About UN Women PNG

Photo: UN Women PNG
Photo: UN Women PNG

Papua New Guinea is classified as a lower middle-income country with a gross national per capita income of USD 2,386 in 2021. The country’s population stands at 8.8 million, with 49 percent women. The prevalence of income poverty is at 28 percent, with almost 90 percent of those affected residing in rural areas. Rural women, children and people living with disabilities are the most vulnerable to intersectional and intergenerational poverty, insecurity, and violence.

The Progress towards gender equality in PNG is slow, with the country ranking 160th out of 161 countries on the Gender Inequality Index produced by the UN Development Programme (UNDP). While the 2021 Global Gender Gap Index ranked Papua New Guinea at 135 out of 156 countries.

The Government of Papua New Guinea has made progress in developing policies that promote and protect women’s rights. For instance, the National Policy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment 2010-2015 recognizes the importance of women’s leadership, firstly as a right but secondly as a development imperative.

Despite Government’s ratification of several regional and international frameworks to support the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment, the number of women in key leadership and decision-making roles remains low. There is no single woman Member of Parliament in the entire National Parliament. Women are similarly under-represented in ministerial positions. At local level, out of the 6190 ward seats and 319 LLG seats, only 120 are currently held by women. Relatedly, the presence of women in senior and managerial roles remains low with 18 per cent in senior management appointments and 7 percent in executive appointments. This is attributed to cultural and systemic obstacles that prevent women from participating in political life and holding public office.

Many women and their families hugely depend on the informal sector for their livelihoods. Although, the informal economy contributes to an estimate of K12 Billion annually to PNG’ GDP, it is often unprotected and less recognized by Government. This leaves women at a disadvantage when economic shocks arise.

Gender based violence remains a challenge for Papua New Guinea; at least 60 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence at some point in their lives. This doubles the global average. The cost of violence doesn’t stop at a household and community level, but it also affects the economy. Studies show that PNG firms loose an average of 11 days for every staff member every year due to the impact family and sexual violence. Sorcery accusation-related violence appears to be on the rise, targeting older women.

Papua New Guinea has made significant progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Since 2010, new HIV infections have decreased by 32 per cent and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by four per cent. Despite the progress, female sex workers are disproportionately affected, with 17.8 percent living with HIV compared to 1.1 percent of adult females in the general population.

The country’s history is marked with political and civil conflicts, particularly in the Highlands, and Bougainville region. Peace and stability returned to Bougainville region with the signing of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, which resulted into the establishment of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB), and holding of a Referendum in 2019. The Highlands region also suffered from inter clan rivalries and economic, political and cultural pressures resulting from continued armed conflict and the social breakdown of communities, which impacts on the lives of women and girls.

Our Programmes

Women’s leadership, participation in and equal benefit from governance systems

UN Women advocates for legislative and constitutional reforms to ensure women’s fair access to political spheres at both the national and subnational levels, and to claim their rights in society. We provide political leadership capacity building, mentorship, and learning exchange opportunities to women political leaders, women candidates and young women aspiring for leadership positions to effectively take on their role as leaders and advance their careers from the local, district and provincial levels to the national stage. We work with the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates Commission (IPPCC) and Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ROPP) to enable political parties to commit, adopt and implement party constitutions that promote gender equality and women’s leadership. UN Women works closely with the Department for Community Development and Religion (DfCDR) to support women's groups and leaders in advocacy on issues of national importance. UN Women also profiles women leaders to showcase their work and help people change their perception to believe in the abilities of women leaders.

Women and girls live a life free from all forms of violence

UN Women advocates for ending violence against women and girls by providing technical assistance to local authorities and other transport partners on Gender responsive public transport and women's rights and access to public spaces; creating public awareness of the causes and consequences of violence and building capacity of partners and service providers to prevent, respond and provide essential services to gender-based violence (GBV) survivors. For example, UN Women works with Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee (FSVAC) to coordinate establish and strengthen the referral pathways for women and children (and some men) at risk, or experiencing, sexual exploitation and abuse, GBV and sorcery related violence. We also build capacity of Government on gender and protection in emergencies and sexual exploitation and abuse, human rights, and gender-equitable norms, attitudes and behaviours towards women and girls.

Besides supporting advocacy for the development of policies such as the Human Rights Defenders law and policy, UN Women also supports women living with disability, women living with HIV and other groups experiencing intersecting forms of violence to run their own campaigns on EVAWG.

Women Peace, Security and Humanitarian

UN Women enhances capacity of Government institutions to prevent and respond to inter-group conflict through effective participation of women and young people, establishes network of young women empowered to advocate their needs to decision makers, and support women, youth, and persons with disabilities-led mechanisms used to foster unity and reduce triggers of conflict in Bougainville.

UN Women also builds and strengthens capacity of community mobilizers in leadership, conflict management, and running of empowerment and protection centres. We also train women and male mediators to effectively perform their mediation role at community level.

Women have income security, decent work, and economic autonomy

UN Women supports markets and the informal economy to promote protection and economic benefits of women operating in 15 markets across 12 provinces. Through a coordinated approach, UN Women supports government officials, market controllers, security guards and police to better manage markets thereby creating a safe and economically vibrant working environment that boosts women’s business activities. Women are also supported in forming associations to collectively raise their voices about issues experienced in the markets and influence the way markets are operated. UN Women promotes women’s business through targeted practical skills, financial literacy and is also looking at improving their access to finance so they improve and grow their business as well as increase their savings.

Strengthening the implementation of a comprehensive and dynamic set of global norms, policies and standards on gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls

The normative area of work is cross-cutting to all thematic areas. UN Women provides technical support and capacity building to the government to amend, develop and pass national plans and policies to address VAWG and advance gender equality and the empowerment of women. We also support the government to uphold its commitments to international frameworks such as Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the sustainable development goals (SDGs).