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Oxfam partner win Pacific UN Human Rights award

Oxfam partner win Pacific UN Human Rights award


Oxfam New Zealand programme partners, Kup Women for Peace (Papua New Guinea), have won the 7th Pacific Human Rights Award. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) award, which honours extraordinary efforts in advancing human rights throughout the Pacific, was given to the Papua New Guinea Highlands-based organisation on Monday night in Suva.

The UNDP recognised Kup Women for Peace "for its outstanding work in situations of conflict, for its intrepid dedication to the cause of peace in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and for its bravery in challenging discriminatory customs and norms, including widespread violence against women."

Kup Women for Peace began in 1999. Women from four rival tribal groups in Kup came together following a devastating breakout of tribal violence - many people were killed, entire villages were burnt down, women were raped, children and the elderly were attacked - with the intention of Downim heavy belong all mama (reducing the sorrow of the mothers) by putting a stop to tribal war and promoting peaceful development.

The next time fighting broke out, the women walked out onto the battlefield. They spent two weeks camping on the battlefield using a loudhailer to call for a truce and stayed in the villages of the warring factions talking about peace and the possibility of self-led peaceful development.

"Kup Women for Peace have been hugely successful in promoting peace in Kup. People can now move freely between tribes and the town and tribal fighting has ended," says Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director Barry Coates. "The women have also encouraged a sense of self-help and civic pride among the community and have launched a sustainable livelihoods programme to ensure long lasting peace and improve the quality of life of Kup communities.

"We are proud to work together with such an incredible organisation, and congratulate them on this well-deserved award."

Oxfam's partnership with Kup supports their many peace building initiatives. Working together with Kup, Oxfam integrates peace building approaches into its water programmes in the Highlands, so that water becomes a unifying force rather than divisive forces in communities. Water tanks installed in villages have not only helped reduce health problems caused by poor water quality, but have united communities as they work together to build the tanks to provide water which they share. Other tangible benefits have seen over fifty youth groups receiving livelihood materials including goats, rabbits, pigs and pipes for fish ponds providing these 'high risk' youth with the chance help their communities become self sustainable and self reliant; and each beneficiary will promote peace in the region.

"We didn't think such a thing could happen here," said Boi Yanny, President of the Offcut Youth Group which received the livelihood materials. "This is a dream come true for us and we are very grateful."


Editors Notes:

The Kup district is a comparatively undeveloped area in Simbu Province in the rugged PNG Highlands. Although coffee is the major cash-crop, poor roads and market infrastructure make it difficult for people to get their produce out to markets and so incomes are low. Tribal fighting, which has been a problem in the region since the 1970's, in recent years has also severely damaged development in the area.

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