As the 20 Days of Human Rights Activism campaign continues to be celebrated in PNG, five members of the new Permanent Parliamentary Committee on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) were sworn in yesterday at the National Parliament.
Governor Powes Parkop (Chairman), Governor Allan Bird (Deputy Chairman) and Committee members Hon. Marsh Narewec, Hon. Ricky Morris and Hon. Lohia Boe Samuel all took their oath of office and committed to using their mandate to progress women’s empowerment and to continue previous efforts to tackle gender-based violence.
Governor Chair Powes Parkop took the opportunity to make a short speech, thanking the Members for joining their Committee and using their power as Members of Parliament to take action to improve the lives of women and girls. He again thanked former MP, Hon Charles Abel, for his invaluable contribution to addressing GBV, in his role as the former Chair of the Special Parliamentary Committee on GBV.
Governor Parkop stated: “We need to translate our words into deeds which is why I am so happy the Government committed to converting the previous ad hoc committee into a permanent committee and showing a strong commitment to this very important agenda for our country. I am also very happy the scope of the committee has been broadened to address not only GBV, but also gender equality and women’s empowerment We have made many commitments globally and nationally in the past but have not made much progress.”
He went on to acknowledge: “We may not solve everything. It is not our jobs to go out and do the work. But we do have the power to do oversight of government agencies at the national, sub-national and local levels and we will use it. I want to tell the people that we will be a proactive committee. We will call government agencies before our committee to tell us what they are doing – and also what they are not doing – so that we can make sure this important human rights issue is being properly addressed”.
"These issues of gender equality and GBV affect half of our population – our women and girls – who for a long time have been feeling like they are treated like second class citizens in our country." -- Governor Powes Parkop, Committee Chair
In closing, Governor Parkop noted: “These issues of gender equality and GBV affect half of our population – our women and girls – who for a long time have been feeling like they are treated like second class citizens in our country. This committee is just a start at addressing these big challenges, but I look forward to working with my colleagues to take action. Once we work out our schedule, we will announce it and then we will get to work!”
The new Committee has a broader term of reference than the previous Special Parliamentary Committee on GBV. In addition to examining all aspects related to addressing GBV, the Committee has been empowered to examine other issues that impact on gender equality, including women’s leadership, women’s economic empowerment and related GEWE reforms. The Committee can also examine the role of the National Council of Women in promoting women’s rights.
The new Committee has seven members in total: Governor Rufina Peter (Central Province) and Hon William Bando will be sworn in on a later date. The Committee has a quorum of four people and can now commence its work.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will be providing technical support to the new Parliamentary Committee on GEWE and GBV as part of its gender programming and the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative. This support aims to addressGEWE and Gender-BAed Violence and support longer-term efforts to promote women’s participation and leadership in the Parliament.