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The NCW: Last gasp ¡X or new direction?

February 27 2005 at 5:41 PM
The National: Sunday, February 27, 2005 

The NCW: Last gasp ¡X or new direction?

THE coming convention of the National Council of Women could be the most vital yet held by this body.
Nothing less than the future of the NCW is at stake.
Ever since educationist and women¡¦s activist Dellma Boden wrote a report in 1976 from which the National Council grew, the women¡¦s body has been fraught with periods of dissension.
Mrs Boden, who was the women¡¦s advisor to the prime minister of the day, Sir Michael Somare, had overseen the celebration of PNG¡¦s first International Women¡¦s Day.
That event helped crystallise the idea of the establishment of a PNG organisation to represent the interests of women within our country.
There have been periods of considerable achievement for the NCW, and there have been notable women at the top of the national council.
But there have also been rough times for the NCW, with allegations of corruption and nepotism, and the sense that the organisation grew away from the intentions of that small band of distinguished women who fought hard to see the council up and running.
Now an equally distinguished woman, Dame Carol Kidu, has spoken strongly about the need to involve capable and educated business and academic women in the NCW.
This advice should be heeded by all who have the interests of PNG women at heart.
Nearly 30 years have passed since the innovative efforts of 1976.
Although the progress of women has in many ways been lamentably slow, progress has occurred.
The variety of professions and occupations now open to women has increased dramatically.
Today, women are inching closer to that desirable point where any one of their number can occupy any form of employment she so chooses.
That is a long way from the dead-end circumstances that surrounded most working women in 1976.
In those days, our women were effectively confined to low level typing and secretarial work within government departments; the professions of nursing or teaching; employment ¡X thought to be quite daring at the time ¡X as air hostesses or radio announcers or reporters; finally, the traditional role of housewife, mother, gardener and family dogsbody accounted for the vast bulk of PNG¡¦s women.
The tiny handful who made it into a limited range of university courses was very much marginalised from the main stream, even although there were remarkable pioneers among their number.
By contrast, the PNG work place today is peppered with career women who have refused to be compromised by the glass ceiling so obviously in operation in this country.
Top level insurance assessors, bank managers, highly-skilled medical specialists, court judges and magistrates, and a remarkable range of businesswomen, employed by others, or on their own behalf, characterise the modern PNG women.
Electrical engineers, tractor drivers, fish breeders, cattle station owners, pilots ¡X the list is virtually endless.
So in that sense, women have made mighty strides.
But in the sense of the most basic personal rights guaranteed by our Constitution, it sometimes seems that women¡¦s interests have not just stood still, but are rapidly sliding backwards.
Rape, assault, theft and domestic violence were not an obvious feature of the lives of our grandmothers.
Today, the fear of these crimes is factored into the average woman¡¦s daily life.
And so PNG women are confronted by two realities.
On the one hand, their path towards real career satisfaction broadens and becomes easier to negotiate each year.
But at the same time, their relationship with many men worsens perceptibly.
In a real sense, our women ¡X our mothers, career women, elderly women and teenagers, and tragically, even our girls, are exposed to community and social dangers never experienced at this level before.
It is against that background that the NCW must re-establish its goals, re-dedicate itself to fighting on behalf of all women, and seriously devise programmes and methodologies to advance the position of women within our country.
And as Dame Carol points out ¡X to achieve that goal, the NCW¡¦s numbers must be boosted by professional qualified women from every field.


 
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