Tag Archives: women

Women as change makers in Papua New Guinea

Alluvial miner on the Watut river

Immaculate Javia* | Earthworks | December 11, 2017

Women around the world have been applauded for breakthroughs in male dominated fronts and for fighting for gender equity. Yet there are others who silently occupy male dominated settings, performing tasks executed by men while also fulfilling their own responsibilities as a woman, as a mother, and as a sister.

Immaculate with a group of miners

In the small-scale mining industry and beyond, women have not been adequately recognized, appreciated and supported for their contribution to economic development as their male counterparts, husbands, sons and brothers. For generations, they have been subjects of abuse, mistreatment, and unfairness, yet they have stood tall in order to make a change in their family circles.

I live in a community where much of the artisanal small-scale gold mining activity in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is concentrated. For the past 7 years, I have trained small scale miners around the country. As the only female professional in this industry, I feel I have a responsibility to represent women miners in PNG, to improve their mining activities and to help address the problems they face.

Women small-scale miners make up 40% of a population of one hundred thousand artisanal small-scale miners in PNG, and 15 million artisanal small-scale miners around the world. Women are a significant portion of the overall workforce and therefore deserve special attention from concerned governments. Even more importantly, female small-scale miners are essential to achieve a more environmentally responsible small-scale mining industry in PNG.

Although under recognized on the national and global fronts for their contributions, women have been important players in a male dominated, male oriented and in a highly controversial industry. These women, many of whom are illiterate, have a special and a very powerful, albeit tiny place of recognition and respect among their male folk.

While small-scale mining supports female miners and the livelihood of many rural communities, the consequences and destruction, often caused by men who have an upper hand, also greatly affect them. Women and children fall victims to:

  • Health and Safety Issues – They are exposed to dangerous and hazardous working environments and conditions such as landslides, floods, waterborne diseases, theft and harassments in work places. They are subjected to using contaminated water from large scale mine effluents, lubricants and mercury from small operations, silt and sediment filled rivers and destroyed water. Sources, which gives rise to water borne diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, skin diseases, and many others.
  • HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Illnesses – Many women fall victims of HIV/AIDS after their husbands contract it. Usually men go into town and cities looking for good markets and end up using money from the gold for illicit activities. Women are always at home fending for their children and often miss out on the benefits of their hard work.
  • Environmental Destruction – Many women walk distances to fetch water, collect firewood or make gardens because of environmental destruction. Many lose homes to landslide, floods, or conflicts over land. Clean water sources are impacted and access to services are denied because public infrastructure such as bridges and roads are destroyed. Women have less opportunity and influence when it comes to speaking out against the destruction of water sources or nearby forests.
  • Women have limited access to capacity building programs because of their illiteracy rates. There is no tailored training to suit many of these illiterate women miners.

Women endure a great deal of negativity in this sector yet they provide for their families and in the process and generate millions in revenue for the government. It is beyond human comprehension that any sane government would deliberately ignore a very significant and important player of economic development.

We believe that women can transform the artisanal small-scale mining industry into a more responsible and environmentally friendly industry. Through a legal framework to regulate the small-scale artisanal mining sector, women will harness their power and voice to advocate for environmental improvements and to encourage change amongst their male relatives. 

It is high time that governments develop specific legal frameworks to give space for women miners to voice the issues affecting them and to be compensated for their tireless contributions to revenue generation from mining activities, often earned at the expenses of their health and families. 

* Immaculate Javia, IREX Community Solutions Program Fellow from Papua New Guinea. Immaculate works to train and empower and women small scale miners in her home country. She has spent the last four months working with Earthworks in our Washington D.C. office. 


Leave a comment

Filed under Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Women protest against Panguna reopening

Women marching around Arawa Town to say ‘No Mining, No BCL!’

Loop PNG | 15 June, 2017

Mothers in Central Bougainville yesterday protested against the reopening of the Panguna Mine.

The women, supported by youths, men and children, were disputing the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), proposed to take place in Panguna tomorrow (June 16), between the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and Panguna landowners. This will see Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) return to reopen the Mine before June 2019.

