"My contribution is helping young people" - volunteers working toward gender equality in Papua New Guinea

Smiling woman in an orange Spotlight branded t-shirt
Naomi Kewas, 26, is a part of the Spotlight Initiative-supported 'Sanap Wantaim' Youth Programme. Photo: UN Women/Mahmudul Karim
March 13, 2023

LAE, Papua New Guinea –  Naomi Kewas, 26, is a student who volunteers for the Sanap Wantaim (Stand Together) youth programme, which aims to promote community safety by fostering collaboration between men and women. It is implemented by UN Women and supported by the Spotlight Initiative.

I became a volunteer for Sanap Wantaim (Stand Together) in 2019. I was motivated to join this programme because I have a passion for helping others in my community, particularly young people who might not have a clear direction in life. I noticed that a lot of young people in my society were just wandering around without any purpose. I believe that Sanap Wantaim can help these kids turn their lives around and create positive change in their community.

"We conduct outreach activities in the community and hope to create a safer and more equal community for everyone." - Naomi Kewas, 26

“As a volunteer, I received training from the Spotlight Initiative on important topics like ending gender-based violence, behavioural change communications and harassment issues in the community. The training also covered topics like consent, gender equality, communication styles and leadership, which have been very useful for me. With this training, we can conduct outreach activities in the community and raise awareness about these important issues. We hope to create a safer and more equal community for everyone.

“These trainings changed my life. Before, I was not confident enough to speak to others. I was an introvert. When I joined this campaign, I got the training and started conducting awareness-raising sessions. My contribution to society is helping young people. We try to motivate them to do better for society and we encourage young women to speak up and seek help if they face any forms of violence.”

We are working to raise awareness about the importance of respecting boundaries and seeking consent" - Ms. Kewas

An issue close to home

"I had an experience where one of my close family members was experiencing gender-based violence from her husband. I felt it was important to support her and encouraged her to seek help. I referred her to a family welfare agency where she could receive support and assistance in dealing with the situation. It was a difficult and emotional experience, but I am glad I was able to be there for and help her.

"During our outreach activities, we sometimes encounter people in the community who oppose or challenge our efforts. When this happens, we try to answer their questions as best as we can. If we don't have the answer, we promise to get back to them later. It's important to note that not everyone creates challenges in our work, and some people appreciate the work we do.

"However, I have also faced harassment from some individuals in the community. Unfortunately, in some cases, harassment is considered the norm. But, we are working to minimize it by raising awareness about the importance of respecting boundaries and seeking consent. It is essential to ask for permission before touching someone, even if they are a married couple. It's important to understand that every individual, including wives, has rights, and husbands must seek their consent before touching them.

"Volunteering can provide opportunities for personal growth, skill-building, and making a positive impact." - Ms. Kewas

Working together

As someone who has seen the positive impact of being involved in community work, my advice to young people is to not just stay at home but to go out and do something productive that can help build skills and create opportunities for the future. Being involved in community work, such as volunteering for organizations like Sanap Wantaim, can provide opportunities for personal growth, skill-building, and making a positive impact in your community. It can also help young people to develop leadership skills, gain confidence and make valuable connections. So, I encourage young people to get involved in their communities and take advantage of the opportunities available to them."

The global Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls is a United Nations initiative supported by the European Union and other partners.

Interviewed by Mahmudul Karim

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