Highlights from Papua New Guinea: 2018-19
This year was one of transition for WaterAid Papua New Guinea, with our innovative WaSH and Sports for Development program drawing to a close and our Water For Women-funded project getting underway.
Reflecting on our Sports for Development program that has recently concluded, there’s been a lot of progress for which we can feel proud.
At a school level, the Hamamas Lo Pilai (“Happy to Play”) project, which combines netball activities with hygiene education, has proven to be an effective way of educating girls about handwashing and menstrual hygiene. We’ve found that netball provides a soft entry point for girls to discuss the highly sensitive issue of menstruation, which is otherwise a taboo topic in the classroom. Given this success, we are working with Netball PNG on developing a new proposal that will allow us to continue partnering together into the future.
The Sports for Development program has also positioned us in a unique role to influence national policies as it has allowed us to combine our expertise in water, sanitation and hygiene with our proximity to sporting events and organisations. The insights we captured at the 2017 PNG Games in Kimbe informed our WASH in Sports Facilities Policy Brief, which we released in the final months of the program. There is strong evidence that our recommendations, which include raising the minimum standards of the water, sanitation and hygiene facilities available to athletes and spectators at sporting venues across the country, will be taken on board in Papua New Guinea’s new Sports Policy. Given the huge cultural role sport plays in PNG, our work here has the potential to positively impact a large percentage of the population.
Our Water for Women-funded program ‘Inclusive WASH for Wewak’ similarly has the potential to change thousands of lives for the better. Our activities are concentrated in the Wewak District of East Sepik Province, home to 107,000 people. In this largely remote and rural part of the country, water, sanitation and hygiene access is limited, as is the quality of data that government can access. Our goal is to build the government’s capacity to collect this data, make informed decisions and deliver sustainable services. Simultaneously, the design of this program involves ensuring women are empowered through every step of the process.
The girls and boys shared a wooden hut with a thin partition the only thing separating them. The girls often felt too embarrassed to use them because the boys would make holes in the wall to spy on them and tease them. “Now that the toilets are separate... we feel much more comfortable and safer,” Jemima says.
This article first appeared in WaterAid Australia's Annual Report 2018-19