Business says enough is enough: it’s time to stop violence against women in Papua New Guinea


Papua New Guinea’s business community is getting behind the fight to eradicate violence against women. Business Advantage PNG looks at just some of the initiatives being pursued following the recent widely-reported murder of a young mother in Port Moresby.

Protest in POM. Credit: NBC News/Facebook

Hundreds of people rallied against gender-based violence in Port Moresby recently. They were asking for justice after the murder of 19-year-old Jenelyn Kennedy, a mother of two. Her death came weeks after rugby player Debbie Kaore shared a video on social media exposing the violence she has experienced at home.

Violence against women has spiked in Papua New Guinea, and around the world, since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Gianluca Rampolla, UN Coordinator in PNG, said ‘violence against women and children is a scourge. It is the underbelly of the coronavirus pandemic’.

According to the International Finance Corporation, 31 million additional gender-based violence cases are expected globally in the first six months of COVID-19 lockdowns; and an extra 15 million cases are expected for every three months of lockdown.

In Port Moresby, 647 cases of domestic violence were reported in June alone, according to the ABC.

‘There has never been a more pressing time for addressing FSV (family and sexual violence) than right now in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,’ said Lesieli Taviri, Chair of Business Coalition For Women (BCFW) and Origin Energy’s CEO.

A survey by the BCFW and the World Bank found that 94 per cent of business leaders in PNG believed their staff had experienced family and sexual violence. It is estimated that 10 per cent of a company’s payroll is lost to family and sexual violence in PNG.

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Following Jenelyn Kennedy’s murder, the business community in PNG has taken action including organising vigils, wearing black in support of those who suffer from gender-based violence, sharing messages on social media, pledging commitments and signing online petitions.

Black for mourning

Bank South Pacific (BSP) launched its #BlackThursdays campaign to spread awareness of family, sexual and gender-based violence and generate a change in the attitudes and practices that perpetuate violence and injustice.

General Manager Human Resources, Hari Rabura said about the month-long campaign: ‘#BlackThursdays will give voice to many victims and, if anything, this campaign’s positive and reaffirming messages to those suffering in silence tells them loud and clear that we care and that we will support them.’

In 2019, BSP implemented its Group Family & Sexual Violence Policy but has also been key in the establishment of Bel isi PNG, the private sector’s first women’s refugee and case management centre.

‘When you look at the data associated with BSP’s FSV policy experience, as well as the experience of our other member businesses, you quickly come to realise that a policy-driven and systematic approach to addressing FSV is not only a “life saver” but a “cost saver” too,’ said Evonne Kennedy, BCFW Executive Director.  ‘Staff welfare and safety improves, as does productivity, while costs associated with problems like absenteeism and staff turnover decrease.’

Voices in unison

Credit: Kumul Petroleum/Facebook

BSP is not the only big company carrying the load. Kumul Petroleum has also joined #blackthursdays. Many other companies, including Oil Search, have been involved with BCFW and/or have developed initiatives against gender-based violence.

Ok Tedi Mining (OTML), for example, which for many years has supported and promoted programs that empower women, also joined the voices that have said ‘enough is enough’. Musje Werror, Managing Director & CEO, said in a release that everyone working for OTML or is associated with the company are expected to behave in accordance to the company’s Golden Rules on Social Behaviour. ‘Anyone having difficulty in dealing with relationship, work-related or personal issues are advised to contact our Employee Assistance Counsellors,’ Werror said. ‘Do not resort to violence.’

Earlier this year, Pacific Towing, a division of the Steamships Group, implemented Gender Smart Safety, a workplace program developed by the BCFW, and also subscribed to Bel isi PNG.

‘We may not be able to eradicate the violence our staff experience in their homes and communities,’ said PacTow’s General Manager Neil Papenfus.  ‘What we can do though, is support them in lots of meaningful and practical ways when they ask us for help. It’s the least we can do for staff who day in and day out contribute to the success of our business with their loyalty and hard work.’

In Port Moresby, the Meri Seif Line can be contacted on 7222-1234, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It provides a safe transport option for survivors of family and sexual violence.

What’s your business is doing in the fight against GBV? Please let us know in the comments below.

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