A Step Forward for the Women of Papua New Guinea
“I was often thought of as crazy,” said Jukuli Kapiako, a CEDPA Global Women in Management (CEDPA GWIM) participant from the Hela Province in Papua New Guinea, also known as PNG. “Where I come from in Tari, our people were thought of as scary, because we had long skinny arms and legs and big bellies. I now know we were malnourished.”
Jukuli is one of 26 Papua New Guinean women leaders, who are attending the three-week long, CEDPA GWIM country-level workshop, sponsored by the ExxonMobil Foundation’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative. The need for this type of leadership and economic empowerment workshop in PNG is obvious. There were 80 applicants for 26 slots.
The Hides Women’s Association
Jukuli was selected because of her work with the Hides Women’s Association near an ExxonMobil PNG LNG site. Jukuli began the Association in 2001, and they are now a valued ExxonMobil community partner.
“I saw that my community was malnourished. I felt I needed to do something, and my current husband was very supportive,” explained Jukuli. Male support in the traditional societies of PNG is essential. “I gathered the women in my village for a meeting and held a public talk about personal hygiene and housekeeping.”
After several of these meetings, Jukuli organized the women. The association, made up of 240 women, now conducts workshops in planting, animal husbandry, and baking. They have built an elementary school, a birthing center and several guest houses, which employ several of the people living with HIV in the community. The association was also able to construct a road for the village.
The amount the association has accomplished under Jukuli’s leadership is all the more impressive when you find out she is illiterate. The loss of the opportunity to attend school is palpable when speaking with Jukuli. She knows what an education means.
“I really wanted to go to school. I registered and made it as far as the classroom, when my father dragged me out,” she explained. “He had accepted a bride price for me, and spent the money. I was forced to marry my first husband.”
Bride price is a tradition that is still in practice today throughout PNG. Jukuli clearly resents the opportunities she missed because of cultural traditions, so she refuses to let any more opportunities pass her by.
“Before, I had no value to the men in my village. They thought I was crazy. Women are expected to marry, bear their husband’s children, care for the children and raise the pigs. They are often expected to sleep with the pigs. We lived in the dark ages,” Jukuli said. “I did what I could, but CEDPA GWIM opened my eyes and cleared my mind.”
The Global Women in Management Program
The CEDPA GWIM program, sponsored by the ExxonMobil Foundation since 2005, strengthens women’s management, leadership and technical skills to enhance and bring to scale programs that advance women’s economic opportunities, building the next generation of women business leaders and entrepreneurs.
“Leadership and the practical business skills are extremely helpful to me,” said Jukuli. “I was using them and did not know it, but now I can explain the how and why to the women in my association. I will share everything with them. My mind is racing with ideas.”
The CEDPA GWIM participants learn not only from the facilitators, but from fellow participants. Each participant shares their experiences, successes and failures for the benefit of the group. The three-week program builds bonds between the participants, giving them new perspectives on the challenges their programs face and providing the chance to share solutions.
The women will also have the opportunity to join Advancing PNG: Women Leaders Network, a country-wide network formed by the first 23 CEDPA GWIM alumni from PNG in January 2014. The network will link all of the CEDPA GWIM alumni in PNG together in an effort to improve lives and make dreams become realities as a united front.
Jukuli shared her hopes and dreams for the future with her fellow participants during the workshop.
“I want the association’s bakery to be a recognized brand throughout PNG, and I want my women and me to learn to read and write,” said Jukuli. “I see now how far I will be able to go when I do.”