PNG Women ‘Living In War Zone’: Oxfam Manager

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PNG Women ‘Living In War Zone’: Oxfam Manager Oxfam working to obtain legal, medical help for women

By Daniel Drageset

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, Nov. 7, 2013) – Oxfam New Zealand’s media manager characterises the conditions of many of the women in Papua New Guinea as "living in a war zone."

In an exclusive interview with Pacific Scoop Jason Garman said the situation for women in Papua New Guinea could be compared to many sub-Saharan African countries, and mentioned specifically the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

"Gender violence is endemic in Papua New Guinea. I’ve heard statistics that say by a woman’s mid-20s, she has a 65 percent chance of having experienced gender violence at some point.

"Rape is very common – often times [women are] are raped by their husbands, and to put it into perspective that’s on a par with some places in Africa, for instance the DRC," the media and communications manager said.

Oxfam’s programme to combat gender violence was called Ending violence against women, and Garman explained that it involved obtaining legal help for women who had been attacked, providing medical assistance as well as other kinds of help.

Also, Garman said Oxfam New Zealand collaborated with local organisations in reaching out to and helping women.

‘Opportunistic’ sorcery allegations

According to Garman, certain men in Papua New Guinea have been taking advantage of the history the country has of sorcery.

He said sorcery was "common" in Papua New Guinea and that people were now using it "opportunistically."

"A mob will say they [innocent women] are practising sorcery, and the reason that someone died is that this woman is a sorcerer. That happened to one of the women that we met.

"She was chased by a mob, a rope was strung around her neck, she was dragged through the village and hit in multiple places on her body with a bolt knife, and eventually put her hand up to try to defend herself, and then they cut her hand off," Garman said.

The California native has been on a two-week trip to Papua New Guinea, where Oxfam New Zealand, in addition to combating gender violence, is also fronting two other projects – namely water and sanitation, and providing and improving the livelihoods of local people.

Garman said that one of the important contributions of Oxfam New Zealand, was providing toilets.

"The most common way that people live in a village is by practicing what they call ‘open defecation’, which means they just go to the bathroom behind the bush under a tree all over the village more or less.

"For sanitation, we’re helping communities dig what we call ‘VIP latrines’, which is a ventilated, improved pit latrine."

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