Canada boosts women’s business in rural PNG

Businesses operated by women across remote and rural Papua New Guinea, including one that upskills prisoners at the New Ireland Correctional Services facility in Kavieng, have received a welcome boost.

They are backed with support from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.

The businesses, operated by village women’s groups in Central, Morobe, New Ireland and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, were established under the Strongim Meri Bisnis Project run by Australian NGO – Kokoda Track Foundation.

KTF works with the groups to equip them with the business skills, equipment, supply chains and support to build self-sustaining businesses by providing products in demand in their local communities, including environmentally friendly female hygiene packs and solar lights. Canada joins a consortium of KTF donors supporting the project.

COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for the businesses to adapt their business models to produce products in high demand – reusable face masks and soap. A recent injection of funding from the Canadian High Commission in the region enables the women to adapt their production for success.

This financial support enables the women’s group at the Kavieng Correctional Facility to procure locally-sourced supplies of coconuts to produce much-needed soap whilst learning vital skills, rehabilitating for a future on release.

In PNG, where women across the country face challenges in gaining employment, these skills will be vital to accessing opportunity.

Bulk purchases of high-quality fabric have enabled other groups to switch to the production of masks as an alternative to their usual female hygiene packs, with technical support from KTF in the form of training aligned with advice from the CDC, WHO, COVID-19 awareness and education booklets.

The group have quickly mastered the new patterns and are producing as many masks as their enhanced supply-chain allows.

Of the opportunity presented, Vaporo from Gabagaba Women’s Group says, “I am grateful because I am learning also new skills and I can turn these skills into an SME in the future.”

High Commissioner-designate to Papua New Guinea, Mark Glauser, says supporting gender equality in the Pacific Island region is a priority for Canada.

“We are proud to be supporting women-led businesses across Papua New Guinea through the Canada Fund. This is a high-impact project that will benefit many families and create a lasting, positive impact for generations to come.

“Despite the pandemic, the government of Canada remains focused on protecting human rights, including gender equality, and working with partners and the community to build better futures for women in rural and remote areas of PNG, where these opportunities may have otherwise been limited.”

KTF Program Manager, Petra Arifeae, highlights the importance of the funding boost to the project, particularly during the uncertain economic times brought about by the global pandemic. “We are incredibly grateful to the Canadian government for supporting these fledgling women’s businesses. The ability to purchase supplies to adapt their products to meet local demand provides a wonderful opportunity for the women to generate an income to support their families.

“When you invest in a woman, you are investing in the whole community, and benefits from these businesses will help to support school project fees, educational resources and other community development initiatives. We look forward to seeing their start-up business continue to evolve to meet customer needs and grow.”

(Women's group members in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville - Image credit: KTF)

Press release