The first shipment of liquefied natural gas is set to leave the shores of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in late May. This multi-billion dollar project is among the largest investments in the country’s history, and its success contributed to the country’s strong GDP growth in recent years. Foreign direct investment is up, and the current government is pursuing a largely free-market and pro-investment economic strategy.
This good news has an unfortunate caveat, however: women have had virtually no input in the country’s policy dialogues, and the country’s economic performance is occurring despite the continued economic marginalization of women.
Papua New Guinea ranks among the world’s worst performers in almost every global indicator of gender inequality. This sad reality is manifested in shocking statistics of gender-based violence, social inequality, political exclusion and economic marginalization.
Women’s participation and representation in the country’s political and market institutions is minuscule. In the realm of electoral politics, only three of the country’s 111 parliamentary seats are held by women, and only seven women have been elected to parliament since independence in the last 40 years. In the commercial sphere, the country’s main business associations, all of which are led by foreign men and are dominated by expatriate-owned companies, have very few women members.
CIPE, in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby and the U.S. Department of State, is working to address this issue by lending support to a local movement to build a strong, competent and self-sustaining women’s advocate in the form of a new women’s chamber of commerce.
This past week, a CIPE delegation was in Port Moresby for the second capacity building workshop for the Papua New Guinea Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PNGWCCI). In this most recent session, CIPE helped the leaders and members of PNGWCCI recruit new membership, provide market-leading services to its members, based on strong governance structures.
In less than 10 months, PNGWCCI has gone from a mere idea, to a viable organization with a growing membership (nearly 40 members) and led by an ambitious group of pioneering businesswomen.
“PNGWCCI provides networking, training, and business development opportunities for businesswomen in PNG, while building the capacity of women entrepreneurs both large and small,” explained Avia Koisen, Esq., President of PNGWCCI.
As an inclusive, independent chamber with broad-based membership, PNGWCCI is positioned to make unique contributions to women’s economic empowerment, and overall economic development, in PNG.
John Morrell is Senior Program Officer for Asia at CIPE.