PNG's only woman Minister gets Youth & Community Development - speaks about the Ministry's directions

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There's only one woman minister in the new government in Papua New Guinea.

PNG's only woman Minister gets Youth & Community Development (Credit: ABC).The newly elected member for the seat of Lae Open, Loujaya Toni was sworn in this week.

In the allocation of portfolios announced after Pacific Beat spoke to her she became Minister for Religion, Youth and Community Development.

Ms Toni was hoping for that ministry and said she had got plenty of ideas.

Presenter:  Geraldine Coutts

Speaker:  Loujaya Toni, the only women minister in the O'Neill government

 

Listen to the interview here.

TONI: That Ministry is relevant to the 6 point plan that I actually ran with in the Lae Open electorate, that was basically to ensure that within the first three years 2013-14 and by 2015, I have a report card to bring to the United Nations with regards to poverty reduction in the electorate. With religion, it's definitely important that we work together with the churches, because with regards to Papua New Guinea's development prior to independence and with the churches, the church network that actually brought development into the rural area of Papua New Guinea well before the government brought into the rural areas, the churches were already in there setting up health, education sector, and so on and so forth. The churches have suffered a lot in recent years through inadequate funding and lack of recognition, but with the church partnership program that has happened in recent years with the help of the Australian government that has certainly brought the government and the churches again and the important to that partnership into the limelight. And I feel that with this portfolio we can take it to the next level. But I am going to hit the ground running, but I won't be running in the shadow of Dame Carol Kidu. I'll be doing things differently, I'll be taking it to the next level where the churches are concerned.

With regards to youth, first and foremost, I'll need to roll out on biometric data registration within my own Lae district to ensure how many youths I actually have within the 16 wards, what are their qualifications, are they skilled, semi-skilled, unskilled, how many are in Grade 6, 8, 10, 12 and be able to create an enabling environment for the youth in the electorate so that we can streamline them into trade skill areas. Again I want to be utilising what I have on the ground through church network again. Also with the streamline youths into agriculture, into areas of arts and crafts, textiles and design and to areas of music. So basically I want to be able to conduct, have an aptitude test, conducted it so we work with the strengths of the youth. In that way, we bring the law and order problem down as well.

Now with regards to community development, I believe my background in communication development from the University of Technology will be able to help me organise the 16 wards, first and foremost, apart from roll out of biometric registration, I also need to look at social mapping, because a lot of the land areas in Lae are customary owned. We need to empower the landowners and whatever we do there in Lae, will be the blue print that I'll be able to place in every other province and district of this country, because that is the national portfolio.

COUTTS: Alright, now in the lead up to the elections, you were very strong on anti-corruption and the fight against corruption. How will you go about that?

TONI: Well definitely. First of all, if you're going to fight against corruption, you've got to be above board yourself. You've got to be straight and you command that respect amongst other fellow members. And, of course, with lobbying and horse trading and that kind of thing happens in politics, they'll be digging everything around you, behind you and I came in and actually the first thing I said to my fellow ministers when we came in was check it out, there are no flies on the Loujaya Toni because I won the confidence of my people in the Lae Open electorate, I was very transparent, I walked throughout the 16 wards in the Lae Open electorate and I said look, we've been seeing male politics, male Melanesian politics for the last 37 years. I'm a woman, I have the qualifications and the credentials to represent you and we've been overlooked. Women, youth, children, we've been overlooked and I need to bring that balance back and I walked in step with my husband, my children were behind me and so that's the kind of transparency the community want in order to bring back the confidence and I think I won't be changing that. Let's start with us as leaders, if we're going to fight corruption.

COUTTS: Three women have made it through this time around and it's only one in Dame Carol Kidu for so many years. I think I read a quote where you were saying women can do it on their own. They don't need reserved seats. So are you going to be opposing the reserve seats for women now?

TONI: Yeah, I won't be opposing it now. I have been opposing it from day one, so it's not like something you all of a sudden I decide, I woke up and said oh, may be 22 women seat doesn't work for us. From day one, I made no secret about it, I've been trained by AusAID, UNDP. They gave us questionnaires asking us about what do you think about 22 women seats this that and the other and I said straight in the questionnaires that I answered. I said I wouldn't go for 22 women seats because you can't get respect on a golden plate. You've got to earn respect and the only the way earn respect in Melanesian PNG is to get your hands dirty like the guys, run with them at ground zero and come up with them through the ranks how you do the democratic process. You got to exercise that with the men as well and when you come out on top, you earn their respect.

And I got that confirmation as soon as I came in and I got on the plane out of my own free choice and flew into Alotau saying I'm going to be in government. The first reception I got was all the guys were there shaking hands with me, and they said you've proved something they said to me and you've proved that you don't need 22 women seat. I said no, but we do need to create an enabling environment, we do need to train the women to think and to understand. The first thing you've got to do is to be able to create the confidence within the community that you're the candidate that will make the difference and crack the male Melanesian mindset.
 

[Radio Australia]