July is a special month for us. This year we celebrate five years of operating our first Case Management Centre (CMC) in Lae. It has truly been a journey for Femili PNG. In these five years of operation, we have grown in number, strengthened partnerships with core service providers, expanded our network, and helped many survivors by working together with existing services.
Looking back, we can’t help but be proud of how far we’ve come as a local non-government organisation. The approach to establish a CMC in PNG was the first of its kind, and with the collective effort of a few passionate and committed individuals, this initiative was driven into existence. The need for a Case Management Centre was identified by Dr Kamalini Lokuge from the Australian National University when she did the external evaluation for the work done by Medicins san Frontieres (MSF) who provided support to the Family Support Centre (FSC) at the Angau Hospital from 2008 to 2013. There wasn’t an existing organisation with the mandate to help survivors of family and sexual violence access assistance from multiple service providers. It was evident that survivors needed support to make informed decisions and be guided through the process of accessing justice.
Dr Kamalini Lokuge, who was Femili PNG’s Technical Director, and Ms Daisy Plana, Femili PNG’s CEO and Senior Social Worker, believed that creating Femili PNG would be a catalyst for change. The idea was that the organisation would accept clients and work according to their wishes, with guidance so that they could make informed decisions. Ms. Plana, originally from the Philippines, and who had been working with MSF at Angau Hospital, took the opportunity to stay on in PNG. She says, “I took part because of hoping to make a difference, a difference in the lives of many survivors.”
With funding from the Australian Government through OXFAM (at that time), and most employees initially coming from the MSF Lae project which had just ended, Femili PNG was established in mid-2014. In late June, an office space was acquired at Top Town in Lae. While the office was still being set up, the first staff meeting was held at the CEO’s house on 23rd June with seven staff.
Reminiscing about how the organisation started brings tears and laughter today. Femili PNG didn’t have a vehicle yet, so to make runs, the staff had to use a PMV bus. To register with the Internal Revenue Commission, Josephine Romokau (Femili PNG Administrator) got on the PMV bus with Daisy and Kamalini from town to market, then to Aigris (Wharf) and back. Everyone was staring because they rarely see expatriates on PMV buses. Another favorite memory concerns Ian, the previous Logistics & Security Officer, who carried two mop buckets on both of his shoulders and walked from BNBM Market to the office at Top Town.
Josephine is one of the staff who has been with the organisation from the beginning. Previously, she was working as the Admin-Assist with MSF. When Femili PNG started, she was employed as the Administrator. In the last five years, Josephine has also worked in the areas of finance and human resources, with assistance from Professor Stephen Howes, who continues to serve as the Board Chair. Josephine says that she had struggled in the beginning, but has learnt a lot from Daisy and Stephen. Other staff who have been with Femili PNG started as office cleaners, receptionists and drivers, but after learning and improving, have been promoted to positions with more responsibility.
Femili PNG always stresses the importance of values and discipline. Daisy, the CEO, says that she appreciates the courage of the individuals who have made the decision to be part of this organisation. It has also been a learning process for Daisy herself. She says, “Femili PNG has made me flexible in accepting changes and challenges.”
When asked what is Femili PNG’s biggest accomplishment, Ms Plana says that it is in fact the organisation’s establishment as an on-going entity. This has demonstrated that there are people and organisations who care and are willing to work in partnership. Collectively, Femili PNG and its partners have provided services that have changed, and will continue to change, the lives of many survivors of family and sexual violence.
From seven staff, Femili PNG now has 25 staff in Lae, and 20 staff in Port Moresby (where it is now the operator for the Bel isi PNG Initiative). Â All the staff are Papua New Guinean, except for the CEO. The Femili PNG Board is a mix of eminent and expert Papua New Guineans and Australians, with several still there from the organisation’s inception.
Since its first client intake on 25th July 2014, Femili PNG has so far assisted over 2,300 women, men and children who are survivors of intimate partner violence, rape, child abuse, including sorcery accusation-related violence. We work with our partners to provide these clients with the practical support they need. Based on what we see and learn, we also undertake evaluation and research which provides the basis for our advocacy.
Femili PNG is very grateful to the Australian Government, who remains our main donor, in partnership with the Government of Papua New Guinea as part of the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development program. But Femili PNG now also receives support from businesses, churches, communities, individual donors, and even former clients. Femili PNG is also grateful for the tremendous fund-raising and technical expertise provided by supporters in Australia (through Friends of Femili PNG and others like Mundango Abroad and the Zonta Club).
Femili PNG looks forward to continuing its partnership with existing service providers and partners in helping survivors of FSV access available services. The CEO, Daisy Plana, says that her hope is that the PNG Government will come more on board. “We’ve demonstrated that case management and crisis support are essential to the lives of the many women, men and children who are survivors of family and sexual violence. I hope that the PNG government will not only acknowledge, but support and fund this approach.”