Four questions for Richelle Tickle, Papua New Guinea Country Manager, Pacific Women Support Unit

Welcome,

With over 80 per cent of Papua New Guinean businesses citing skills shortage as a key constraint to their growth, helping women join the workforce or open their own businesses could put an end to the problem. Richelle Tickle, PNG Country Manager, Pacific Women Support Unit, shares with Business Advantage PNG the work that Pacific Women is doing.

The Pacific Women Papua New Guinea Annual Learning Workshop 2019. Credit: Pacific Women

In 2012, during the Pacific Islands Leaders’ Forum, the Australian Government announced the initiative Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development, which was developed to support the Pacific Island Leaders’ Gender Equality Declaration. Shortly after, the program began in PNG.

Pacific Women, as the program is known, aims to promote women’s empowerment. It works with businesses to help build women’s business skills and financial literacy, provides training and networking for entrepreneurs, and liaises with the private sector to guarantee inclusion, safety and training.

BAPNG: There’s lots of talk about women’s economic empowerment, but what does this actually mean for women in PNG?

Pacific Women’s Richelle Tickle

Richelle Tickle (RT): Research Pacific Women funded in PNG has identified that economic empowerment needs to be understood as women’s control over economic resources and decision-making.

It found that increasing women’s income did not, by itself, result in a woman’s control over the resources she earned, nor did it necessarily add to the family’s wellbeing.

Too often women’s income or job was a trigger for violence within the family, or men thought of their own earnings as discretionary and did not contribute as much to the family’s wellbeing.

The research made clear that to achieve women’s economic empowerment we need to work with, and on, the family dynamics.

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BAPNG: What are the macro and microeconomic benefits of including women in the workforce in PNG?

RT: Investing in women and girls has a powerful effect on productivity, efficiency and economic growth. Higher incomes for women and increased control over income correlates to increased spending on family welfare, food and education.

Data analysis commissioned by the Australian Government into the benefits of women’s increased participation in the economy ahead of last year’s APEC has shown that if PNG were able to achieve gender parity in the labour force (that is, if as many women as men were working in the formal economy), it would increase the national Gross Domestic Product by 14 per cent by 2021.

This would add K6.166 billion to the economy.

Greater gender equality is good for individual businesses. Organisations with gender diversity on their boards and in senior management consistently outperform those without.

‘If PNG were able to achieve gender parity in the labour force, it would increase the national Gross Domestic Product by 14 per cent by 2021.’

No country can afford to ignore half of its talent pool. Research shows that gender-smart employment policies improves retention rates, reduces absenteeism and increases productivity. The PNG Business Commission For Women (BCFW) has identified that output per worker could be 7 to 18 per cent higher in PNG if female entrepreneurs and workers were engaged to the same extent as men.

BAPNG: What strategies can be applied to help increase the inclusion of women in the formal economy?

RT: There was a recent review, funded by the Australian Government, of available data on women’s participation in PNG’s economy. That report identified a number of the benefits to increasing women’s participation in the economy and ways to support women’s increased participation.

One of the perceived benefits of being a formal business is greater access to credit, which can be difficult for all businesses starting out. Access to credit for formal female business owners can be more difficult because women typically have more difficulty demonstrating a savings history and capital against which to borrow. Supporting creation of new financial resources and supporting women’s access to cost effective financial resources and accounts is critical.

‘We all have a role to play and it starts by recognising that helping women fulfil their full potential, at home, in their communities and in business is the right thing to do.’

High levels of violence against women is a significant constraint for working women. Something as simple as travelling safely, and on time, to work is limited. Our work has identified what is needed to create a safer, regulated, public transport system.

If the recommendations of the Gender Transport Study were implemented, this would benefit all citizens, including women. Addressing gender-based violence is critical to achieving women’s economic empowerment.

BAPNG: What do you think the future holds for PNG women in business in the next five years?

RT: I think positive change is underway and I hope it will continue to gain momentum and spread to more places, provinces and industries.

There are more Papua New Guinean women taking up opportunities and being supported to do so in businesses and formal employment. We all have a role to play and it starts by recognising that helping women fulfil their full potential, at home, in their communities and in business is the right thing to do and it is good for stronger families, stronger communities and for the country.

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