Empowering Rural Women and Youths in Papua New Guinea on Group Leadership & Agri-Business Management

By: PNG Business News September 26, 2022

Photo: EU-STREIT PNG addresses gender-based violence and its subsequent negative impact on inclusive participation and transformational change in seven remote villages in Sandaun Province

A 5-day intensive training workshop on establishing and organising agri-business groups, with a focus on Group Leadership and Business Management skills, was recently organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), under EU-STREIT PNG Programme, for 70 cluster group leaders inclusive of women and potential youth leaders from seven villages in West Aitape Local Level Government, Sandaun Province.

The workshop also focused on raising awareness on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) among cocoa, vanilla and fisheries farming communities. The venue for the training was Marubian Village (Ulau 2), located along the tropical west coastline of Aitape.

Lack of knowledge and skills in leadership, particularly among rural women and youth, prevents villagers from partaking equally in decision-making at the executive level of farmer groups. With this insight, the farmers were also trained on how to establish and manage their cooperatives in a gender-sensitive manner. 

The first sessions, focused on the importance of mainstreaming gender and youth perspectives and addressed issues of gender-based violence within the three targeted value chains. The sharing of household roles and responsibilities to allow for additional time to contribute positively in farming activities for quality and quantity production, the gender constraints in the value chain development as well as valuing everyone’s inputs by family members for appropriate reward and respect were some of the issues discussed.

It was the first time that the villagers were learning about shared gender roles in contrast to some existing cultural norms. Through group discussions, participants came to realise how the sharing of household workload could   improve their lives as well as their farming output. "Everything begins in the house. As long as we share responsibilities within the house, we can save time and be more productive on the farms," explained Ms Patu Shang, Programme's Gender and Youth Inclusion Specialist.

The sessions, filled with dynamic interactions, group discussions and presentations, provided an opportunity for mothers and girls whose efforts and contribution have hitherto not been appreciated, to speak out. "This group gathering is a window for these mothers to say yes they can speak and not to remain silent and likewise for youths to see life in a positive way," said Mrs Angela Passingan, Chairlady of BAMA Womens' Group who organised the mothers in the village to collaborate with EU-STREIT PNG Programme for this learning opportunity. The women's group comprises mostly single mothers, including widows, and they invited female and male youths in the community to join them. This opportunity equally helped this group to build its organisational capacity.

"I believe this training will help us in many ways. Once we can fix our homes in terms of sharing gender responsibilities, we can manage other aspects of our lives like farming cocoa and vanilla," added Mr Joseph Sarinu, Ward 29 Member.

The sessions on farmer group leadership with a business approach helped boost women and youths' confidence to take up leadership roles. Some key contents covered include Benefits of Cooperative Ownership, Understanding Regulatory Compliances, Goals Setting & Action Planning, Roles of Leaders/Members in Cooperatives, and Understanding the Organisational Structure of Cooperatives. The importance of working in groups to take part in agribusiness in cocoa, vanilla and fisheries value chains was also shared and discussed.

Involving women and youths in active dialogues is necessary in this regard. "This training has clarified my thoughts that my sister has a right to be consulted in decision-making and participation in our farmer group we want to run in our community," said a 25-year-old male youth Jason Kagum.

The EU-STREIT PNG, being implemented as a United Nations Joint Programme (FAO as the leading agency, and ILO, ITU, UNCDF and UNDP as implementing partners), is the largest grant-funded Programme of the European Union in the country and the Pacific region. The Programme focuses on increasing sustainable and inclusive economic development of rural areas through increasing the economic returns and opportunities from cocoa, vanilla and fishery value chains and strengthening and improving the efficiency of value chain enablers including the business environment and supporting sustainable, climate-resilient transport and energy infrastructure development. 

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