Where Abusing Women Is “An Accepted Norm”
Mathilde Bagneres interviews LILLY BE’SOER, founder of Voice for Change, Papua New Guinea
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 29, 2012 (IPS)
Violence, torture and other forms of cruel treatment are on the rise for women in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.
The highlands women of Papua New Guinea (PNG) experience the most frequent and severe forms of violence, according to two studies. The violence is linked to extreme cultural traditions that discriminate against women and girls, such as polygamy, forced marriages, sorcery, witch-hunting and extra-judicial killings. But at least one woman is fighting back in Papua New Guinea. Lilly Be’Soer, who was once a victim of tribal conflict and has been in a polygamous marriage, founded Voice for Change, a women’s rights non-governmental organisation (NGO).
In 2010, Be’Soer was awarded a Pacific Human Rights Defenders Award. Most recently, she has helped negotiate a peace agreement to resettle 500 internally displaced families.
IPS correspondent Mathilde Bagneres spoke with Be’Soer about her experiences, the situation of women in Papua New Guinea and the role of Voice for Change. Excerpts from the interview follow.
Q: What is the main purpose of Voice for Change? What is it achieving on the ground for Papua New Guinea’s women?
My own experience made me understand that there are many women who are facing the problems that I faced. Many of them are displaced, resettled or survivors of violence in PNG. We set up this organisation, this network, to support women who are facing those problems.
Over the past four years, Voice for Change leaders have responded by forming an organisation that runs two main programs: Promoting and Protecting Women’s Human Rights and Economic Empowerment of Women.