Protecting young girls in Papua New Guinea from violence, abuse, neglect and discrimination

Anna Solomon

Ms Anna Solomon is Secretary of the Department of Religion, Youth and Community Development in Papua New Guinea. She has noticed some positive changes around gender equality following the implementation of a free tuition, free education policy across the country. Presenting at a recent National Women’s Forum, the National Research Institute reported that while there is an increase in the enrolment of girls in schools, the retention rates are a key concern.

Ms Solomon says three key obstacles are gender based violence, cultural factors, and the inability to pay additional fees. Further research will have to be done to confirm why girls are not continuing their education.

The recently reviewed Lukautim Pikinini Act (child protection law) passed in 2015, focuses on the best interests of the child and it provides protection from violence, abuse, neglect and discrimination. It has a clear focus on services for prevention and family strengthening.

Ms Solomon says the law complements current efforts for the free education of children. This law ensures that a child is protected within their homes and communities, and ensures that parents, service providers and government are held accountable. All children should be in school including girls.

Based on her experience, girls who have dropped out of school due to abuse and violence at home should be referred to a safer place. In the absence of state centers and shelters, the Ministry works closely with the churches, NGOs and other family oriented service providers who run ‘out of home’ care centers.

“We come from the culture where we trust our families but we are now seeing cases of girls being abused by their family members too. Providing immediate protection and counselling services for girls becomes the responsibility of the government, however we cannot do this alone. We need to invest in genuine and sustained partnerships that work toward protecting our children, and in particular our girls,” says Ms Solomon

“We need to see more girls completing their education in Papua New Guinea and one way to achieve this is by making our homes, communities and schools safe for them” says Ms Solomon.”

16 Days – 16 Stories of Gender Progress in the Pacific is an initiative of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and SPC who are sharing stories of successful gender programs across the region and highlighting the regional policies that guide them. The Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration has a specific priority on ending violence against women. Related commitments include the Ministerial Communiques and Pacific Women’s Triennial Outcomes. The 2015 Pacific Regional MDGS Tracking Report Progress noted Papua New Guinea’s progress as completion of Sexual Gender Based Violence Strategy and establishment of a technical multi-sectoral working group. Domestic violence and family support centres established in urban and provincial areas. Adopted National Security Policy and Plan which addresses gender issues from a security perspective. Expansion of Family and Sexual Violence Units. Male Advocacy Network conducted programs for men at correctional services. 

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