A Conversation with UNDP-Papua New Guinea Senior Gender Advisor

30 Sep 2011

Tell me about your history with gender and women's empowerment. Did you always know you wanted to work on these issues?

 

No, I had no idea that I would at any time in my professional career focus or hone in to gender and women’s empowerment. 

My background is in Economics, Business Administration and Leadership in Development (JFK School of Government, Harvard University).  In 1985 I began working for a development financing institution as an economist and worked on economic and social development but with no special attention to gender and women’s empowerment. It was during my career that coincided with the global conferences for women (for example Beijing Conference) that got my attention and attracted me to see development through the eyes of gender equity and women’s rights and so I became inquisitive about the issues at hand and tried to analyse through the programmes and projects that I was working through and to join professiona lnetworks that were keen and serious about gender equality.  Going through my own conviction, I self-taught myself on gender mainstreaming by reading and exercising through mywork.  I then looked out for opportunities to improve my skills on gender and seized those opportunities via short-term courses and training.

What exactly is your role, as a Senior Gender Advisor?

I have multi-roles in the Country Office and with the UN team in Papua New Guinea.  First and foremost, are my roles within UNDP which includes an advisory role to in terms of programme and operations on gender mainstreaming.  I am also responsible for a number of projects that UNDP has committed to the Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and some non-governmental organizations  through the annual work plans.  In addition to my specific UNDP roles, I play a leadership role by chairing and leading the UN Gender Task Team which comprises representatives from 8 UN agencies operating in PNG.  The UN Team in PNG is a “Delivering as One UN” country team and therefore the tasks of the thematic Chair/Team Leader (in this instance, Gender) is to lead and manage the one annual work plan that UN has on Gender.  The process includes amonthly meeting and quarterly progress review of the implementation of the workplan. 

What are the key issues that you work on and why is that important?

Key issues include:

             Political participation of women

             Women,peace and security; UNSCR 1325

             Eliminationof sexual and gender-based violence

As UNDP, we focus on these three areas and other UN agencies focus on other equally important issues such as economic empowerment and others.

What are they greatest challenges that you have faced in advancing the objectives that you work for?

Challenges include:

             A population of some 6.2 million with hundreds of indigenous ethnic groups withapproximately 800 different languages being spoken and distinct culturalpractices

             Weakcapacities (technical skills) in Government and implementing partners(including NGOs)

             Budgetaryconstraints - Low availability of human and financial resources by implementingpartners to match the needs for project implementation

             Lack of effectiveco-ordination mechanisms (in Government and NGOs) to reinforce implementationof policies and projects

             Divisionsand tensions between stakeholders 

             Delays inprocurement services with some of the projects often due to lack of expertisethat would like to work in PNG and sometimes due to in-house delays

 

Tell us about your role in advancing the UN’s global policyagenda on Women, Peace and Security. Why is that important? Why is UNDP wellplaced to address those issues or what in your view is our comparativeadvantage?

 

One must always be reminded that the UN in PNG is a DaO(Delivering as One) team and  as suchUNDP is very often not visible as it should be as it has to go under theumbrella of UN as DaO.  Having said that,the UN through its coordinated approach through the Gender Task Team, iswell-positioned to enhance its role in facilitating the creation of an enablingenvironment for the implementation of commitments to women, peace and security.

 

As UNDP, we have developed in the past years and maintaineda competitive edge through sustained investment in building knowledge andevolving and retaining efficient talent and internal capacity on genderequality and women’s empowerment and proactively connecting with andinfluencing the formal networks in actively shaping opinion about developmentissues and progress. 

 

For gender equality, the UN has been effective in itsstrategic interactions with stakeholders (policy makers, public) and has theability to profile the impact of its work. Additionally, UNDP’s mandated responsibilities to deal with varioussegments of society and advocate for protecting the rights and respond to needs(which covers particular marginalized groups like women, people living withdisabilities and children) in light of the international treaty body mechanismshas given the organization specific obligations to monitor application andimplementation of international instruments (e.g. MDGs, CEDAW; Gun Summit) thatPNG has adopted. 

 

Another factor is UNDP’s neutrality -- as a comparativeadvantage and as a positive factor perceived by both the government and thedeveloping partners in helping to coordinate and facilitate consensus buildingamong development partners, particularly in sensitive areas (e.g. conflict prevention,human rights, governance, women in leadership, physical and sexual violence andsex-work) --- UNDP can play a strategic role.

 

How do you convince national partners you work with thatworking for women is in their best interest?

 

             Women’srights are human rights and women make up 50% of the population

             Potentialadded-value of women’s contribution to sustainable development

             Allowingwomen to be equal players and shapers of the country’s development will benefitthe family at a household level and the nation as a whole

 

 

Share with us a success story; a result from your work thathas brought you great satisfaction.

The openness and willingness of one of our implementingpartners --- i.e. the Police (Royal PNG Constabulary) to admit to its failuresand need to improve its services and practices in response and to prevent GBV.

 

The above was demonstrated by a signed Letter of Intent(between UN and RPNGC) to build the capacities of the Police force (throughreviewing and reforming policies; and training of Police).  We have started the work on the above andhopefully by year 2012 we could measure some tangible changes!

 

 

Imagine a world in which we don't need an organization likeUNDP to enhance women’s, political, social and economic empowerment in armedconflict and disaster settings. What does that world look like, and will weever get there in your view?

I think other organisations (non-UN) like the internationalNGOs are doing similar work to that of UNDP (to enhance women’s advancement inconflict and non-conflict contexts).  Ialso think that the world is changing that the relevance of UNDP’s (and otherUN agencies) existence is being challenged to an extent that the UN isreforming to be able to meet those challenges of doing business nowadays.

 

If there becomes a day that there is no UNDP --- there willbe emerging bodies/power that can replace those roles. I am sure futuregenerations of this world will find innovative ways to pursue the cause forfairness, justice and gender and development. The sky is the limit for humankind and time will tell...