Panguna landowner, Mrs Bernadine Gemel Kama, said they have voiced their concerns to the former Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) chairman and his executives because they are the ones who want to sign the MOA with ABG. However, they have done this without the consent of the womenfolk, who are culturally the true landowners.

“If the ABG leaders are wise, they will not talk about reopening the Panguna Mine because a lot of bloodshed has happened because of the mine,” she stated.

“As a landowner in Panguna, I want everyone to know that it is only a minority of people, especially men, who want to reopen the Panguna with BCL. All of us do not want BCL to ever come back to Panguna and mine. If they want to talk about mining, talk about it after independence, not now,” she said.

Youth representative, Robert Baranangko, said he and other young men supported the women because they were not aware of the MOA.

He said Bougainvilleans should have been informed about the decision that the ABG was doing to reopen the mine.

He said the ABG was treading on dangerous waters to talk about reopening the Panguna Mine with BCL, when everyone knows that the blood of 20,000 plus people are on its hands.

He urged the leaders to hear the voice of the women, who are owners of the land, and as a young man, he does not want to see a second crisis happen again in Bougainville.

The peaceful protest march saw the crowd carry a big banner stating ‘No BCL, No Mining,’ and smaller posters reading ‘Do not dig my land’, ‘Women own the land’, ‘Don’t create another bloodshed’, ‘BCL not welcome in Panguna’, ‘Agriculture is the way forward for Bougainville’ and ‘We own the land’.

The march ended at the office of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association in Arawa, where they voiced their grievance to the former SMLOLA chairman, Lawrence Daveona. 

1 Comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Mine construction

Women lead calls for gun control in post-conflict Bougainville


“Gutted buildings are left to decay in the tropical heat of Arawa”

Catherine Wilson | Thomson Reuters Foundation | 16 June 2016

Gutted buildings are left to decay in the tropical heat of Arawa, a town hit by battles during a decade-long civil war that engulfed the Bougainville islands of eastern Papua New Guinea in the 1990s.

The blackened ruins are testament to war, but the peaceful rhythm of daily life has returned to the former Bougainville capital, which is ringed by rainforested hillsides.

In the early morning, trucks piled with sacks of potatoes and taro are unloaded at the central market, and women open stalls selling boiled eggs, rice balls and cassava puddings.

But 15 years after a 2001 peace agreement, which included a disarmament process, the islands are still awash with weapons, putting communities at risk. And it is women leading calls to banish guns from their villages and towns.

“The time of using the gun is over. During the conflict we held guns. Now that the peace process is in place, there is no need for guns,” Lydia Morisa, a woman who lost her brother-in-law in a gun shooting last year, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Morisa, an assertive middle aged woman with a scarf taming her thick hair, is from Domakungwida, a village near Arawa with traditional thatched dwellings, meeting houses and a strong adherence to indigenous customs.

The conflict, known locally as ‘the Crisis’, erupted in late 1988 as local anger grew about the impact of the huge Panguna copper mine managed by Bougainville Copper Ltd, a subsidiary of mining multinational Rio Tinto.

Some Bougainvillean landowners and residents said the mine caused environmental damage, and they resented an influx of foreign workers and profits from the huge open cut mine leaving the island. Their demands for compensation were unmet.

The uprising forced the closure of the mine. Papua New Guinea blockaded Bougainville in 1990 and a civil war raged at a cost of 15,000-20,000 lives, or 10 percent of the population, until a ceasefire in 1998.


Nestled in a valley in the Crown Prince Range of mountains, Panguna is now a landscape of gutted former mine buildings and abandoned rusting machinery, slowly disintegrating into the forest. The noise and dust of the mine’s round-the-clock operation have been replaced by the sound of villagers at work under clear blue skies.

But the air of peace belies the problem of continued violence in some Bougainville communities, fuelled by the availability of guns.

The United Nations-led weapons disposal process was deemed only half successful after its conclusion in 2005.

