From where I stand: “Men can positively change.”

Sophie Teio, 24, a former volunteer with SANAP WANTAIM, a UN Women campaign against violence, runs an organization that encourages youths in Papua New Guinea to make their communities better.


Sophie Teio, a believer in youths, shown in November 2020. Photo courtesy of Sophie Teio
Sophie Teio, a believer in youths, shown in November 2020. Photo courtesy of Sophie Teio

While working under the SANAP WANTAIM campaign … I coordinated several campaign activities, which involved reaching out to communities and schools. We used to showcase short drama skits on ending violence against women.

A number of male students joined the campaign. Even in the communities, some men joined the campaign as advocates for gender equality. This is something I never expected, given the patriarchal nature of our society in Papua New Guinea. I realized that the more information on promoting gender equality is repeatedly communicated, the more people, especially men, can positively change.

I started a community-based organization in Lae. I organize community outreaches that support youths to identify their potential in order to contribute positively to their communities. Some of these youths are survivors of violence, while others were perpetuators of violence who reformed as a result of our work.

There is young man who used to be violent. He loved school but never got a chance to complete school due to financial constraints at home. He was frustrated. He became a drunkard, and every time he got drunk, he would harass his mother and sister.

I identified him during one of the community outreaches, counseled him and started engaging him in our outreach activities. I also assigned him with responsibilities and tasks to perform. He has reformed and sometimes during our community engagements, he also mobilizes fellow youths to stop acts of violence.

While carrying out community engagements, some men who disagreed with our concept used to challenge us. However, some have come to understand that we are here for the good of the girl child and the community at large. I advise every youth to stand up for what is deemed right, and also to be fearless in pursuit of their dreams.”

SDG 5: Gender equality SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Teio is the founder of Youth Space Initiative in Lae, the capital of Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. Teio volunteered in 2019 with UN Women’s campaign SANAP WANTAIM (STAND TOGETHER). She founded her organization after SANAP WANTAIM events were suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teio’s work supports United Nations Sustainable Goal 5, on Gender Equality, and Goal 16, on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

Interviewed by Aidah Nanyonjo