We were proud to host the official launch of the Sirinumu Dam Women’s Association at our Network Kokoda Community Learning Centre on 14 April 2016.

This dynamic group is led by Mrs Kila Jonah, one of the most inspirational women I have met over my 26-year involvement in PNG – humble, intelligent and strong – as you can see from her speech below.

Traditional dances were conducted by student groups from local high schools at Sogeri.

The Sirinumu Dam Womens Association was established in 2013 and was registered with the Investment Promotion Authority on the 5th January 2015.  Prior to the registration of the group in 2015, the women’s group was affiliated under the Koiari Council of Women for two years during which time our women participated in two conventions hosted at Kupiano and Tubuserea.

The women decided to form this association because they realised that for far too long, they had been in isolation as spectators therefore it was in their interests to establish their own association.

The association is made up of women from three Koiari Local Level Government wards – Wards 11, 12 and 13 – a total of 10 villages.  With the majority of the women being subsistence farmers their daily activities for cash income to support family wants and basic needs is mainly based on vegetable crop production and fishing.

Their intention is to practice self-reliance within the formed association which will then be replicated to their youth, their families and other neighbouring ward communities thus contributing to human resource development, and wealth creation for sustainable development.

The women would like to encourage other women to be empowered so as to:

  • Actively work in partnership with women and youth in the three Local Level Government ward communities to create and sustatain their small business initiatives;
  • Organise workshops that facilitate training on agricultural farming, aqualture, business and financial management, sewing and cooking;
  • Participate equally in business form the Development Assistance Package and Sustainable Development Assistance Funds;
  • Be involved in Women in Business initiatives by venturing into Agriculture and Aquaculture and other and other livelihoods programs; and
  • Establish and maintain a better living standard for women and community as a whole in the Sirinumu Dam area.

The membership the association is about 200 and there are other women who are yet to be registered into the group.

The group is managed under the leadership of its executive committees:

  • Mrs Kila Jonah:        President
  • Mrs Elizabeth Jack: Secretary;
  • Mrs Barau Mark:      Treasurer;
  • Mrs Jenny John:       Vice-President

OPENING SPEECH BY MRS KILA JONAH, PRESIDENT OF THE SIRINUMU DAM WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION 

‘Good morning distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,

My name is Mrs Kila Jonah and I am the President of the Sirinumu Dam Women’s Association.

We the women of Sirinumu Dam and Koiari as a whole; at most times are overlooked as observers or spectators. It has been part of our culture practiced where the men are head of the resources, and the key to decision making etc.  Women are inferior and had to carry out responsibilities as required, instructed or at times demanded by husbands.

We continue to live a subsistence livelihood which is good but on the other hand has to be inproved and integrated in our society where the demand for basic goods and services is expensively increasing. Education for our children is paramount; the need for health services is important as well as other infrastructure development and services.

For far too long, we have working in isolation – we had not been actively participating together in community oriented programs. We only hear about a women’s group from other parts of the district and or province uniting together with creative initiatives to venture into agriculture and other business opportunities.

‘We would like to be involved in sustainable programs which can be facilitated by organisations such as Women in Agriculture, Women in Business and other programs by relevant organisations. In doing so, individuals can learn the constraints and issues faced as subsistence farmers. This may provide an opportunity as the association becomes the voice of Women promoting partnership and encouraging innovation for empowerment and development.

‘With the organising of women, we will need assistance through advice purposely to provide effective advocacy for women to be recognised as equal partners in all facets of community development including innovations for agricultural development including innovations for agricultural development.  This is one of the phases where we are trying to achieve – that is through women mobilisation into community farm groups to work in partnership with government institutions, non-government organisations and individuals to implement strategic plans for development.

The Sirinumu Dam Women’s Association is keen to be engaged in primary production in agriculture cash crop production, aquaculture, floricultural, livestock rearing, eco-tourism as economic activities for food security and income generation.

The Sogeri Plateau was once known as the ‘food-bowl’ of Port Moresby some 20 years ago, however lack of infrastructure has resulted in the decline of crop production and all the attention being on the highlands provinces which continues to supply local fresh produce in bulk into Port Moresby, comparatively this is a very expensive exercise compared to the settings here in Sogeri and Central Province.

We as resource owners would like to contribute and participate equally to the development of business.

To start off, the association has proposed for project initiatives such as agriculture farming, poultry production and aquaculture.  This has caught the attention of the women through the introduction of markets like ginger, pineapple and other vegetable crops through assistance and advice from organisations such as Network Kokoda, Fresh Produce Development, the PNG Spice Board Industry, National Fisheries and others.

Before I conclude I would like to share with you some experiences and hardships faced daily by our women.

(Ad Lib personal stories shared)

These experiences are a reality and we are now united through the Sirinumu Dam Women’s Association to contribute to the development of our community so as to overcome such.

‘It is time now that we all work together hand in hand for the betterment of our future generation. Women are a medium of change and we believe we can make a difference individually, in our families, our communities, in the district and the country as a whole.

I challenge all members of Sirinumu Women’s Association to be proactive, as we have all faced the hardships and wi have struggled to come this far. Let us all take ownership and respect of this association and the resources we have by utilising so we can be successful in whatever goals and objectives we set.

To the women from neighbouring wards who have attended this program I acknowledge your presence and encourage you to work together with you colleagues. Let us all put all our differences aside in the name of development. Also let us change our mindset from the ‘Free hand out mentality’. I acknowledge our menfolk and challenge you also to support the women – there must be gender equity.

‘With that, on behalf of the women of Sogeri/Koiari, I acknowledge the presence of all invited guests as your time here will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of these simple but powerful women.

Thank you all.’

Mrs Kila Jonah
President

The official guests at the opening included:

  1. The Hon Kila Haoda:                       Governor of Central Province
  2. The Hon Peter Namea Isoaimo:    Member for Kairuku Hiri
  3. The Hon Charlie Lynn OL:             Chairman, Network Kokoda PNG
  4. Mr Ogi David:                                    President, Koiari Local Level Government
  5. Mr Avana Korohi:                             Ward 11 Councillor
  6. Mr Geno Waruna:                             Ward 12 Councillor
  7. Mr Kareki Karimu:                            Ward 13 Councillor
  8. Mrs Veva Tom:                                   Member for Central Province Womens Representative
  9. Mrs Mauri Bavea:                              President, Rigo Women in Agriculture
  10. Pastor Oscar:                                      Nafoka SDA Church
  11. Rev Avoa Homoka:                           Bovedabu United Church
  12. Miss Nancy Kwarame:                     Manager for Community Services – PNG Power
  13. Warren Bartlett:                                Sogeri Enterprises
  14. Oggie Erehe:                                       Network Kokoda PNG
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