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PNGDF Receives First Gender Focal Point Training to Increase Gender Equity and Equality

From March 21-23, 2023 the PNGDF received their first Gender Focal Point training tailored to PNGDF’s organization and its military operations with a focus on reducing gender-based violence. The Papua New Guinea Defence Force’s (PNGDF) Gender Committee requested specialized training assistance from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Office of Women, Peace & Security (WPS) to improve gender equity and equality within the defence force..

The 3-day course comprised of thirty PNGDF and Department of Defence students representing diverse career fields such as the Gender Committee; Military Police; Engineering; Chaplains, and Medical/Health Services. This was the first-ever WPS training provided to the PNGDF, and this student cohort comprised of 17 males and 13 females.

In his opening remarks, Colonel Dickers Esso, Chief of Training told the class, “Trust the women in our forces to help instill trust in the populations we work with in our deployments and engagements.” He also urged, “We are here to complement each other… take these lessons outside of these gates and into your lives.”

The course provided knowledge on the foundations of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on WPS, which acknowledges the unique impact of conflict and crisis on women and girls; recognizes women’s full and equal participation in peace and security processes; and calls for Member States to incorporate gender perspectives within their institutions.

Because of increasing natural disasters and the need for effective defense and security response, the training included lessons on how to improve PNGDF operations responding to natural disasters by taking into account the gender considerations of the entire population. This means planning for the unique security needs of women, men, boys, and girls affected by crisis.

One female PNGDF student commented, “Gender [perspectives] involves the needs of all – men, women, boys, and girls. And not women alone, as I once thought.”

The PNGDF also developed a gender-based violence prevention and response framework, in addition to their own action plans on how to implement gender perspectives and the principles of WPS within their daily roles and responsibilities.

The students learned new tools and processes to improve gender equity and equality within their own defence force. According to 2nd Lieutenant Sherwin Pohonai of the Air Transport Wing, she appreciated understanding more about the process of gender mainstreaming “to mitigate specific gender equality gaps during Institutional or Operations planning processes within our organizations.” She added, “at the National Level too.”

At the conclusion of this course, the 30 students graduated as Gender Focal Points, with certificated presented by the Deputy Chief of Defence. The Australia Defence Force also played an important role with Lieutenant Colonel Brendan Creer serving as an instructor and facilitator. He observed that “The delivery of this Gender Focal Point course further builds on the ongoing work being undertaken by the Australian Defence Force and other like-minded partners such as the United States Military and New Zealand Defence Force. Continued collaboration between like-minded partners will continue to complement the outcomes of this and future training”

The PNGDF is leading the charge within Papua New Guinea to improve gender equity and equality, and reduce gender-based violence. But they understand that it takes time and must begin with changing individual attitudes and behaviors to improve their own defence force.

Referring to the Old Testament and Moses and King David’s stories in the wilderness with God, “We must take a moment” stated Lieutenant Colonel Linus Krewanty, Director of Kumul Leader Development. “We must have a personal wilderness encounter to create a movement.”

This sentiment was echoed throughout the course, by both women and men alike serving in the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. They are committed and ready to help unify their country.

In his closing remarks, Deputy Chief of Defence Commodore Philip Polewara emphasized “I have daughters, and this kind of change is important for their lives as well as the future of Papua New Guinea.”