Hidden Pacific: Women bear brunt of violence but are finally standing up

By Simon Day

The Herald and World Vision want to raise $100,000 for the urgent water and sanitation needs in the Hanuabada village of Port Moresby. Each day we'll be reporting on a particular problem for the region and showcasing how World Vision has helped. Today, how women are coping with male violence.
Hilda Toulingi says women in Tobenam village have begun to name and shame perpetrators of domestic abuse as part of cultural change. Photo / Mike Scott
Hilda Toulingi says women in Tobenam village have begun to name and shame perpetrators of domestic abuse as part of cultural change. Photo / Mike Scott

In Papua New Guinea more than 60 per cent of women are victims of domestic abuse.

World Vision's Simon Day met women who are standing up to violence.

Two days before we visited Tobenam village a local woman had been so severely beaten by her husband she nearly died. She was still unable to leave her home, where she was recovering.

The incident would have previously been greeted with a frightened silence, a cultural acceptance of man's dominance of women in Papua New Guinea.

But for the group of wives and mothers sitting cross-legged in a circle around me this was their chance to speak out against domestic violence and show that women are no longer willing to accept this treatment in Tobenam village.

In PNG studies show up to 67 per cent of women are the victims of violence. Nearly all the women brave enough to speak to me had been victims of domestic violence from their husband or partner.

Mother of five Hilda Toulingi tells me that although she has never been badly injured, her husband has struck her during arguments.

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"[It's] because men do not respect the women enough," she says.

But now the local women are mobilising the community to stand up against the violence against them. World Vision has taught the women about the rights of mothers, and how they can become leaders in the community.

And now they refuse to stay silent, naming and shaming the men who continue to use violence against their wives, and speaking out against domestic violence.

"Now the women in the community start to report the domestic abuse and men are afraid of this being made public," says Hilda.

While they used to live in fear, they are now working with community leaders to break the culture of domestic violence. And they are working with the youth to create generational change in their village.

"Women are standing up strong and create change."

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- NZ Herald

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