The woman went to the station to report a sexual offense but was clearly in need of medical care. Thanks to Sister Therese’s prompt action, the mother received the care she needed and gave birth to a healthy baby.
Sister Therese has advocated for greater human rights over many years, including providing accommodation for women and youths awaiting court hearings and acting as a back-up for the Buin safe house, a secure place for women and girls fleeing violent situations. Thus this was nothing new.
She credits the training and support received through the PNG Australia Partnership for helping her effectively provide such vital services. The training strengthened her understanding of gender inequality, and a deeper understanding of the Family Protection Act, and provided guidance on how to help people obtain protection orders.
The Buin-based centre not only serves as a safe house but also connects survivors of family and sexual violence (FSV) and sorcery accusation related violence (SARV) to other support services. To continue operations, the centre must overcome logistical challenges as well as poor mobile network coverage and shortages of basic supplies.
Similarly, Judith Pena and Clara Omi, two other Bougainville-based human rights defenders to have benefited from PNG-Australia Partnership support. They are members of the Buka-based Hako Women’s Collective that operates a safe house and works closely with other local services such as the Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation.
They deal with married women and young girls, who they would counsel and connect to the Bougainville Police Service, the courts and the hospital and monitoring their progress.
Omi said she represents women and young girls. She is their voice, advocate, and support them when faced with abuse of their human rights, especially family and sexual violence cases.
“I bring in survivors from my village to the safe house and Village Court to get help,” Omi said.