UN Women Executive Director urges Port Moresby residents to ‘stand together’ for women’s safety

Date: Sunday, December 4, 2016

Author: Ornwipa Rugkhla

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea — The women-only bus arrives at Gerehu Market and the crowd cheers. Dressed in native costumes, the Mt. Hagen Mothers dancers from the market vendors association burst into song and dance. Determined not be outshined, the Motu Dance Group, from the traditional landowners of Port Moresby, launched into their performance as well. Market vendors, shoppers, police officers, and youths from Kop Kop College, which shares the fence with the market, have all gathered, dressed in orange, the colour of the United Nations Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka visits Papua New Guinea in December 2016 as part of her travels to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. This is the Executive Director’s first visit to the country. Her four-day visit focuses on strengthening collaboration with the Government of Papua New Guinea, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and civil society representatives, in order to accelerate progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the country, with an emphasis on ending violence against women and girls. Photo: UN Women/Johaness Terra

Emerging from the bus is Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuk, also dressed in orange, is the guest of honour for the launch of the third women-only bus that transfers women and girls safely to and from the market each day.

The buses were born out of necessity. Fear of violence in public places prevents many women in Asia from using public transportation and visiting marketplaces, according to UN Women’s report, Born to be Free: A Regional Study of Interventions to Enhance Women and Girls’ Safety and Mobility in Public Spaces, Asia and the Pacific Region. In partnership with the National Capital District Commission (the city government), UN Women launched the Port Moresby Safe City Programme in 2011. The women-only buses are funded by the Government of Australia, in partnership with UN Women and Ginigoada Bisnis Development Foundation, a local NGO.

“When I used to catch the old buses, I was harassed by the men. They stole my wallet and pushed me over,” said Big Ma Ma Janet Awe, the President of the Gordon Market Vendor Association. “Now that we have the women’s only buses, we can go to and from various markets without worrying about our safety.”

“We are very grateful for the new bus,” she said. “The two original women’s only buses were getting crowded. The new bus also has air-conditioning.”

She and many other vendors said they feel much safer, not only on the buses but also in the market, thanks to the UN Women Safe City Programme.

“The bus can only be a temporary measure to keep women safe”, Powes Parkop, Governor of National Capital District Commission, said at today’s launch ceremony. “What’s needed, he said, “is for the country to change”. “Physical change is happening. As part of the Safe Cities Initiative, lighting was installed and local police such as Inspector Patricia were assigned to patrol the market regularly. However, this is not enough. We also need to change culturally. Men have to stop using violence against women because it is wrong!”

With this, the Governor invited Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka to the podium. The crowd cheered.

“When children see a man hitting a woman, they think it is normal,” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “The real aim here is to create ‘a new normal.’ More men have to stand together and say they won’t hit a woman. Women have to stand together and support other women. Children have to stand together and be respectful.”

“Let’s turn our new normal into our new destiny,” she said.

“Stand together” is the motto of the Sanap Wantaim Campaign, the local version of the United Nations Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign.

Ms. Mlambo-Ngouka was visiting Papua New Guinea as part of her travels to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, which runs from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to 10 December, Humans Rights Day.

For further information:

Please contact Dr Jeffrey Buchanan
Country Representative
UN Women – Papua New Guinea Country Office
E-mail: jeffrey...@unwomen.org