In recent months, Papua New Guinea has been in the global spotlight due to reports of violence against women in the area. Especially horrific was the news of a young woman who was burnt alive because she was believed to be practicing sorcery. Her case was not the first in the country, or the last; recently there was a similar case of violence against another woman.
With such events unfolding, the question of action has been put to Churches in Papua New Guinea as they seek answers and wonder what Anglicans can do to help in such a situation. Are Church leaders doing enough to curb these inhumane atrocities against women and girls that are so prevalent?
For seven years now the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea has been working around the clock to address the issues of gender ingrained in its communities. ACPNG also took a bold stand in 2008 and declared that gender issues are prevalent even within the church. Following this the church had an audit, which led to a Gender Policy being implemented with activities throughout the church’s five Dioceses.
Jessica Ingen is the Gender Officer for ACPNG in the Aipo Rongo Diocese. She is the wife of the Bishop of Aipo Rongo, Rt Revd Nathan Ingen, and lives at the Diocesan centre in Mt Hagen in the Highlands of PNG. At the end of last year she carried out a Gender Violence workshop and awareness day at the Simbai Vocational School [Highlands of Madang Province]. The awareness day targeted young girls studying Carpentry at the school, but was also attended by others in Tourism and Hospitality, Computing, Home Economics and Mechanical classes.
Eights topics were covered during the week long workshop in the following areas:
 ACPNG Gender Policy
 Understanding Gender & Sex
 Role of a woman in a new society
 Leadership skills
 Family Violence
 Life skills/ Cultural norms
 Proper use of female sanitary pads and condoms
As well as the awareness day at the school, another Gender and Violence session was held after a church service at the St. Lawrence Parish, along with two other churches in local communities in the Simbai area.
The highlight of the session for the girls was the demonstration of the proper use of the female sanitary pads to enable young girls to still attend their classes during their menstrual periods. This frees them from the culture or custom of women staying in isolation away from their community when going through their menstrual period. At the end of the awareness day, sanitary pads were distributed to all female students of the Simbai Vocational School.
The work of the Anglican Church in this area is empowering local women to establish their roles in society and increase awareness in the communities of the value of women. It is hoped that violence against women will be curbed as communities are made aware of the status of women and gender equality is increasingly recognised.