Volunteering Strengthens Women’s Health and Safety in 2020

Thank you to all those who give their time and enthusiasm to making PNG a safer place for women.

On International Volunteer Day we recognize the valuable contributions of the many individuals in Papua New Guinea who dedicate their time and expertise to supporting our communities. This year, as we look back on the people who supported the COVID response and secondary impacts of the pandemic, we thank the volunteers who have worked to strengthen the health and wellbeing of women across the country.

UN Women volunteers Kris, Mojisola, Sita and Jacinta deliver PPE to public transport workers in Port Moresby. The kits will ensure the safety of workers and passengers during the COVID-19 emergency.

In 2020, there has never been a more urgent need for members of our community to step up and support the health and safety of neighbours and friends as we united to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. United Nations Volunteers have assisted in sharing information and PPE, particularly to the most vulnerable – women and children experiencing violence. Kris, Mojisola, Jacinta, Sita and Goodshow helped distribute this PPE, including masks and hand sanitizer. This PPE was critical to keeping essential services open when they were needed most. These services themselves are typically staffed by volunteers who should be provided a safe and healthy workplace to protect themselves and their families. Together with volunteers at the National COVID Hotline, these individuals have given hundreds of hours of service to people in need.

"The many hours of volunteering that have been given during the COVID response is incalculable," said Rachel, a UN Volunteer who worked at the National Operations Centre in March and April 2020. "In even the smallest ways, offering some time or expertise has made a great difference. Back in March, we called out to our UN colleagues to help with translating some COVID prevention messages and, on top of the work they were already doing, several colleagues took this on to help us spread the right information to their communities."

"Papua New Guineans are an incredibly generous people and responding to the COVID pandemic would have been an insurmountable challenge without this generosity."

Two people standing in front of Papua New Guinean artwork.
Melanie and Rachel ahead of UN Day event at APEC Haus, 2020.

National UN Volunteer Melanie has worked with the Disaster Management Team (DMT), joining teams from the UN, government and civil society working on health, protection, and more as they ensure the COVID response leaves no one behind. Melanie’s commitment has supported a coordinated, informed COVID response that has been essential to controlling the spread in Papua New Guinea.

UN Volunteer’s have also supported the EU-funded Spotlight Initiative. Launched at Gordons Market, Port Moresby, on March 8, the Spotlight Initiative aims to end violence against women. Three international UN Volunteers – Laura, Joyous and Esther – are working to implement this project as it is rolled out in 11 provinces. Meanwhile, UN Women’s Sanap Wantaim campaign engages a national network of volunteers who advocate for an end to gender-based violence in their communities. The Sanap Wantaim campaign is a powerful tool in demonstrating the collective drive against violence that permeates every region of Papua New Guinea.  

Gender-based violence is not the only challenge that has been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. Access to quality healthcare has been an ongoing challenge for remote villages. In Western Province, UNFPA has trained village health volunteers to help share information on maternal and antenatal healthcare. These teams have provided essential information to pregnant women and their families including early warning signs of pregnancy complications and how to access assistance when it is needed. This information is critical to reducing the number of preventable maternal deaths.

Man stands with poster explaining health and hygiene messages.
Newly trained village health volunteer delivers public health information to community in North Fly District, Western Province.

In 2020, volunteers have made Papua New Guinea a safer, healthier place. These individuals are just a few of the hundreds of people giving their time and passion to a cause close to them. As we look to the COVID recovery here in the Pacific, volunteers will be become ever more valuable assets in public health awareness and advocacy.

UN entities involved in this initiative
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations Volunteers