A message from a PNG NGO to PNG businesses – thanks for the shot in the arm

Participants in the Lae Walk Against Violence.
Participants in the Lae Walk Against Violence.

Kath Taplin

We know that criminal assaults in the family – the bashings, rapes and other physical and psychological attacks too delicately referred to as ‘family violence’ – are abhorrent abuses of human rights.

We’ve also long known that this violence occurs in the historically unregulated ‘private sphere’, but that it inevitably seeps into public realm, costing countries a fortune (see here and here). The effect of family violence is not able be contained within homes, communities, or generations for that matter.

Businesses, ever conscious of costs, know only too well that this violence hits their bottom lines. ODI developed methodologies to help quantify the costs to businesses in PNG. So, what are they doing about it?

Here I’ll write from the perspective of Femili PNG, a PNG NGO supporting adult and child violence survivors on a daily basis. We’re increasingly engaging with the business sector on the issue.

Our key message is that the business response to supporting survivors has been heartening. We’ve found ourselves involved with a number of dynamic leaders from both the ‘big and small ends of town’ who are applying time and energy to addressing violence.

Enter Ms Sarah Haoda-Todd, CEO of ‘Lae Everclean’, creator of PNG fashion line ‘PNGian Kala’ and woman-about-town. She’s charismatic and connected. She’s also, in her own words, “sick of violence against women and children”.  After introducing us to a high profile politician visiting her in her office, and regaling us with stories of her latest business dealings, Ms Todd described her sadness as she prepares for the ‘Walk Against Violence’ rally in Lae (held Sunday 21 February 2016).  She’s adding to her already hectic schedule by organising and funding public gatherings highlighting violence against women. As she explained, professionals and business people need to draw on their leadership skills and extensive networks to bring the issue from the margins to the centre. With typical business efficiency, it took one short meeting to agree how Femili PNG will work forward with Ms Todd on outreach activities, combining our organisation’s technical knowledge, resources and experience with her own. Of course, our staff marched together with her at the rally.

As it turns out there’s quite a supply of solutions-oriented people who want to work with us on dealing with family and sexual violence. We met with an executive officer of an international company who described a damaging pattern in her workplace, whereby women promoted to senior levels suddenly start experiencing more violence at home (read Stephanie Copus-Campbell also discuss this issue here). She’s determined to deal with it so that her merit-based appointees can succeed. It takes one focussed session to arrange Femili PNG’s outreach to 300-plus staff and an appropriate procedure for the referral of serious cases to our centre, should the employees want to receive our support. Some resources to support Femili PNG’s work are offered to us on the spot.

Another Lae business describes to us its experience implementing its new Family and Sexual Violence Policy to support employees. Its implementation process included a UNSW-assisted survey of their employees’ experiences of violence to inform the policy approach. (PNG’s Business Coalition for Women is behind this excellent initiative assisting PNG companies to roll out effective FSV policies.) Once again, discussions with the company about how Femili PNG could collaborate with it to support survivors were productive, swiftly settling how we’ll work with management and employees.

Femili PNG outreach to staff at Theodist.
Femili PNG outreach to staff at Theodist.

Regarding the ‘cold hard cash’ we all know and love – especially business folks – well, we’ve a little good news to report on that front too. We received a generous and unsolicited ‘cheque in the mail’ from Anitua, who supported its staff to fundraise for Femili PNG. (Needless to say, we were chuffed, as more often than not its bills we’re opening.)  Our in-kind donations from companies such as Colgate and Zenag Eggs are gratefully received.  And, while I’m listing various acts of kindness and good sense, the Lae Chamber of Commerce and Industry willingly spreads word of our work through its newsletters, and this year Femili PNG will speak at the 2016 Australia-PNG Business Council meeting to be held in Cairns in May, which will likely have some 500 business leaders in attendance.

Family and sexual violence is on the business agenda, literally.

Is something of a change underway? Certainly much more than lip service is evident from our point of view on the ground in Lae.  Some have cheekily noted to Femili PNG that they couldn’t imagine a time when the ‘likes of us would be invited to speak at an Australia-PNG Business Council gig’.

Change is underway. It’s a genuinely refreshing shot in the arm for this NGO to work with talented, passionate business people who genuinely believe addressing family and sexual violence is everyone’s business.

Kath Taplin is Femili PNG’s Senior Development Manager.

For more information on partnerships, contact [email protected]. Visit the donate page to support our work.