20151125 White Ribbon Day 370x298To mark White Ribbon Day we take a look at how the Economic and Public Sector Program (EPSP) is prioritising the status and needs of women and girls in PNG.

In a country where an estimated 70 per cent of women and girls experience rape and assault in their lifetime, the program is working hard to address the serious issue of violence against women and girls. EPSP is encouraging women in the public sector to play a leadership role in supporting their female colleagues and is working to improve the role men can play in ending violence against women.

Gender and social inclusion are a top priority for EPSP with gender specialist and gender coordinator on staff along with gender analysis resources. These specialists analysed government agencies and assessed how well they were approaching gender issues – noting where they could improve and what training could support this. Coffey advocated for increased funding for additional whole-of-government support to deliver wider reaching gender programs and training to PNG’s public service.

Gender training resulted in an immense shift for the public service. PNG’s Department of Personnel Management developed, in consultation with Coffey’s gender team, the first Equity and Inclusion Policy for the Public Service. This was the first step, and a significant achievement, in removing structural barriers to women’s participation in the public service.

EPSP’s gender team have also helped to establish a Senior Women in the Public Sector Research Group in PNG – a high-powered cooperative of women who have a strong understanding of the issues faced by women in the public sector. The group is led by Dame Carol Kidu, a three-term, highly respected Member of Parliament. Here women of all ages are supported, coached and mentored in leadership in the public sector.

In another program initiative, the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre – a highly respected NGO advocating for the elimination of violence against women across the Pacific – was engaged to implement a public sector male advocacy training program. In phases I & II a 12 month program equipped male leaders with knowledge to help transform their own attitudes and behaviours – developing an understanding of women’s human rights while promoting the elimination of violence against women. Phase III promotes advocacy skills for these men, so that they can deliver messages of awareness to their peers, family and community. Recent participants included the National Public Service Male Advocacy Network (MAN).

EPSP’s work has been noticed across the country and globally. The Australian High Commission in PNG commended EPSP on its work to improve the lives of women and girls through its gender and social inclusion strategy. The gender team has also worked with the private sector in PNG to develop male advocacy work and the United Nations (UN) Rapporteur asked the program’s government agency counterparts to present their gender activities in New York in early 2015.