An estimated 1,600 guns were surrendered by armed groups, such as the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and Bougainville Resistance Force, according to the Australian Defence Force, part of peace monitoring force deployed by Papua New Guinea’s former colonial ruler.

But some factions neither signed the peace agreement nor relinquished their arms. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reported in 2008 that at least 3,000 Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) used during the conflict were never surrendered.

Weapons were common in Morisa’s village when her brother-in-law was accused of sorcery and gunned down in October last year. In retaliation, a relative shot the person believed to have ordered the killing. The violence escalated as homes were burnt down.

But the local community – its women especially – refused to stand by in the face of such violence. The affected families met to work out a resolution to the conflict, while women retrieved the guns used in the killings and handed them over to clan chiefs for safekeeping.

Then they signed a traditional peace deal. “We came to sign the memorandum of agreement that there would be no more killings and no more guns used for any other purposes, even the killing of pigs. There must not be any sound of guns in the area,” said Rosemary Dekaung, a Domakungwida resident.

The incident came four years after more than 1,000 women and girls, led by the Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency (LNWDA), a local non-government organisation, gathered in the capital, Buka, to protest against the threat of arms to daily life in Bougainville’s mostly rural communities.

Helen Hakena, LNWDA’s director, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that guns featured in incidents of domestic violence, land disputes, and violence related to accusations of witchcraft and sorcery, which are common on the islands.

Women often bear the brunt of the abundance of guns on the island, sometimes even losing land that is rightfully theirs.

“This is a matrilineal society and women own the land, but women cannot speak up to claim their land because (frequently) the opposing party are known to have guns. So land ownership goes to the wrong people,” Hakena said.

The capacity of law enforcement agencies to respond to gun crime is limited by a stipulation in the peace agreement that the police are unarmed.

Local women’s organisations say residents are also reluctant to give up their weapons because of uncertainty about the region’s political future. Within the next four years, Bougainville, with huge copper reserves, is due to hold a referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea.

“Some are holding on to their guns because they want to see the final destiny of Bougainville. We want to see that what we fought for has been achieved,” said Josephine Kauona, chair of the Tunaniya Open Learning Centre, a grassroots education project in Arawa.

Many in Bougainville see the island’s long struggle for self-determination as a struggle for justice and particularly freedom from external control over politics and the region’s mineral wealth, added Rosemary Moses of the Bougainville Women’s Federation.


But the current lack of gun control could jeopardize the referendum and its outcome.

“We would like to make our own choices, we do not want people with guns to force us to vote the way they want. We want freedom of expression, freedom of decision,” Hakena said.

Despite their central role in persuading combatants to lay down arms to end “the Crisis”, women have been left out of official consultations about weapons and disarmament, activists say.

“In terms of being written on paper… it is there, but in practice it’s not happening. In our walk towards nationhood, women need to be participating fully and making decisions,” said Moses.

And greater consultations with clan leaders, often the main authority in rural areas where government presence is minimal, is essential if gun crime is to be addressed at the grassroots.

“Each clan must take control,” said Dekaung, referring to the success of the traditional peace accord in Domakungwida “They must take ownership of the weapons and the women and children must have a say. They are all part of the clan.” 

Leave a comment

Filed under Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Justice eludes Porgera rape victims

Cash settlements intended for women abused by gold mine security staff claimed by wider family, while perpetrators get away scot-free.

Many families eke out a living by illegally mining in Porgera. Photo / Human Rights International

Many families eke out a living by illegally mining in Porgera. Photo / Human Rights International

 Catherine Field | NZ Herald

In April this year, 11 women in Porgera, Enga Province, the site of a multi-billion-dollar gold mine in Papua New Guinea, were awarded undisclosed compensation payments for brutal rapes they suffered over a number of years by members of the mine’s security workforce.

The damages, negotiated in an out-of-court settlement by human rights NGO EarthRights International, with the mine’s majority owner, Barrick Gold, were applauded by international activist groups, such as MiningWatch Canada.

