About the Author: Paul S. Berg is the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Editor's Note: In support of the "16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence" campaign that follows from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we're bringing you stories from embassies and consulates on how they took up the challenge of countering violence against women.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) held its fourth annual walk against gender-based violence on November 25, led by Governor General Sir Paulias Matane (at 70 and an ardent hiker, he sets a brisk pace) and Minister for Community Development Dame Carol Kidu, the only female member of the National Parliament. The event was organized by one of the PNG organizations most dedicated to advancing the empowerment of women, Coalition for Change. The entire expatriate community participated, including many Americans, but what was most heartening was the number of Papua New Guinea men and women in the walk. No one was keeping track, but our impression is that this was the most PNG people to participate in the event in its entire four-year history; it is evolving into a true people's movement. Apparently over 1,000 people walked the walk.
American business also played a prominent role. ExxonMobil, developing a multibillion dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) project here, brought over 100 participants to the walk, led by their chair Peter Graham.
PNG is rapidly heightening its consciousness about gender violence issues. The Secretary took important steps to strengthen U.S. solidarity with PNG against gender violence during her November 3rd visit, when she and Prime Minister Somare announced important new bilateral women's empowerment programs, among them a 2011 policy dialogue co-hosted by the U.S. and PNG on effective means to improve maternal health, increase economic opportunities, and empower women economically in the Pacific region.
We're looking forward to related events on December 10, Human Rights Day, when we will again have an opportunity to support PNG men and women in advocating against gender-based violence and in favor of full empowerment for PNG's women.