In the words of Lawrencia Leonnie Pirpir: “Woman have the capacity to work in politics, but the ground is not level in PNG”

Lawrencia Leonnie Pirpir is co-founder of East New Britain Women Make Change Coalition (ENB WMC), which is committed to breaking down cultural, social, economic and environmental barriers women face in politics. It is supported by UN Women under the Women Make the Change programme to drive gender equality in leadership in Papua New Guinea. The programme is supported by the Governments of Australia and New Zealand.

Date: Monday, October 18, 2021

Author: Aidah Nanyonjo

Lawrencia Leonnie Pirpir is co-founder of East New Britain Women Make Change Coalition (ENB WMC). Photo: UN Women
Lawrencia Leonnie Pirpir is co-founder of East New Britain Women Make Change Coalition (ENB WMC). Photo: UN Women

We need both men and women to be in politics at all levels of government to make democracy work in PNG. Women in PNG have the capacity to occupy the political space, but the ground is not level. Women have been limited from participating in politics due to lack of support base and resources. Families don’t even support their own mothers, sisters, and daughters. There are always men in our faces and in everything. Women have been further suppressed by the lack of voice and support from the government, including from the National and Provincial Council of Women, and from civil society. This leaves most women across the country to focus on domestic chores like managing their homes and gardens.

To address such barriers, the ENB WMC networks with youth movements to build momentum that positively supports young women in politics. Young women are also given platforms to listen to senior women leaders as well as have their voices heard. This has raised their confidence to speak up about women's issues, and will eventually lead many young women to stand for political office.

‘We need more of these interactions with our senior women leaders,’ one young woman said at one of the meetings. ‘I used to think that I was too young to lead. These interactions have boosted my confidence . I can boldly express myself and I no longer fear to contest for leadership, thinking that it is only for men and senior women. I believe, there are many young women out there who may need a similar opportunity.’

The ENB WMC runs community awareness campaigns sensitizing men and boys to vote for women, especially young women, in political elections. The campaign also encourages young women to come out and contest positions. After realising that there was a disconnection between the ‘senior’ women leaders and the young women, I came up with a phrase: Grow minds, not egos. This phrase encourages young people to get along better with senior women leaders, and vice versa. The initiative will lead to transformational leadership and create a positive transition from ‘senior women leaders’ to young women leaders.

Every opportunity I get to speak to people either in my community or in the meetings, I advocate for the involvement of young women into leadership. Besides meetings, I have always used my social media platforms specifically Facebook, Linkedin and Whatsapp to share and publish advocacy related posts on Gender Based Violence, women in politics and gender crosscutting issues in Papua New Guinea. Through my posts, I always receive feedback from my followers and engage them in chats in order to change their negative perceptions about gender equality.

The Coalition is committed to breaking down negativity towards women in politics by working with other stakeholders such as leaders of the East New Britain Council of Women leaders, the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties and Candidates Commission and the UN Spotlight Initiative.”