Ms Wame (left) having a discussion with UNDP Papua New Guinea Assistant Resident Representative, Ms Julie Bukikun (right).

 

My name is Martha Wame, of Milne Bay and Western Province heritage, and Alotau is my home. I feel volunteerism is so important because it makes you appreciate your community and be responsible to make a change.

It makes me happy when six-year-olds in a remote school, in the mountains of Daga, receive junior fiction books that my friends and I distribute. Or to see young women happily carrying a reusable hygiene kit - after distribution to an island in Cloudy Bay, in Central Province.

I have degrees in journalism, and communication, and worked in radio and for faith-based organizations. Previously I was a Verbal Autopsy Field Coordinator for the Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative.

Currently, my day job includes selling esipay (prepaid electricity) and phone vouchers online - as well as coordinating volunteers while manning a desk at the Family Support Centre, in Alotau. I entered voluntary work because I had time and wanted to learn something different while meeting people.

I have volunteered in multiple roles, including the Papua New Guinea- Australia Alumni Association, K20 Multiplication Challenge, Conflict Island Conservation Initiative, Youth With A Mission, and the World Literacy Foundation.

This month, I participated in an interesting workshop conducted by the United Nations Development Programme, in my home-town of Alotau. UNDP is assisting Milne Bay Province, and other provinces, to strengthen the response efforts on gender-based violence. I was intrigued to learn about the provincial, national, and global statistics on gender-based violence and its impact on survivors, families and communities.

I also saw the cost to business when gender-based violence is prevalent and there is a lack of action. It is clear, it is not only a social issue but has an economic impact. As a local entrepreneur, it was important to me to understand this connection as most times we see gender-based violence as a family issue - or social problem - without considering the impact on our livelihood.

What drives me to do what I do is the stories of people who did not get justice for crimes. Many people are afraid to report crimes against humanity - whether it be trafficking or physical assault. We don’t know that there are laws to protect ourselves, and others.

I know how it feels because I felt unsafe in my own home and neighborhood. But our fear should not stop us from healing and allowing others to heal. I am keen to support other volunteers, who work like me, so that we have a community of helpers - and a network to reach out, and discuss, how we can help our province.

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