17th May 2016 – 32nd Australia Papua New Guinea Business Forum and Trade Expo Cairns Convention Centre (15th to 17th May 2016)
Theme “Today’s Investments – Tomorrow’s Returns”: Session 8 – “Bougainville: Building a Sustainable Economic Future”
The role of women in building a sustainable economic future
President Momis and his delegation, PNG Minsters and senior bureaucrats, members of the business communities of Australia and Papua New Guinea, all distinguished delegates. It is my first time to attend the Australia Papua New Guinea Business Forum. I feel a bit like a fish out of water but also am very privileged to be here.
I am here in my capacity as a Director on the BCL Board and thank our Chairman for giving me the flexibility to address a broader topic that is not solely relevant to BCL. The role of women in building a sustainable economic future in Bougainville is relevant to any prospective investor in Bougainville as well as to the Government of the Autonomous Region as it is also for the Government of Papua New Guinea.
I acknowledge the ancestors of the land we are now meeting on and also the elders of Pari Village and the people of Moresby South. I am not an academic, nor an expert on anything – my knowledge and pragmatic realism comes from their wisdom and their reality and I thank them for that.
The role of women in building a sustainable economic future for Bougainville and for Papua New Guinea is so fundamental that it is a bit of a no-brainer for me to be talking about it but it still needs to be unpacked and analysed because the obvious is often overlooked. There is a strong business case for empowering women – they are potentially half of the workforce in both public and private sector and ideally the progress towards reaching parity will continue to improve. It can be argued that women often have greater incentive to be reliable and hard-working because of their family responsibilities. Global research done by PLAN International found that in general women spent at least 90% of their income on family needs whereas men spent far less of their income on family needs. It would be interesting to see if similar research in Bougainville and PNG would bring similar results. Clearly when women are empowered, this is reflected in improved well-being of families and communities. Business is not charity but for business success, inclusive development that taps the largely untapped female talent and community engagement are critical and BCL into the future is very cognizant of this reality.
The Changing status of women
It is important to debunk the myths and recognise the power and influence of women in traditional society and how it has changed.
A 1998 World Bank Report noted that “formal involvement of women as individual leaders and representatives of their lineages has diminished over a period of a hundred years with the advent of strongly patriarchal colonial and missionary structures.
State organization of local politics has historically excluded women. Men now mediate all female interests and women are beginning to define themselves by virtue of their sex, as non-participants in politics as they are currently structured.
Introduced organizational structures with the exclusive emphasis on male authority further weakened the position of women in society.
The ‘big man’ leadership model based on the concept of redistribution has been translated into the role of elected parliamentarians”.
Gender Analysis in Papua New Guinea, World Bank 1998
Similar observations can be found in research done by Dr Anne Waiko of UPNG.
It is ironic that many development partner projects focus on women’s empowerment – and we are grateful for this focus but we need to also recognize the irony and take ownership of this re-empowerment of women.
Let’s look at land as an example. It is well known that Bougainville is largely (but not completely) a matrilineal society in which women pass land rights to their daughters and yet it is the men who became the front line negotiators on land, and sometimes failed to acknowledge the matrilineal rights because land has now commercial value. Even in patrilineal societies, women’s rights as land users were clearly recognized (e.g. my experience of land distribution for shifting cultivation in the 1960s and 1970s was that the clan chief named the women users not the men when dividing the large garden into plots). It is now increasingly common to see widows alienated from their land rights which were guaranteed traditionally (e.g. through sons or marrying husband’s brother)
Economic prosperity is a cross-cutting issue – 1. Politics
Economic prosperity needs a political environment that has women in positions of power and influence to create enabling legislative and policy frameworks. The ABG Constitution lead the way in the Pacific sub-region with the three elected Seats specifically for women and the last ABG election was a breakthrough for affirmative action with an Open Seat also being won by a woman. PNG may need to follow the ABG lead depending on 2017 election results
The Pacific Women May 2016 Performance Report documents that women’s leadership is being supported in practical ways at the local level through the Inclusive Development project in Bougainville. Women are provided with skills and knowledge to actively participate in community development planning and project identification and then in project delivery. Phase 2 of the project has begun with the provision of Pacific Women block funding and 39 community projects already are being delivered by local women to meet local community needs. Evaluation of the first phase of the project (not funded by Pacific Women) found that 24,620 women (51% of the total number of beneficiaries) benefited from the project. During the reporting period, 39 women groups went through the project design training and produced draft plans that were reviewed by the Program Management Unit. The plans were also reviewed and endorsed by Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) Technical Services Department. The approved projects from the 39 groups include projects on water and sanitation, learning/ resource centres, classrooms and aid posts.
