The Permanent Parliamentary Committee on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) met today to discuss and agree on their agenda for the year. They have made it known that they will use the powers bestowed upon them to ensure that the Government has proper laws, policies and institutions in place to empower women and ensure that they are safe from gender-based violence (GBV).
They have agreed to hold their first Inquiry as a Permanent Parliamentary Committee on GEWE in this term of Parliament from 24 to 26 May 2023, in Port Morseby. The Inquiry will look not only at how the Government is addressing GBV and SARV but will also more broadly call on Government officials to explain whether the Government’s existing laws, policies and institutions on GEWE are in place and functioning properly.
Chairman of the Permanent Parliamentary Committee on GEWE and Governor of National Capital District, Hon Powes Parkop, was clear on his vision for the Committee: “I want to make sure that our Committee wastes no time investigating how the Government is delivering for the women and girls of our country. We have been given a powerful mandate and we need to use it to shine a light on the issues that need attention if our women and girls are to live safe, peaceful and prosperous lives. This is what our founders wanted when they included the principles of equality and non-discrimination in our Constitution. All MPs and Government officials must all aspire to implement those principles in all that we do.”
"We have been given a powerful mandate and we need to use it to shine a light on the issues that need attention if our women and girls are to live safe, peaceful and prosperous lives." -- Gov Powes Parkop, Committee Chair
Deputy Chairman of the Committee and Governor for East Sepik Province, Hon Allan Bird also endorsed these sentiments, stating: “The role of our Committee is to elevate the issues that are important to women and girls into national discussions. Before the Special Parliamentary Committee on GBV’s work in the last term, our Parliament had hardly used its committees’ powers as a check and balance on Government. But the GBV Committee showed how Parliamentary Committees are supposed to work by holding officials to account, in public. That kind of public transparency and accountability is critical to ensuring Government resources are better used to promote women’s rights.”
Five Committee Members participated in the meeting at Parliament Haus, with technical advice and support provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Committee was briefed on current gaps in the national policy frameworks guiding the Government’s efforts to empower women and girls. Reference was made to the new Medium Term Development Plan 4, which does not appear to include any specific gender equality or GBV priorities in its current draft form. The Government’s last National GEWE Policy also expired in 2015 and has not been updated in the years since, which leaves Government agencies without any guiding framework on how to concretely progress women’s empowerment and improvement in the gender space.
At the international level, although PNG acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1995, it has only ever reported back to the UN on the progress of implementing CEDAW once, in 2009. The next reporting cycle by PNG is due this year, but it is not clear whether the Government is ready to meet its obligations.
After discussion amongst the Committee, Governor Parkop summed up their commitments: “We will hold our first public hearings from 24-26 in May and will call officials before us to explain what concrete actions they are taking to help the women and girls of PNG. We expect officials to explain to us how they will develop a new national GEWE policy, that will plan and budget for initiatives to empower women and girls. We also want to know when and how the Government will develop its next CEDAW report.”
Governor Parkop went on: “We will also continue to be very focused on addressing GBV and sorcery accusation related violence, building on the work of the Special Parliamentary Committee on GBV. We anticipate calling agencies like the Department for Community Development and Religion and the various justice agencies to explain how they have implemented previous recommendations calling for improvements in crisis response and access to justice”.
The Committee has six members, in addition to Chairman Parkop, namely: Governor Allan Bird (Governor for East Sepik) and Deputy Chairperson; Governor Rufina Peter (Governor for Central Province); Hon. Marsh Narewec, (Member for Wau Waria); Hon. Ricky Morris (Member for Alotau); Hon. William Bando (Member for Koroba Lake Kopiago); and Hon. Lohia Boe Samuel (Member for Port Moresby North-West).