international human rights

Breaking the Silence on Violence Against Women in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea Flagby Matilda Branson

I currently have the pleasure to be working with two amazing Women Human Rights Defenders from Papua New Guinea (PNG), Mary Kini, founder of Kup Women for Peace, and Monica Paulus, founder of a community organisation defending women accused of sorcery and who are victims of discrimination and violence. Sponsored by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), Monica and Mary are visiting Nepal for three months, to strengthen their capacity in monitoring and documenting human rights violations with the women’s NGO I work with.

Each woman has her share of both inspiring and often horrifying stories of their work in the highlands of PNG. Which is…where?

PNG is a small country, situated in the south-western Pacific Ocean, next to Indonesia and above Australia. A former member of the British Commonwealth, PNG gained its independence from Australia in 1975. It has a population of about 6.2 million, over 800 different languages, and more than 80% of Papua New Guineans live in rural areas surviving on subsistence agricultural practices. A third of people live in extreme poverty. Much to my shame as an Australian, and a neighbour of PNG, I didn’t know any of this until I met Mary and Monica upon their arrival in Nepal.

This shame has only increased upon learning the abysmal situation for women in PNG. I don’t often use the word abysmal – it’s a strong term, with a lot laden onto it – but the situation for women is exactly that. Read more

Posted on by Matilda Branson in Feminism 2 Comments

Sipping Tea with Candy

by Matilda Branson

“Hello madame, how are you? Which country you from?”

This is a pretty common phrase I hear when, on my days off, I get my rubber-necking tourist persona on around Kathmandu, taking in the sites, amazing temples and general hustle and bustle of what can be frankly a bloody crazy city.

Often, I’ll tend to ignore these repetitive cries from locals, as they inevitably lead to my being implored to buy their Tiger Balm or mini Buddha statuettes. This time though, the biggest concern for the day, as I wandered around with a traveller buddy of mine, was what to have for lunch – so, I decided to give this local guy the time of day.

After finding out what I did (“where you live? What you do? How long in Nepal?”), and that I work with a minority (Dalit women), he told my friend and I about himself quite openly (with the added, “Call me Candy*”) – that he was formerly involved in the Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) community and identified as transgender. But now he has a young son and family and fears discrimination against his son, so lives a “normal” Nepali life, and only cross-dresses on special occasions. Then Candy asked my friend and me home for a cup of tea with his family. Read more

Posted on by Matilda Branson in LGBT 1 Comment