News : PNG Helpline Says Violence Affects Everyone
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, June 26, 2018 -- A phone helpline for women experiencing violence in Papua New Guinea says thousands have used the service but the problem continues to affect nearly every woman in the country at some point during her lifetime.
New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been supporting the aid agency ChildFund over the past four years to set up and run PNG's only toll free nationwide phone service.
Some of the team visited similar helpline agencies in New Zealand recently and spoke to Jenny Meyer about their work.
"We assure them that it's confidential no one is going to know what they're sharing with us and that, so it helps them to open up and speak about the violence they are experiencing or the abuses they're experiencing at home."
Kinime Daniel is a social worker and counsellor with 1 Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain based in Port Moresby and says some of the calls can be very distressing but it is important to help those in need.
"They discuss with us of the sexual violence they have been through or the physical violence, like husband bashing them up or children going through rape. Those are issues they openly discuss with us."
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She says the seven day a week service runs for 12 hours a day and the fact it exists helps women, who can feel trapped by violence, to take action and sometimes children and witnesses to rape or assault also call.
"They can call in from where ever they are, in the secret behind doors, out of reach of anyone. And also knowing the service is available, it empowers them. It also helps them to think that they can do something."
Marcia Kalineo is PNG's national co-ordinator of the Family and Sexual Violence Committee, an umbrella group tasked with legal reform, service provision, advocacy and research to change the culture of violence.
"The reality is that everybody has faced some form of violence in their lifetime. Whether they have been a perpetrator or they have been a victim, every household knows and they've seen violence."
She says there are some improvements with a growing number of family support centres, family units within police stations, education on legal protection and the violence hotline.
Ms Kalineo says a life free from violence is everyone's right and the topic is no longer completely ignored in PNG.
"People are aware of the issue. The issue of violence is there, everyone knows that violence is happening. Now getting people on board to advocate more and address the issue is also becoming a great need and we see a lot of people responding."
She says the private sector, churches, government, and aid agencies are all responding but the issue keeps growing as people speak up asking for help and more still needs to be done.
"The figures are still alarming. We have done so much for response and we are now trying to focus more on prevention work and we need to get to the roots of it. It starts with individuals and it starts with families. And parents have to be role models, they need to be able to look at what is it within themselves that can help them to raise up their children to be good role models and citizens."
Kinime Daniel says it has been very interesting visiting helplines in New Zealand and phone counsellors need to receive good supervision and support for themselves so they can continue to do their work.
"What they do is very similar to what we do. We are very keen on learning a lot from them. We can establish a good relationship to continue our work in PNG maybe doing phone calls or skype or any supervision that they can also provide to us to help our work in PNG."
The head of ChildFund New Zealand Paul Brown says addressing violence is a vital part of aid for developing countries.
"We provide clean water, education, health initiatives, job training activities for people in communities but all of that gets undermined or eroded if that community is not safe for, particularly for children, for women or for men. So we think reducing violence and responding to violence has to be an essential ingredient."
Paul Brown says the PNG hotline is having a positive practical impact in the lives of thousands of families who previously received little help.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic or gender based violence in PNG, you can speak confidentially to 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain +7150 8000.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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