Women’s Human Rights Defender visits Suva, Fiji

Date: Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In the lead up to International Women’s Day, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Centre, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) co-hosted a presentation by Women’s Human Rights Defender, Lilly Be’Soer, of Papua New Guinea to highlight her experience at the 56th Annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and her work with rural communities as a peace mediator.

Ms Be’Soer was invited by UN Women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, to participate as a guest speaker in an interactive dialogue, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), UN Women and World Food Programme (WFP) during the CSW in New York. Her presentation on leveraging rural women’s leadership and agency was particularly relevant to this year’s theme of empowering rural women.

Upon her return to the Pacific, Ms Be’Soer visited Suva to share her experience and highlight her work in Jiwaka Province in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Ms Be’Soer is a women’s rights activist and advocate working for the political, economic and social empowerment of women. She is currently the General Secretary of the Highlands Regional Human Rights Defenders Network and is connected with the Pacific Network of Women Working Against Violence Against Women.

Ms Be’Soer has dedicated countless hours and energy to assist hundreds of women who are struggling from poverty, violence against women and a lack of access to social and protection services.

With the help of colleagues and networks, Ms Be’Soer recently took a lead role in facilitating a peace mediation among parties in conflict in past and present internal tribal conflicts. As a result of her courage and determination, in January 2012 Ms Be’Soer was successful in coordinating a reconciliation to resettle approximately 500 internally displaced people (IDPs).

According to the Human Development Report 2011, Papua New Guinea is among the countries with lowest ranks on indicators in advancing gender equality and elimination of violence against women, including the adolescent fertility rate, maternal mortality ratio, gender inequality index, labor force participation rate and ration of females-males in parliament. The Australian Agency for International Development, 2008, reports that educational enrolment rates for girls relative to boys are among the lowest in Pacific Island Countries.

Furthermore, Amnesty International, 2010, states that women in Papua New Guinea experience several forms of violence, including polygamy, early marriage, bride price payments, gang rape, payback rape, sorcery accusations and killings, and a rise in HIV and AIDS.

Following her presentation, there was an opportunity for questions and discussion, facilitated by UN Women’s Chief Technical Adviser, Ms Elizabeth Cox.