27 June 2014
Address by Australia’s High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, HE Ms Deborah Stokes at the launch of the Pawa Meri films, Paradise Cinemas, Papua New Guinea
It is with real pride that we gather here tonight for the launch of Pawa Meri.
Susil Nelson, Gina Baidam, Sister Lorraine Garasu, Rita Kare, Miriam Potopi and Jennifer Baing Waiko are extraordinary leaders.
They are well known in their communities and beyond. In the films we see their courage, resilience and determination to change their communities for the better.
It is vital to record and re-tell these stories of modern Papua New Guinean women.
They will inspire current and future generations of PNG women and girls to work for what they believe in.
Pawa women everywhere need to be recognised, celebrated and supported.
Equality for women cannot be achieved without women assuming leadership roles, in more numbers and in all positions.
Throughout the world, including in Australia, we are still in the process of seeing this aspiration realised.
We continue to need inspiring and courageous women, women who take steps longer and higher than the steps their mothers took.
We need men to be agents for positive change and growth in the role of women in Papua New Guinea society.
Men play a large role in the pawa women’s’ stories, including as role models and supporters in some.
There is no doubt that Papua New Guinea women have taken important steps forward in the past few years.
We have all applauded the election of three women – the largest number in any single term – to Parliament in 2012. But we know that this is not nearly enough.
This, and the election of a larger proportion of women to positions in Local Level Governments, is hopefully a harbinger of greater change to come.
We have also seen a gradual increase in the numbers of women in leadership roles in key institutions, most notably in PNG’s Law and Justice sector.
Australia is committed to helping men and women in Papua New Guinea address the challenges of gender inequality.
Gender equality and empowering women and girls is a key priority in Australia’s new development policy.
We recognize that one of the best ways to promote economic growth and to achieve stronger communities and societies is to empower women and girls.
We foster women’s leadership through activities like business partnerships and parliamentary partnerships.
Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, and Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, are deeply committed to women having the chance to be leaders. I encourage you to engage with both if the opportunity arises. They plan to visit PNG again soon.
We congratulate the women film directors responsible for these high quality films. The large numbers of people attending demonstrate that Papua New Guineans are excited to see stories about their lives, made by other Papua New Guineans. We hope this experience continues your careers in filmmaking.
Tonight, with our partners Victoria University, Creative and Social Media Centre and the University of Goroka, Australia is proud to bring you the Pawa Meri film series.