Let there be light: Transformational leadership on green energy for community enhancement

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This story is about a woman whose leadership in the area of HIV and her vision to connect this to climate change and other pressing development issues in PNG - namely poverty, health, and gender inequality - has had an extraordinary impact on the life of her entire village.

 

Ms. Iru Gorogo, 38-year old mother of six, is a woman from the village of Kido, situated about 35 kilometers away from the national capital Port Moresby. Iru benefitted from UNDP’s nine-month long Transformational Leadership Development Programme (TLDP); one that enables participants to discuss the major factors influencing the spread of the HIV epidemic and learn new strategies to tackle them. Each participant is encouraged to go through a process of self-assessment, self-reliance and personal initiative.

 

Research confirms that the pathway to decision-making is the same for everyone regardless of education or socio-economic status. People can be moved to positive action if they feel a sense of hope or have a stake in the future. UNDP‘s response to the epidemic is aimed at enabling people to envision a better future for themselves and communities, and to take steps to achieve their goals.

 

As such, Iru identified and selected bottlenecks for development in her community that were not being effectively addressed, and developed her own initiative to tackle these issues, using it as both a laboratory for trying out new ideas and methods they learnt in the programme, and as vehicles for producing tangible development results at the local level. As a result, the TLDP naturally streamed into a locally-led community enhancement programme that finds innovative and home-grown solutions to day-to-day development challenges.

 

Iru’s village of Kido not only lacked awareness about HIV, but faced the challenges of environmental degradation from deforestation and climate change, limited access to health services, clean water and sanitation facilities, low economic status of women, and gender-based violence. Utilizing her skills developed through the TLDP, Iru identified environmental sustainability and women’s empowerment as the entry point for community enhancement. She established a community-based organization for women - PNG Women’s Foundation - to pursue her goal of using green technology to reduce environmental degradation, contribute to climate change mitigation, eliminate health-affecting pollution, provide access to clean water and sanitation facilities, and support women’s economic initiatives as a means to reduce their vulnerability to HIV infection.

 

UNDP, through the PNG Alliance of Civil Society Organizations (PACSO), put Iru’s Women’s Foundation in touch with other partners, including the European Union and World Bank, to mobilize support for the initiative. Twenty-four months down the road, Iru’s leadership and community engagement has significantly changed the lives of more than 1500 women, men, girls and boys of Kido through:

 

The establishment of solar panels and access to green energy

 

Provides light to 54 village houses, the church and the health center and made a local contribution to climate change mitigation;

 

Abolished the financial costs for kerosene-based lighting;

 

Increased income from 50 Kina (USD 25) a day to 250 Kina (USD 125) a day for women, stemming from increased sales of fish, made possible through the establishment of four solar cooling fish preservation systems, that allow women to store fish and transport it to markets;

 

Saved women and girls from spending many hours per day collecting firewood;

 

Eliminated the health hazard of firewood smoke in the houses;

 

Significant reduction of rates of family based violence, as women are becoming financially less dependent on and gain increased respect from their husbands;

 

Increased awareness on environmentally sustainable development practices.


The establishment of 20 water tanks for rainwater harvesting:

 

Direct and continued access for 90 families to clean water sources (9,000 liters for each tank).

 

Built the incentive to build 96 latrines within five months which led to radically improved sanitation, shown by a drastic decline in diseases reported by the community;

 

Eliminated time for women and girls to fetch water from distant rivers and lakes;

 

Increased understanding of health issues and improved the community’s health-seeking behaviors.

 

In addition, Iru’s Women’s Foundation embarked on translating awareness materials and messages about development issues into local dialects. This is of particular importance in an ethnically diverse country that hosts more than 850 languages, and as such faces a big challenge of communicating development issues, challenges and solutions. Based on Iru’s success as a leader and visionary for development, and the benefits this yielded for her community, UNDP is now in the planning stage to replicate the TLDP in neighboring as well as other villages and communities across the country.