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Women, Development and Empowerment: A Pacific Feminist Perspective


As for many other Pacific island nations, 1975 was International Women's Year and the PNG Government made available money for the women in the country to organise themselves. So, in 1975, a national women's convention was held at Port Moresby which brought together women from all over the country, most of whom were representing church women's organisations already existing in the country, and other women's clubs and organisations such as the YWCA, the Girl Guides, the Soroptimists International, the Catholic Women's Association and others. Part of the government money was used for the conference and to send a delegation to Mexico City for the 1975 UN Conference.

The main resolution of the 1975 Port Moresby convention was that the participants coming from other provinces in Papua New Guinea would go back and set up their own Provincial Councils of Women. The National Council of Women would be supported by the Provincial Councils of Women.

The women participating in the National Convention in 1975 went back to their own respective provinces and tried to organise women at the provincial level, by establishing Provincial Councils of Women. PNG has 19 provinces, plus the National Capital District, which makes a total of 20 provinces. Therefore there were supposed to be 20 provincial organisations plus the National Organisation, as an overall organisation.

As women organised themselves, there were a few practical problems that they faced. The bulk of PNG women are village women. There were difficulties conveying information or getting to women, to establish the machinery. What page 46 happened was that only women in the city centres or in towns could get together for association meetings. Provincial councils did not reach the grassroot levels, so were just superficially women's organisations. At the same time, other women's organisations, such as church women's organisations and women's clubs which were supposedly being organised, already existed. The setting up of Provincial organisations threatened these women's organisations and they felt that by joining up the national and provincial women's networks, their organisation would lose its identity. Church organisations were particularly strong and did represent women from the grassroots level up to the national level. These women's organisations of the Catholic, Anglican, United and Seventh Day Adventist churches, had women's networks in the country.