Women have a vital role to play in promoting peace in the Highlands

Roles for women, such as a women’s desk at police stations with trained female staff, is a key step towards promoting peace and ending violence against women in the Highlands.. Photo: Dave Tacon/Oxfam
Roles for women, such as a women’s desk at police stations with trained female staff, is a key step towards promoting peace and ending violence against women in the Highlands.

A stronger role for women in the peace and justice system is a key step towards promoting peace and ending violence against women in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Violence is a daily reality in the Tari region of the Southern Highlands Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Ongoing violence and tribal conflicts undermine all types of development in the region, whether it’s economic development, health or education.

Oxfam recently carried out significant research to understand how insecurity is affecting the daily lives of Papua New Guineans and to help inform work promoting peace in the Southern Highlands, not only for Oxfam and our local partner Hela Community Care, but for all organisations working in the region.

Zoe Coulson-Sinclair, Oxfam’s Programme Manager in the Highlands, tells us, “While everyone is affected by conflict, what strikes me when talking to women in the Highlands is how they are always alert to danger and spend a lot of their lives, right from childhood, being afraid.”

The majority of PNG’s population live in remote, rural communities where there is almost no police presence. Whilst research indicates that two-thirds of women in PNG experience domestic violence, most violence against women goes unreported to the authorities and is often simply ignored by police.

“Among the recommendations to all organisations working to build peace in the region are stronger roles for women in the peace and justice system, such as having a woman magistrate on every village court, more resourcing for police, including a women’s desk at police stations with trained female staff, and working with communities to change male attitudes towards women,” says Michelle Kopi, Oxfam’s senior researcher.

Oxfam is helping families to access basic services like water and sanitation, as well as helping people earn a decent living. Photo: Jerry Galea/Oxfam
Oxfam is helping families to access basic services like water and sanitation, as well as helping people earn a decent living.

Oxfam and its partners are working together to bring an end to violence against women in PNG and to promote peace within communities. We also know from our research and experience that poverty exacerbates conflict. That’s why we’re helping families to access basic services like water and sanitation, as well as helping people learn new skills and earn a decent living.

Michelle believes many of the problems facing women in PNG are being made worse by widespread poverty. She tells us:

“There needs to be a real recognition that the development research being carried out all over the world shows the biggest single thing you can do to improve lives and lift people out of poverty is to direct development towards women. If you educate women; if you protect them from violence; if you ensure they have access to resources like land and credit, then that has a huge impact on whole families.”

Oxfam report: Violence and insecurity in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea

Violence and insecurity in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea presents the results of a study looking at the scale, nature, triggers and impacts of interpersonal and tribal violence in the Hela region of the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. The study aims to help inform the policies and programme development of organisations working to promote peace in the area.

Find out more

  • Improving livelihoods in Tari
    Oxfam is supporting people to develop nutritional gardens and keep small livestock such as chickens, rabbits and goats, providing a means to earn a living and live a healthier life.
  • Oxfam's work on gender justice
    Of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide, more than two-thirds are women and girls.