Femili PNG supporting women and families in the Highlands

Under the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, local NGO Femili PNG works with Eastern Highlands Community Development Office to address family and sexual violence issues in communities.

In Papua New Guinea, disputes and issues in communities are usually resolved through mediations facilitated by community leaders. It is not always easy, but despite many challenges their mediation is fundamental to maintain peace and social order.

Family and sexual violence issues are often resolved by community leaders working with partners. A local nongovernment organization, Femili PNG identified a need to empower leaders to address these issues in their communities. With guidance from the Eastern Highlands Community Development Office, Femili PNG targeted areas with high rates of family and sexual violence, and child abuse.

With the support of the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, Femili PNG sought to initiate a system of community committees, where respected leaders, service providers, officials and representatives took ownership of family and sexual violence as an issue affecting their villages.

As a first step to achieving this, Femili PNG’s Outreach team conducted information sessions for community leaders in Daulo and Lufa Districts. Aside from increasing awareness of family and sexual violence, the sessions allowed the participants to select ten individuals from each district to create the community FSV committees.

Femili PNG provided in-depth training on family and sexual violence, and related laws, child abuse, and trauma-informed care of survivors. The week-long training heightened the committees’ understanding of the broader context of gender-based violence and child abuse in Papua New Guinea and internationally. This included the laws that govern these acts of violence, and how they can help survivors in their communities to access assistance.

Through the training, some participants admitted to perpetrating past abuse without realising the impact of their actions. The training also opened many participants’ eyes to what survivors of violence go through, and the long-term psychological effects.

“We have learnt that that the words we speak have emotional and psychological implications,’’ said Lufa District Health Officer in Charge, Gabriel Wau.

Missy Kuku, a Council of Women’s representative, also spoke on the mental health impacts of family and sexual violence. “We are too concerned with the physical injuries of people who undergo abuse and violence and pay little attention to the emotional and psychological injuries inflicted upon these survivors,” she said.

For the committee members who also are village court officials, the training on related laws, such as the Family Protection Act, helped them to understand protection orders to assist them in their work. Committee members developed action plans including awareness-raising sessions and child safety within their communities, supported by Femili PNG’s Outreach team.

Femili PNG, and the community committees, are appreciative of UNDP’s support and continue to meet regularly to assist survivors. Femili PNG will continue to work with the committees to address family and sexual violence issues - one community at a time.