But many of the women, who suffered injuries and marriage breakdowns following their ordeals, have seen little justice.

“We should take them [the perpetrators] to court, take the company to court, too, and let the court make the decision,” said Saberth Yengis, interim president of the Enga Provincial Council of Women.

But the vast majority of perpetrators have escaped convictions, litigation against the company was abandoned after the out-of-court settlement and in some cases the cash awards have generated intra-family disputes.

But that seems a remote fact standing in the middle of Porgera Station surrounded by under-development. While the mine employs about 2500 people, the local population has swelled from 6000 to an estimated 50,000 following an influx of economic migrants from other provinces. Women squat on the ground selling betel nut and small shop goods, while nearby people who once lived in villages amid agricultural land are forced by expanding mine waste dumps into overcrowded settlements.The Porgera mine, located in an isolated area of the Papua New Guinean Highlands, has produced more than US$20 billion ($31.8 billion) of gold since operations began in 1990 and, as of 2010, about 280 million kina ($157.6 million) in royalties had been paid to local landowners and the provincial government.

Impacts of the extractive venture, such as environmental damage and human rights abuses, far outweigh the benefits, which include a school and hospital, claims Jeffery Simon, Secretary of the Porgera Alliance, an umbrella of community organisations defending indigenous rights.

Since 1990, more than 200 local women, many of whom were scavenging on waste dumps for scraps of gold to sell to feed their families, allege they were violently gang raped by security officers employed by the Porgera Joint Venture (PJV). The incidents occurred before and after Barrick Gold acquired a 95 per cent share in the mine in 2006. Yapi and Koson suffered this fate in 2004 when they went searching for the precious metal, an activity classified as illegal mining. However, until local activists, including the Akali Tange Association (ATA), raised the alarm about abuses in about 2008, there was no awareness of human rights in rural communities, exacerbated by low literacy in Porgera of about 28 per cent.

We thought we had no right to go and report the case to the police. We didn’t go to the police station because we were afraid that we would be arrested and put in jail.

Koson, rape victim

Illegal miners risk prison or a hefty fine and ATA said some women were told by their attackers that “if you come out and give a report to the police station we will come and arrest you and lock you up”.

Fears of community backlash because of the stigma associated with rape, illiteracy and lack of money also made many victims reluctant to report abuses.

“If you go to the police station, you have to pay the policeman to get a proper report done; it’s too corrupt. It also involves money to go to the hospital to get a medical report,” ATA’s executive officer, Jethro Tulin, said.

Koson said she wanted her assailant held accountable, “but the problem is that I couldn’t identify him now”.

Following a 2010 Human Rights Watch report, Barrick conducted an investigation which revealed evidence of the alleged abuses. The company then “provided all relevant information to Papua New Guinea Police and urged that a full criminal investigation be conducted” and further “terminated employees who were implicated in the assaults”, a Barrick spokesperson said.

But after more than 20 years, only two perpetrators, who were police officers, were charged this year and their employment terminated, according to Tulin. The Papua New Guinea Police Constabulary did not respond to requests for further information.

Yapi and Koson also believe the halt of court proceedings against Barrick Gold is a further setback. They claim that, while they participated from Porgera in a telephone conference to discuss the settlement, they were not individually asked for their consent, nor did they sign an agreement.

“Our desire was to go to court because there will be proper justice in court alone. We are not satisfied because it was an out-of-court settlement done without our consent … we were deprived [of justice] twice,” Koson claims.

The planned lawsuit followed dissatisfaction by some women with a corporate remedy programme launched in 2012. Another 120 victims accepted Barrick’s package of benefits to a total value of between $13,060 to $18,095, which included payment of medical benefits, school fees, a business training programme and start-up grants but, in so doing, waived their right to sue the company.

Now the plans Yapi had for investing the larger cash settlement she received have not eventuated, as the funds were distributed to her family, including male relatives.

“The money has created a problem within the family and some of my relatives are not happy with me. Some of them are saying, ‘I have looked after you, I have paid your medical bills, so what is my share’,” she said.

