Redefining perceptions of women in PNG

Redefining perceptions of women in PNG

Redefining perceptions of women in PNG Blog, Pacific, Philosophy, PNG
October 11, 2011

A woman carrying garden food: Madang, Papua New Guinea

When I sat in court watching her articulating her legal arguments with gusto; I knew a guy couldn’t have done a better job. The consistency and veracity of her arguments flowed un-adulterated by gaps in legal authority. And SHE represented all the MEN who claim ownership to a vast stretch of land along the Madang Coastline.

I am not a feminist, obviously, but I do find that in decolonizing my mind, I’ve found in words and phrases the subtleties that create and form our views about women. Why can’t society accept, at least linguistically, that ‘a woman fights like a woman’? That a woman does not need to; ‘fight like a man,’ in order to be recognized for her achievements.

Even if the woman is perceived as the ‘weaker’ sex, that is not necessarily true. I’ve seen how some women handle themselves pretty well during the third stage of labour. I’ve seen women chase a man during a domestic dispute.

Perhaps Papua New Guinean women are the most under-rated strong women. Think of a typical village setting where over 80% of the country’s population resides. The women go fishing, make gardens, harvest sago, chop firewood, fetch drinking water, do the laundry and dishes, weave mats, bilums and baskets, raise kids and pigs amongst other things. And after a hard day’s work come come home and are expected to cook and attend to the tiny tantrums of the male family members. What do the men do? Most likely, just a minute proportion of the number of activities a woman does in a day.

Women are becoming the main income earners if not the sole income earners of many families. In urban centers, it is the women in settlements who are major income earners for the family. They sell vegetables, cooked food, water and cordial as well as betelnut in order to make ends meet. In rural communities, they collect coffee beans, make copra, dry cocoa beans and take food to local markets for sale.

Recently, I heard a terrible tale of a woman who used to sell green vegetables and yet she died at child-birth because she was anaemic.

Yet society takes it for granted that that is the role of women and in its denial, fails to recognize their efforts. Thus society keeps saying ‘the woman fought like a man’. Well, guess what? She fought like a woman and did a better job than any guy could have done.

Women need to be given more recognition in society for the significant contributions they make silently, while BIG MEN boast about their pathetic accomplishments.

A guy once wrote that God did not create men and women equal and that therefore it was not according to Gods will that men and women be treated as equals. To this a woman replied, “I agree, men were created from dirt, women were made in heaven!”

It’s little wonder therefore that Shakespeare would write;

‘shall I compare thee to a summers day
thou art more lovely and more temperate’


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