I know most of my blogs lately have been whinging about being sick. It’s safe to say it has been a pretty rocky year on the health front.
But besides all that, other good things have been happening behind the scenes.
Through my work, I have been helping out Femili PNG, a Papua New Guinean NGO that runs a Case Management Centre (CMC) in Lae to support survivors of family and sexual violence (FSV). There’s heaps of info about the work it does on its website. My role has been very minor, but I have been proud to be involved in some small way as the CMC began operations in July last year, and has now worked with more than 160 clients. It’s exciting to see this new model become one that is increasingly being seen as something that could really provide hope for the women and children in PNG who have been affected by the country’s extreme levels of gender-based violence. A number of clients have already been supported to find lasting solutions to the violence they have endured, in many cases for years.
All of the clients have survived horrific ordeals. Hearing what they have endured, one can’t help but be moved and shocked, even with the distance that comes from sitting in an office in Canberra hearing the stories over a crackly teleconference line. Hearing the way the Papua New Guinean staff of Femili PNG undertake a high-risk, difficult job in order to support survivors is also inspiring.
On a personal level, there’s so many reasons that I support Femili PNG’s work.
The first reason comes from just thinking about what these survivors have experienced on a human level. While I’ve been sick, it has been tiring to bounce around between doctors, specialists and tests, and for no outcome. I’ve had great support from my friends and family. But in many ways, it’s been hard. When you are at a low point, it’s challenging to be your own advocate. But this is nothing. This is not life and death. I’m not in any danger. I am educated, and have resources. And this is Australia, where things generally work pretty well.
But imagine trying to navigate the justice system, the medical system, find somewhere safe to stay, cover your basic needs and the needs of your children all on your own and all while trying to get out of a high risk situation, after suffering violence or rape. Imagine being possibly injured or emotionally traumatised, or still in serious danger, while trying to deal with all of this. Imagine doing this with nobody to help you–in some cases, where the people who are supposed to support you the most, such as your family, are part of the problem. And imagine doing this in a context where many systems are broken or poorly functioning, where service providers are under-resourced, where gender discrimination is extreme, where you don’t have access to safe transport, where you may have had limited access to education or have low literacy, where you may not have the ability to earn your own livelihood and where there are roadblocks everywhere you turn. For many survivors, it is simply impossible to achieve outcomes or solutions in this situation. The odds are stacked against them. This is why case management is so important. It provides support and advocacy for survivors so they can get through the challenging system, get what they need and come out the other side with a lasting solution to the violence that has plagued their lives, in many cases for years and years.
It’s tough to imagine what these survivors are experiencing, and having grown up in a home where I always felt 100% safe and supported, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to live in a home environment that was a place of danger and fear.
I am also passionate about gender equality, and see it is being absolutely key to development and the realisation of the human rights of women and girls. When levels of gender-based violence are so high, how can gender equality be achieved? How can women have the chance to participate in society as equals, when they aren’t safe in public and aren’t safe in the home? Any serious response to gender-based violence requires the provision of services to survivors.
I also support this project because I know the people involved. Passionate, smart and dedicated. Some of the best people around. It’s also building the ability of Papua New Guinean individuals and organisations to respond to this challenge, which is so very important. And the research that will come out of this project (ANU, including my centre, is supporting this project in a pro-bono capacity), will help answer questions about the best way to respond to FSV. These lessons could go on to help more survivors outside of Lae, and even outside of PNG.
So, I think you should all get behind this project too.
Last year in March, I raised funds for CARE’s Walk in Her Shoes, which is also a great cause. But this year I can’t walk very far at all, so I’m not going to be asking anyone to sponsor me to do that! I am turning 30 though in May, so if you’d like to make a birthday gift, or sponsor me in ‘Sleep in Her Shoes’ (a more realistic goal in my current situation), or just donate to a great cause without it being about me at all, then I’d really encourage you to get behind Femili PNG so that it can reach out and help even more survivors of FSV.
Through a partnership with the Australian NGO AFAP, Femili PNG is now able to accept tax-deductible donations in Australia. It’s easy to do online. And 95% of your funds will go straight to the operations that support survivors, paying salaries for case workers, providing emergency accommodation and food, and more. You can learn more on the website.