Article by Xenia Kekae, Communications & Marketing Intern (UPNG)
The afternoon of Friday May 5th of this year saw the Planning Retreat for the Level 3 Nation Builders and the Level 2 Active citizens at the PNG Bible Translation Association (PNGBTA). The Planning Retreat ended on the afternoon of Saturday the next day but by this time, this committed group of young people had split into two tribes: the Alpha Tribe and the Amber ATA Tribe. The Alpha Tribe was made up of 20 members in which nine (9) are Active Citizens and eleven (11) are Nation Builders. The Amber ATA (Allergic to Average) Tribe has an addition of 20 members where 10 are Active Citizens and 10 are Nation Builders. However, both figures rose to a total of 40 for the Alpha Tribe and 39 for the Amber ATA tribe when the Dreamers were included. The leader for the Alpha tribe is Menagu Wali, a third level nation builder whose currently studying journalism at UPNG and his assistant tribe leader is Angelina Topal, a second level Active Citizen and a third year accounting student. The tribe leaders for the Amber ATA tribe are Zena Good, also a third level Nation Builder and a third year biology student at the UPNG and James Lunge, a first year law student and a second level Active Citizen.
Now, at the Planning Retreat, both tribes were required to identify social but practical issues that they wanted to tackle and address during the year. The Alpha Tribe came up with the theme, Education Beyond the Walls of Gender Inequality and their vision is ‘To see a generation of men and women who know their roles in the society and conduct themselves virtuously.’ Both are strong and bold statements that focus on understanding problems like gender based violence, broken homes, drugs and alcohol, abuse, family violence and so many others. These are very serious issues that happen almost every day in our communities as a result of both genders not fully understanding and realizing the strength and power that they both yield within themselves. Further, these issues have been in existence for as long as we can remember so much so that most of these issues are now categorised as “normal.” It is overwhelmingly sad and unfortunate that people, especially the victims, have begun to accept these as part of our culture. As a result, the victims, in whom more than 90% are women and children, tend to live in pain with every day. No child deserves to go to school hungry and no woman should feel threatened in their own homes and even at their work place. Yet, we witness exactly these every day and still refuse to do nothing because in PNG, we have grown up with this idea or mentality that sticking our noses in other people or family’s business is wrong, even when the victims are defenceless women and children.
Regardless, as the theme stands, men need to understand that they are strong and women are fierce. More so, both need to understand that they have the potential and the power to transform their communities and have a positive influence and impact on those around them. Neither should feel threatened or intimidated by the other as in a competition but instead work alongside one another and to build and empower each other to create a paradigm shift in the way people think and believe. A paradigm shift of men understanding that they are strong and that they do not need to hurt others to prove that. Equally, women realizing that they are fierce yet virtuous and that they do not need to overstep the men in their conducts of duty both at home and at work. Ensuring that there are boundaries along with respect is paramount in these. Hence, both need to understand their placing in the communities and be aware of each other’s capabilities. Because they are unaware of these, they tend to abuse their strength and power, thus, as a result, more social issues keep making their presence known in the society today. The stakes are now higher compared to a decade ago and that is why, it’s important for both men and women to be aware of their roles and strength.
Therefore, the Alpha Tribe strongly believe that by educating the male population in helping them understand their placing in the society and the roles that await them as strong individual males, we can have a more peaceful and resilient communities with courageous and determined members of the community who will refuse to accept these social issues and violence as part of their culture. As one member of the Alpha tribe, Hezron Wangi captures it: “When you educate one young man, you are saving one family.” Men have a tremendous role to play in their families, work place, schools and communities. So many of our men today are purposeless and do not know their placing in the community. They do not value their strength let alone realize that they have it. Yet upon realizing their strength, they do not know how to use it often resulting in them abusing their power and might. Nevertheless, this is not undermining the capabilities and the roles that the female population plays in our society because women are just as important as the men. But, in order to truly arrive at a peaceful resolution, we need both genders to understand their roles as strong and powerful members of the community and realize that we do not have to be in competition with ourselves, but instead, understand each other’s roles so that together, we can help make our society a better and happy place for all to live in.
Some of the activities that the tribe has done in semester one include hosting a coffee night or the ‘Kahil Night’ in week 11 at the Science Lecture Theatre (SLT), having a discussion about Gender Issues in PNG with the Department of Community Development on May 25th at the Center for leadership Office which was a huge success. This is where Ms. Karen Haive, the first Assistant Secretary for Gender and Human Rights branch in the Department of Community Development and Religion talked to the students on how we need to bring men and women together to have constructive open discussions on our diverse gender issues, and to acknowledge each other’s contributions to the existence of quality and viable family as well as community lives including gender-based violence issues. The third and the final activity was a short visitation to PNG Life Care in Gerehu stage 4 on June 11th where the tribe brought food and drinks to have with the children. This was also a success as Mr. Collin Pake, who runs the PNG Life Care, invited the tribe to visit again next time.
There are so many other exciting events planned for the Alpha tribe in semester two and they cannot wait to discuss their plans and ideas on how to execute these. They hope to have a tribe evaluation and see some of the areas that they need to improve on and how well they have done so far in semester one.
The Amber ATA Tribe on the other hand came up with the theme of a Clean Campus with a vision is to see a clean and healthy campus where students develop values of cleanliness, responsibility and respect. While there were other more pressing issues to expose and talk about, the Amber ATA tribe felt compelled to address the issue of uncleanliness around the campus and the health hazard it poses as a result of people’s ignorant and irresponsible acts. Further, like the Alpha Tribe, they tried to understand the root causes as to why people continueto be ignorant and what they as a tribe can do to improve this situation. For instance, in one of their main activities planned for semester one, the tribe identified and noticed that one of the core reasons why students are irresponsible with their rubbishes is because of the lack of proper rubbish bins placed to dispose of their rubbish. As a response to this need, the tribe planned to place a few drums and rubbish bins in certain areas of the campus as part of their Clean Week Project.
Still, like the other problems identified by the Alpha Tribe, the issue of throwing rubbishes here and there has also been labeled “normal” by the society giving the people all the more reasons to throw their rubbishes wherever they want, whenever they want. Not only is it unhealthy and disgusting, but it is an eye sore to see students either walking past a pile of rubbish or adding to the already-piled up rubbish by carelessly throwing more on top. One major factor causing this was identified as peer pressure. It’s likely that students actually get mocked and ridiculed for doing the right thing. Though students know it’s wrong to throw rubbishes or spit betel-nut even for that matter, they do it anyway for acceptance and approval which is sad because true friends will push you to do the right thing for your own good no matter what the cost is. Hence, the Amber ATA tribe felt it necessary to address this issue at school so that with much campaigning and awareness, this irresponsible act and careless attitude of students can be tamed. Moreover, students can learn to take ownership of their environment and realize the importance of maintaining a clean campus.
Apart from its Clean-Week activity that took place last semester, the Amber ATA Tribe hopes to plan some more exciting events that will involve everyone in which one is the clean week that is kick-starting on Monday 21st June. The tribe strongly believes that uncleanliness, not just within the campus but everywhere is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by everyone. Individuals need to learn to take a personal step toward this issue by refraining from throwing rubbish. There does not need to be stupidity in doing the right thing. There does not need to be embarrassment in doing the right thing. Rather, doing the right thing is a value of integrity that has to be upheld by everyone.