Papua New Guinea, Australia’s closest neighbour, seems like a tropical oasis with its warm waters and swaying palm trees. For many women though, living in PNG is far from idyllic.Papua New Guinea is one of the most dangerous places in the world for women. Nationally, 58% of women have experienced intimate partner violence and 55% of women have experienced sexual violence.
But it’s not all bad news. The Grass Skirt Project is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to increase gender equality and reduce family and sexual violence in PNG through enabling and encouraging people to participate in sports, such as surfing. Sport is one of the few pathways for young people to change their future in PNG. Sports people are seen as very special in PNG and they are admired and act as role models to the community. Through sports, the Grass Skirt Project aim to help the broader PNG community recognise that there is no place for domestic and sexual violence.
“There is one universal truth applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.“ Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General
Through collecting of both new and pre-loved sporting equipment and clothing – such as surfboards, fins, leg ropes, rashies, boardshorts and swimsuits – the give women the resources and opportunities to safely participate and compete in sport which in turn gives them confidence and resiliance. The Grass Skirt Project also run coaching clinics and workshops.
This year, to coincide with Papua New Guinea hosting its first ever World Surf League (WSL) World Longboard Tour event the Grass Skirt Project is running a major donation drive. The donated goods will be distributed through the Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea’s network of affiliated surf clubs, whose members are local Papua New Guinean people. These members are both accomplished and aspiring surfers, and desperately need assistance to be able to start and continue their surfing journeys.
“When women thrive, all of society benefits.” Kofi Annan