Mission Aviation Fellowship working to end gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea

MAF is partnering with other NGOs to fly campaigners to isolated communities where they will run anti-violence education.(Photo: Mission Aviation Fellowship)

Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) is part of a group of NGOs that are combining forces to end violence against women in Papua New Guinea (PNG). 

An estimated 1.5 million women and girls are violated in the country each year, mostly at the hands of a close relative - equivalent to one every 30 seconds, according to MAF. 

The Christian aviation charity called the statistics "horrifyingly high" and said that gender-based violence is "embedded" in Papua New Guinean society.

A "large proportion" of the 500-plus medical emergency flights in the country are to rescue women and girls who have been subjected to gender-based violence, it said. 

Joshua Wari, a member of MAF's Ground Operations team in Papua New Guinea, said: "The culture of the male figure – of being dominant in the community – is there because the man feels superior.

"He wants to dominate everything and unfortunately the wife submits to that. This is a challenge we have to fight, and it may take some time."

MAF has become an official partner to a new initiative aiming to to drive down the numbers.

Senisim Pasin, or 'Change Your Ways' in Tok Pisin, one of Papua New Guinea's three national languages, has been launched by the PNG Tribal Foundation.

MAF aircraft will be used to fly teams from the PNG Tribal Foundation and fellow partner organisation, Bread for the World, to remote communities where they will deliver anti-violence education. 

Local Senisim Pasin Campaign Coordinator, Yanamlyn Yana said: "There is an understanding that gender-based violence is normal. There are a lot of polygamous marriages, which specifically contribute to domestic violence.

"Our campaign focusses on addressing values such as respect, dignity and helping people recognise that human life is God-given and we don't have the right to take that away."

Yana continued, "We look for partnerships that have a strategic and lasting impact on people's lives – and together we want to reach as many small communities as possible, because it's the small communities who miss out.

"MAF is doing incredible work serving lots of communities, and we are glad to partner with them so many people who need to be educated about gender-based violence and sorcery can be reached."

Yana added, "It is my hope that one day we can create a Garden of Eden for all the women of Papua New Guinea."

Last November, MAF carried out the first light, transporting eight campaigners to Pyarulama, an isolated village that is only accessible by foot or aircraft. 

Around 250 people attended the workshops and 43 signed a declaration to change. MAF plans to fly campaigners to six more rural locations by the end of April. 

Just a few weeks ago, MAF pilot Bridget Ingham - one of only a few female pilots in Papua New Guinea - flew the medevac flight of a 10-year-old girl who had been raped by two members of her extended family. 

As a result of the trauma, the girl had spent three months vomiting and suffering other symptoms, including a fever, loss of appetite and fatigue, before finally collapsing. She is now receiving life-saving medical treatment.

Reflecting on the flight, Ingham said: "The reality sunk in as the girl was carried and laid on the stretcher next to our aircraft – eyes full of emptiness looking back at me. I didn't have the words to say how heartbroken I was for her. All I could do was to hope she knew."