In the December 1997 edition of The Country Woman Jenny Mitchell OAM wrote to members, as the South Pacific Area President of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW), about her visit to the South Pacific Community Education Training Centre (CETC) in Suva where she met Gertrude Andrias from Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Gertrude was sponsored by CWA of NSW to attend the training centre for ten months and left her two children aged 6 years and 18 months with her husband who had given up his job to attend to that important task, so she could learn new skills in nutrition and cooking, health, literacy etc.
Seventeen years on and just over two weeks ago, I met Gertrude in Dubbo NSW, at the 16th South Pacific Area Conference – ACWW, where she was one of three delegates representing CWA of PNG and is a member of Jiwaka Branch in the highlands just east of Mt. Hagen. The Branch was opened in 2001 (by Jenny) and currently has more than 200 members. In all there were 13 delegates from Tonga, Fiji and PNG, representing the South Pacific Islands as well as delegates from New Zealand and every Australian state and territory. CWA of NSW sponsored workshops for the island members prior to the conference as well as accommodation needs.
During the week Gertrude gave a presentation highlighting some of the projects and activities she has instigated, assisted with or encouraged participation in, since 1997;
- Established 3 more CWA branches
- Led a delegation of 37 women to a National Development Bank Women In Business Summit in 2012 – training, encouraging and empowering 200 women who now own and run small to medium businesses in Jiwaka Province
- HIV Aids training – home base care (funded by ACWW)
- Technical and Business Studies Skills training for school leavers – since 2002 more than 2000 school leavers are now working
- Drug awareness programs that have resulted in the destruction of marijuana crops by local young people
- Community development projects like rice farming (initiated by CWA members) with technical advice and training provided by an agricultural college
- Encouraging change of long held tribal beliefs and mindsets by working with rural women
- Instigating a Community Development Course which will provide residential and online training, similar to that of the CETC in Fiji. The facility will be ready for its first course to be conducted in 2015 and will include courses as diverse as Human Rights (Gender and Development), Social Values and Ethics and HIV/Aids to Home Economics, Food Technology and Nutrition, Entrepreneur Skills and Basic Accounting.
CWA of NSW has, for 50 years, sponsored two women annually to the CETC in Suva. In 2015, when the Community Development Course commences in Jiwaka Province, more than 5 women could potentially be sponsored each year, to do the same training in PNG.
Last year Gertrude was awarded the Golden Champion by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Education, Training and Human Development Division. Gertrude’s absolute pride and sheer joy at winning this award were evident on her beaming face and those emotions were returned by over 75 CWA of NSW members when she credited her success to our sponsorship in 1997.