ChildFund New Zealand helps launch Papua New Guinea’s first free, nation-wide family and sexual violence hotline
New Zealanders have had a hand in answering a long and loud call for help through the launch of a new family and sexual violence hotline in Papua New Guinea. It is the first service of its kind to be offered nationally on a toll-free basis, providing immediate support to survivors and their families.
ChildFund New Zealand has pooled charitable donations with $2.6m in match funding from the New Zealand Government’s Aid Programme to set-up and maintain the vital support service over the next five years. Overseen by Papua New Guinea’s local ChildFund agency, the hotline will deliver a comprehensive counselling and referral service for survivors of gender-based violence.
“In stark contrast to being so close to many of our favourite Pacific holiday destinations, Papua New Guinea has a staggering reputation for violence against women and children, particularly young girls,” explained ChildFund CEO Paul Brown at the launch in Port Moresby today.
It is estimated that two-thirds of women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime in Papua New Guinea, a country which only moved to outlaw domestic violence as recently as 2013.
“This hotline is about providing women with a safe channel to talk through the trauma they are experiencing and guide them in seeking the help and protection they deserve.”
The idea originally sprang from Papua New Guinea’s lead national body for addressing gender-based violence, The Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee (FSVAC), which has long advocated for more services for survivors and, in particular, a hotline to provide counselling and referrals.
The country is largely rural, with challenging typography, but the population’s high level of mobile phone access (at around 75%) means a telephone-based system is ideal to make contact with those in need.
Professional counsellors will eventually be available 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and fluent in Papua New Guinea’s three national languages. Survivors will have access to information, referrals to local service providers and will receive personal and confidential counselling at the time of their call.
“Counselling is a critical aspect of this service,” explains Paul. “It can assist survivors through the immediate crisis and help stabilise emotions; provide options, information and resources; and guide them through the processes of seeking medical care, protection and legal recourse.”
In a country with one of the world’s highest rates of violence against women and children, Paul admits the hotline is only one piece of the puzzle, but a very important one.
“ChildFund and other agencies operating here repeatedly observe the obstructive impact of gender-based violence on individuals and on the country’s wider health and community development. It is very much two steps forward, one step back.”
“By putting something like this in place we are aiming to break that cycle and help make real headway against an issue that not only affects individual women and children’s lives, but the prosperity of the entire community they are part of.”
ChildFund is also working with the University of Papua New Guinea on a counselling qualification to ensure that there will be trained counsellors to continue and expand the work of the service into the future.