap Wantaim, Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) were amongst the group. As strong advocates for women and girls they shared insightful stories from work in rural and settlement communities and recounted lessons learned through listening to men. They also spoke enthusiastically of creating a “new normal” for PNG, with the firm belief that working with youth is essential.

One such youth program is the 3R’s or Rights, Respect and Resilience which focusses on behaviour change in youths and respect for oneself and others. This is implemented in secondary schools and is supported by the Australian Government. As Christopher Kageni from Sanap Wantaim quipped, “you must bend the tree while it is young before it grows too strong in its roots”.

Broncos player Corey Parker also attended the forum and encouraged the men by emphasising, “as a sportsman I do not respect men who do not respect women. We all have our part to play and no part is too small”.

Corey Parker visited Port Moresby to join the Elimination of Violence Against Women walk where nearly 2,000 people walked peacefully through the city to express their support. This walk was organised by Oil Search Foundation and Bel isi PNG.

Bel isi PNG is a new public-private partnership to address family and sexual violence thorough not only the provision of essential services for survivors of violence, but also through a platform for the men and women to lead change.

While we often find problems at every corner, problems which may feel like impossible obstacles, these men are focussed on solutions and positive change for their communities. And the brightest news is they are not alone and are looking to encourage and join forces with other male champions and advocates. Are you ready to be part of their journey?