Woman Empowerment: Cultural influences

-Abigail Seta

Culture is a huge part of life in Papua New Guinea and influences every aspect of its society. It is based on Melanesian principles where the male are considered as ‘big men.’

The idealistic perception of the ‘big men’ culture is that women are inferior and are not equal to men. Therefore, women face discrimination in economic, political spheres and many other aspects of life.

What is sad is that it has become a way of life, it is seen as normal and it is “socially acceptable.” Thus, the concept of gender inequality and the struggle to empower women is felt significantly.

In line with these two concepts is gender-based violence (GBV) where it is a significant limitation to gender inequality and woman empowerment and unfortunately, it is also seen as an acceptable practice throughout the country.

How can we empower women in a male dominated society that is influenced primarily by culture? How can gender inequality be minimized or stopped when the Melanesian way is centred on the “big men” system? And how can gender-based violence be better addressed?

Addressing GBV and gender inequality with the help of the Government, churches and the people of this nation is crucial for the advancement of woman. Men have to be part of the solution and to unite and work together to promote gender equity and woman empowerment on a large scale.

Culture is important and so are women. Culture is often cited as being an important factor in the marginalization of women in PNG and a number of these cultural customs contribute to women’s vulnerability.

Many PNG women value culture and also see it as unchangeable. Thus, it will take a long time for the issues of GBV, gender inequality and women empowerment to be properly addressed.

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