Local customary traditions prescribe that compensation is given from one clan or extended family to another to atone for wrongdoing, even though the perpetrator and victim may be individuals.

Nevertheless, ATA claims that the safety of local women in the mine area has improved after Barrick’s reform of its operations, including mandatory sexual violence and human rights training for security staff.

1 Comment

Filed under Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Many against quick return to mining in Bougainville

Photo: Catherine Wilson

Women sit among the ruins of the Panguna mine. Photo: Catherine Wilson

Radio New Zealand

A campaigner for women’s rights on Bougainville says many people remain opposed to a quick return to mining in the region.

The autonomous Papua New Guinea region goes to the polls from Monday and with new mining laws in place, the new parliament is expected to consider a resumption in mining, to [try and] ensure a viable economy.

The head of the Leitana Nehan Agency, Helen Hakena, says there is a recognition that mining can generate the income needed by the government for its services but she says there are still many concerns to be dealt with.

“People still talk about there is a lot of hidden agendas inside the mining policy. They still believe there should have been more consultations to the people before the policy was passed by the ABG. People should have been gathered to view the policy and to question the articles in the policy.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Barrick Gold kompensesan moni long reip long Porgera ino inap

Porgera gold mine

Em hap blong Porgera Mine long Enga Proince long PNG (Credit: Audience Submitted)

Caroline Tiriman | ABC Radio Australia

Igat bikepal heve i stap yet long sait long kompensesan moni Brarrick Gold i peim long ol meri sampela wokman ibin reipim ol long Pogera.

Odio: Kay Kuamugle, meri husat ibin helpim ol meri em ol security guard i bin reipim ol long Porgera Mine long Enga long PNG

Ol kompensesan moni em Barrick Gold Mining kampani blong Canada, ibin baem ol mama na ol yangpla meri bihaen long ol sekiuriti gard ibin rapim ol long PNG Pogera Mine, em ino inap.

Despla toktok ikam long Kay Kuamugle, meri husat ibin helpim ol meri em ol security guard i bin rapim ol long Porgera Mine.

Barrick Gold emi wanpla bikpla Gold mining kampani tru long wold na emi bin tok oraet long baem compensation igo long 11pla meri bihaen long oli bin tok bai oli bringim wari blong ol igo long wanpla kot long America.

Sampla long ol despla meri em ol man ibin rapim ol em ol yangpla meri tru, em krismas blong ol ibin stap olsem wanpla ten foa.

Kay Kuamugle itok olsem laif blong ol despla meri nau i bagarap olgeta long wonem Barrick Gold i bagarapim graon blong ol na oli save kisim pipia long Gold mine blong lukautim sidaon blong ol.

Leave a comment

Filed under Human rights, Papua New Guinea

PNG women applaud US-based Earthrights International for suing Barrick Gold

ariel view of the Porgera mine
NBC | PNG Today

The Women of Papua New Guinea have applauded the decision by a United States-based non-government organization, for successfully suing Barrick Gold over sexual violence against the women of Porgera in Enga Province.

Eleven women were sexually assaulted by police and security guards at Porgrera two decades ago.

The women were represented by lawyers with US-based NGO group EarthRights International.

National Council of Women President, Theresa Jaintong told NBC News, it’s a welcoming news for the women of the country.

“It’s the first of its kind that women are being helped.

“The decision has been taken in their favour and I really thanked those NGO group, the law firm in USA for helping these young women who wouldn’t have the support because they couldn’t afford it.

“I’m happy about the outcome”.

Barrick Gold has agreed to sort the issue outside of court and pay compensation to the 11 women, who were then about 14 and in the 80’s, when the crimes took place.

However, Mrs. Jaintong says the perpetrators must still be brought to justice.

“Justice must prevail. If its going to be settled outside of court, the culprits will not learn, especially the police force, the law enforcement security guards because the women will live through the trauma.

“And for the company to settle it outside the court, how do they punish those people?”.


Filed under Human rights, Papua New Guinea