The poor outcomes from concentrated efforts to increase women in politics at national level has been a strong factor in the shift to greater focus on improving the political capacities of women at the local level. Logically this focus on improving women’s skills to negotiate and implement projects at the community level should begin to reflect itself in changed voting patterns at all levels of government but time will tell.
Relevant to BCL and other macro-economic development projects, a Women in Mining program has been designed under the Pacific Women initiative funding with the aim of strengthening women’s participation in negotiation and agreement processes for major extractive industry projects in PNG. The aim is to increase direct benefits to women in mine-affected areas
Economic prosperity is a cross-cutting issue – 2. GBV & women’s health
Our Henry Kila Memorial address speaker, Dr Barry Kirby, clearly articulated the vulnerabilities that women face regarding maternal health. His experiences in Milne Bay Province are reflected in all provinces in PNG as well as ABG. This, combined with the increase in gender based violence as traditional protective customs for women break down, has notable impact on economic prosperity.
This impact has started to be quantified under the Dfat-funded Pacific Women initiative in PNG. Working with Business Coalition for Women members, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) examined the costs to three individual businesses in PNG of gender-based violence. This assessment found that the cost to business is extensive. On average, each staff member loses over 11 days of work each year as a result of the impacts of gender-based violence. The cost of lost staff time to the involved firms varies between 2% and 9% of their salary bills, costing up to $1.5 million a year.
ODI developed a practical tool to help businesses to cost the impact of violence on their individual business. Addressing family and sexual violence is not only the right thing to do, it is also good business.
Research on women’s economic empowerment and the relationship that it has with violence against women included 95 individual interviews in Bougainville and 98 interviews in the Eastern Highlands. Initial findings reflect the obvious importance of involving men in women’s economic empowerment initiatives and in understanding the implications of women taking on additional responsibilities (to existing gendered household duties).
Working with the FSVAC, Femili PNG are working to improve referral and case management practices in several centres throughout PNG, including in Buka.
Economic prosperity is a cross-cutting issue – 3. Education and Informal Learning Pathways
The link between economic prosperity and education is unquestionable but for Autonomous Bougainville and PNG as a nation it is necessary to look beyond the formal system to maximise access to functional learning for all.
There are many informal learning providers offering a variety of learning opportunities to people who are outside the formal system but this is not captured in education mapping. Some work has been done in defining pathways between informal learning and formal education and a strategic piece of work is planned under Pacific Women to further develop such pathways and maximise accelerated learning opportunities at all levels of education.
For Bougainville with a lost generation in terms of education and now a multiplicity of informal literacy and learning providers the outcomes of this work could be significant. Bougainville has actually been a ground breaker with an accelerated learning programme for Policewomen to qualify for The Police Training College and it is exciting that one of the accelerated learning trainees took out the dux prize at the formal training college.
Pacific Women is now supporting the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to increase women’s access to, and control of, incomes from smallholder activities. Stage 2 will extend the action research developed family team modules and village community educators model to new areas and regions, including Bougainville, planned for 2017 – 2018. This shift in focus from the individual to the family unit and the community is long overdue and should continue to be a major focus in the push for economic prosperity.
Ongoing challenges for women’s empowerment initiatives
Despite many positive legal and policy developments, the Government of PNG has dedicated limited funding to addressing women’s equality and services. The constrained economic environment in PNG is likely to further limit the availability of additional resources. Initiatives are too dependent on donor and private sector funds and thus their sustainability is always a vexed issue beyond the project funding.
