Papua New Guinea: New Network Created to Support and Protect Women's Human Rights Defenders
Wednesday, August 3, 2011 9:15 AM

The Highlands Women’s Human Rights Movement Network aims to build capacity among Women’s Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs), eliminate isolation, and create a system of protection for those at risk.  It began working in Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands, the most isolated region, in March 2011, building on a training supported by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


WHRDs have been working in the region to educate community members on resolving conflict through the justice system, rather than violence. The Eastern Highlands, comprised of at least 20 ethnically diverse communities, is a region with high incidence of tribal conflict and fighting. The main source of conflict among tribes is accusation of sorcery.  When individuals are accused of sorcery, they are brutally attacked and often killed.  According to Papua New Guinea Police, women are six times more likely to be accused of sorcery than men.


WHRDs have received a high incidence of backlash and threats.  Recently, a women’s rights activist was accused of sorcery in retaliation for her efforts to pursue justice for a woman who had been killed.  After receiving threats, the activist contacted the network and was relocated to secure her safety. Indai Sajor, General Advisor for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, firmly states that “without the network, she would be dead.” 


Similar networks are present in other regions of Papua New Guinea, as well as other countries in the pacific.  The networks are working to provide an environment where organizations and individuals can be more effective in their human rights work as well as protect themselves from violence.


Compiled from: ' New Network in Papua New Guinea Breaks Through Isolation to Support and Protect Women Human Rights Defenders at Risk',   AWID, (3 August 2011).