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Signing up for Peace

A team from MAF flew with partner organisations to an isolated community in PNG to help people take a stand against violence.

Story by Mandy Glass. Photos by Annelie Edsmyr and Landen Kelly.

A new initiative is bringing hope to women and girls in Papua New Guinea as teams fly with MAF to help change attitudes to gender-based and sorcery-accusation-related violence.

Yanamlyn Yana, who works with the PNG Tribal Foundation as the Senisim Pasin Campaign Coordinator, was touched by the warm welcome as a huge crowd greeted the plane at the community of Pyarulama.

“As soon as we arrived, I was a bit emotional because the entire trip coming here, the mountains represented something from home, the trees, the rivers, and whatnot. When we landed, the children were there as well as the parents. They were very happy and excited to see us, already aware that there was going to be a programme happening,” she said. “As an NGO, Tribal Foundation always looks at ways in which we could have a lasting impact on the lives of people.” In the Tok Pisin language “Sinisim Pasin” means “change our ways”. Tribal Foundation, along with MAF, are encouraging families and communities to change the way they solve conflicts. The third partner in this work is Bread for the World, which is funding six outreaches.

Villagers gave their guests a huge welcome, delivering an abundance of watermelons and other homegrown fruit as a lavish show of gratitude. Yanamlyn said the project needed to turn around an attitude that violence was an acceptable part of life in the home.

“It is concerning as well to know that the community considers it normal. That means that there is a lot of work to do just to help them understand that this is not the way to solve issues. And that there are other, better ways that an issue of misunderstanding or quarrel can be solved through proper ways of communication,” she said.

Community Health Worker Matthew Panglass regularly sees the impact of violence.

“There were several domestic violence cases. One day, a man chopped his wife on the head, and then they brought her here. And since I couldn't manage it, I called MAF and I referred her to Kompiam hospital. Sometimes there’s trouble fighting with gun wounds. Sometimes they fight within the family and the brother killed another brother or something,” he said.

Joshua Wari, MAF’s Ground Operations Deputy Manager, said: “Some people that we interviewed were honest with themselves, honest with their marriage. Others held back a little bit because we couldn't get them to a secret place.” MAF’s Commercial Stores Officer Daniel Kingal said young girls were among the worst affected. “Some of them are sent to forcefully engage in marriage because they don't have schools and other services here. So, the only option is to get married to a local leader, just so they can have security provided,” he said. Yanamlyn said interviews showed that violence was seen as a normal part of life. “Most men, or the few whom I had one-on-one conversations with, think that every man is doing it. And every man in the country must be doing it. That's how they see it,” she said.

Between 200 and 300 people mingled around the screening area, eager to watch and listen to the Senisim Pasin message, not worried about the threat of rain. Thankfully, the rain held off long enough for families to watch the Senisim Pasin message on the big screen.

Yanamlyn said: "Some of them were speaking in their language and Solo [who understands the local Engan language] said when we called for the action, the pledge signing, they said, 'Yeah, we don't want fights anymore. We want peace, and then we want to sign up for this.' So that was something that a lot of the men were saying. And then they started walking up to sign the pledge.

“That is what we want to see in Senisim Pasin. They've seen the evidence of what violence has done through the testimonies and the stories of the people in the film. And now they're pulled towards ‘What can I do?’ And then we give them this opportunity to take a stand with us.”

Partnering with the Tribal Foundation, taking the Senisim Pasin campaign to rural communities really resonates with MAF’s vision to bring help, hope, and healing to people living in isolation. “We also look for partnerships that will have a strategic and lasting impact on the lives of people. And I believe, MAF is a partner in this reach to have as many people be educated about gender-based violence, and sorcery- accused related violence,” Yanamlynsaid. “MAF is doing incredible work serving a lot of communities.

“Many families saved their mothers, and their children, making access to justice, health, and education services possible for communities like Pyarulama and all the other communities like this community.”

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