Due to a shortfall in funding received from national government into the ABG budget, ABG counterpart funding commitments for 2014/15 were not able to be met. The Inclusive Development in Post-Conflict Bougainville Project office has drafted an information paper for Community Development Secretary to take up with ABG.
Demand continues to outstrip supply of quality services in the social sector, particularly in relation to support provided to survivors of violence and, above all, in remote and rural areas and for women and girls with disabilities. The enormity of the unfulfilled need has been well articulated by the CEO of Femili PNG and it does highlight the question of what should realistically be expected of donors and corporate partners in development. The primary responsibility for the socio-economic well-being of citizens should lie with government. Using NGOs and the private sector to help in the delivery and implementation of services makes good sense but it must be accompanied with adequate budget support for these services from government and the public service must fine-tune its changing role as a facilitator and monitor in the development process.
When analysing the role of women in ensuring sustainable economic prosperity, it is important to remember that prosperity and poverty are like two sides of the same coin and that coin has a female face. Ending poverty begins with women. Relative poverty exists in all societies. I clearly remember some of my colleagues in the late 1990s strongly denying that poverty exists in PNG. The myth has now clearly been debunked. The
Economic opportunity and education for women and girls is fundamental to ending extreme poverty. Women focus their income on food, education and healthcare for their children – a long-term investment that lifts entire families and communities out of poverty. We need to continue to accelerate the minority of women breaking glass ceilings and that acceleration has improved considerably in the public sector with the roll-out of the GESI (Gender Equality and Social Inclusion) policy But we must also focus on the majority
We need to continue to harness the unrealised potential of the informal economy which employs the majority of people and is dominated by women. The informal economy is too often seen as a problem rather than as part of the solution to economic prosperity for women. Laws and policies to facilitate and enhance women’s self- employment in the informal economy and in SMEs have been given increasing attention but insufficient funding and many SMEs have struggled and failed because of the harsh start-up expectations and taxation regimes for new small companies. This has been identified as an issue to be addressed by the Taxation Review led by Sir Nagora Brogan and hopefully the government will act upon the findings of that review.
Women in informal employment & SMEs – barriers & constraints
Constraints facing women in the informal economy and SMEs reflect broader gender inequality in society. The lack of access to finance, low financial literacy (much work in this area now and am proud to also be on the Board of Nationwide Microbank which has a dedicated focus on women).
The lack of technical knowledge to value add their products and market them strategically is another constraint and thus the extreme importance of functional learning. Women’s increasing alienation from land and resources can be a major constraint as well as the poor provision & maintenance of infrastructure, e.g. roads, electricity and marketing facilities
It is obvious that macro-development in the extractive industries can have major positive impact because it addresses these infrastructural constraints that are a government responsibility, particularly in remote areas. It helps to create the enabling environment that allows entrepreneurship to flourish.
POWER of INTEGRATED PARTNERSHIPS for economic prosperity – from PPP to PPCP.
When in politics, I championed the extension of the Public Private Partnership policy for service delivery to be a Public, Private, Community Partnership policy. PPP policy looks through a Western lens at development and thus sustainable and inclusive development is not the usual outcome. For sustainability, government and business need to also look through a Melanesian lens with a PPCP policy and not only pay lip-service to the fact that PNG is still fundamentally a nation based on community. Dealing with individuals is much easier than dealing with communities but development has never been easy so taking the hard road of working with communities will bring more sustainable results than the easy road.
For sustainable economic prosperity we need to rethink development. Just and lasting developmental change can only be achieved when communities own their future. Sustainability is a social process as much as an economic process and sustainability is based on cultural understanding and cultural relevance. Development in PNG has a history of mismatched expectations and priorities with disappointing outcomes
Development is a process not a product and that process needs to address the reality of a nation experiencing differential rates of change and the uncomfortable interface between tradition and modernity as well as the interface of a multiplicity of tribes. It is a daunting challenge but it can be faced particularly if we genuinely recognize the role of women in building a sustainable economic future. Traditionally, women determined the economic prosperity of the family, clan and tribe and given equal opportunity they can also determine the economic prosperity of contemporary PNG and Bougainville.