Data from across the country shows that women and girls still face enormous challenges, including the high risk that they will be a victim of sexual or physical violence in their lifetimes, that they may die while trying to give birth and often cannot access necessary health services, and that they still have difficult accessing a proper education or finding a job that pays enough.
This International Women’s Day, Governor Parkop, Chair of the new Permanent Parliamentary Committee on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) reflected on the state of women’s rights in PNG and said: “I want to use my role as Chair to proactively oversee government officials and to push for more action by every single Government Department to improve the lives of our women and girls.
He stated that the country’s Constitution enshrines an excellent Bill of Rights. It is meant to ensure that every single person – man or woman – can enjoy a life that is free from violence and can enjoy their basic rights to education, health and a good livelihood.
“But in reality, we know that too many women and girls can’t enjoy their basic human rights. Too many women and girls in our communities are living in poverty and the threat of violence. This cannot continue,” said Parkop.
The Parliamentary Committee on GEWE was established in November 2022 by the 11th Parliament. It takes over the work of the previous Special Parliamentary Committee on Gender-Based Violence which held public hearings in May 2021 and March 2022 and produced reports for Parliament on what more the Government needed to do to address GBV more effectively.
The new Committee has a broader terms of reference than the previous GBV Committee, and can now look at any issue which affects gender equality or women’s empowerment.
Governor Parkop has vowed to use the Committee’s broader mandate to hold officials to account for the lack of progress with improving the rights of women and girls to date.
“Our Committee plans to hold multiple inquiries during this parliamentary term, that will shine a light on the deficiencies in our current national responses to ensuring women and girls can enjoy all of their rights,” he stated.
The Committee is likely to hold its first hearings within the next couple of months, focusing again on GBV as a starting point.
Later in the year, the Committee will hold hearings on other topics of importance to improving gender equality and women’s empowerment.