Professional PNG Women Celebrating International Women’s Day

Betty Wakia speaking during the International Women’s Day celebration at Lamana Hotel

By Betty Gabriel Wakia

Today is Tuesday, 8th of March, the International Women’s Day. The campaign theme for this year 2022 is ‘Break the Bias’, in which women imagines a world free of gender-equal from bias, stereotypes and discrimination. Many of us may not be aware, but gender biases and stereotypes are deeply rooted into our working norms and influencing our way of working, from the hiring process to daily environmental workplace interactions.

I had the opportunity to celebrate this event at the Lamana Hotel and thanks to the Independent Directors Association of Papua New Guinea which have pipe our way by supporting, inspiring and empowering Papua New Guinean women in leadership in all walks of life. Independent Directors Association of Papua New Guinea is made up of professional women in PNG. Their mission is to promote good corporate governance, improve boards of directors’ effectiveness, and provide appropriate training for directors for professional development and to have boardroom best practice so that today’s directors are prepared for tomorrow’s challenges. I was so honoured to be invited by this group of professional women to be the guest speaker at the IWD event.

Every year on March 8th, International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world and it is a global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, present and future that have worked or will work hard to achieve personal and professional goals. Acknowledging the contributions of local Papua New Guinean women is essential to achieving true equality and respect in our homes, our workplaces and throughout Papua New Guinean society.

International Women’s Day was first declared in 1909 by German women’s rights activists and Marxist theorist Clara Zetkin who put forward the idea at the International Socialist Women’s Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. When a political party of the United States celebrated 15,000 women, who protested against various issues like low wages, equal opportunities and lack of voting rights in New York City.

Originally it was called National Women’s Day and as the news spread, the annual celebration was done across the world but it was Russia who set the March 8th date. It was in 1975 that the United Nation recognized International Women’s Day and as of 1996 International Women’s Day became a theme to celebrate for women in society.

The main purpose of Women’s Day is to celebrate the achievements of women in various fields and the roles we play. Often time, PNG women usually don’t celebrate other women’s achievements. We are known for being hard on ourselves and turn to focus on bringing our own kind down. Instead of being happy for them, we feel envy.

For me, the first things that helped me embrace the goodness of other women were writing about them. I address women issues in the country, acknowledging their presence and explaining my feelings of being a women in this country in the direction of finding my voice and challenging my insecurities through writing. Writing as helped me to connect with the compassionate energy we all share.

International Women’s Day is not only time of celebration but a time when women come together in solidarity.

Good morning everyone

I feel fortunate to be addressing all the professional women here on International Women’s Day, and would like to thank the Independent Directors Association for providing me with this opportunity.

Over the past few years, women and men around the world took part in an unprecedented movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. From global marches to social media campaigns like #MeToo, women are raising their voices in unison, calling out sexual harassment, organising for unequal pay and women’s political representation.

With elections coming up, we need to be supporting candidates who understand women’s unique needs in our communities as this is a critical way to ensure women’s rights. Instead of listening to rhetoric that restricts women from participating in politics and public life, we should promote the importance of women’s leadership and inspire other women.

Women need the courage to overcome all obstacles in all areas of life to make significant progress. Supporting women and those that empower women, is essential to achieving gender equality.

I have lived in China for the past six and a half years from 2011 to 2017. What I know about Chinese women is that they are much more independent than women in PNG. The lives of women in China have changed significantly due to the late Qing Dynasty reforms, the changes of Republic, the Chinese Civil War and the rise of the People’s Republic of China.

Since then, the number of families experiencing domestic violence in China has decreased. In schools, the enrolment of female students has gone up since the reforms. But one challenges thing that every Chinese woman face this days is the discrimination at work place. Chinese women have the possibility of being forced to sign a contract prohibiting them from getting pregnant or married during their period of employment. Chinese law regulates maternity leave for courage and childbirth costs. These maternity laws have led to employer’s reluctance to hire women.

In spite of this, growing number of Chinese women have become self-made billionaires in the world, leaders in business, academia and politics. Chinese women have low participation rates as political leaders just like in PNG. At the top level of decision making as women has ever been among the nine members of the standing committee of the Communist Party. Just 3 of 27 government ministers are women and within the Chinese Communist Party women face a glass ceiling. Chinese women have gone from closed domestic spaces to national and global leaders in numerous fields of science, business and technology.

Whereas in PNG, the domestic violence has gone skyrocketed, enrolment of female students has decreased; the discrimination at work place has become intents. Despite this, the lives of women have changed tremendously in the last five years. PNG women have just broken the glass ceiling, going from mere secretaries to becoming CEOs, Directors and Managers of the country’s top Government Departments, NGOs and Companies.

Our challenge this year is to make women of the past proud, to inspire the women of present, and to be emboldened as we look to the future. PNG women have made great strides in equality, yet there is still a great deal to be achieved, and the only way we can step into ourselves is to support each other and protect those that are vulnerable and marginalised. Thank you.

Guest speaker line-up

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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