Papua New Guinea and West Papua are considered among the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman
A group of MBA students at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford are using systems thinking to help address the causal relationships between violence, colonialism, and the exploitation of women in Papua. Shola Diop, Freya Jansens and Snigdha Serikari teamed up with Kaiya Aboagye and Matalena Tofa from the University of Sydney to enter the annual Map the System competition, which invites participants to use systems thinking to explore complex social or environmental issues.
The team competed against 51 institutions from around the world and came first place with their presentation at the global final, securing £4000 of funding. The audience at the live event also voted on the presentation they found most compelling, with the Oxford team coming first and winning another £1000.
To put together their systems map, the team conducted extensive research, as well as 20 interviews with a diverse range of stakeholders across the system. The team found that a highly complex system of interacting forces including colonial occupation, modernisation, patriarchy, poverty and weak institutions perpetuated the exploitation of women in Papua New Guinea and West Papua.
‘Of the many gaps and levers we identified, the disconnection between policies and local cultures stood out as a key hindrance in the solutions landscape,’ stated Shola Diop during their final presentation. ‘The New Guinea region is by far the most culturally dense region in the world, with 817 different languages and 312 different tribes, therefore prescriptive and often blanket solutions typically overlook the social and cultural nuances that feed into the varying occurrences of female exploitation in the region.’
The team highlighted the need to engage with and champion the voices of people closest to the issue. ‘In the process we were privileged to engage with some truly powerful and awe-inspiring women fighting for justice for all women in Papua New Guinea… It is our hope to deliver much more than a learning experience, but to deliver a systems analysis and tool that might be used by the Papua New Guinea community,’ said Diop.
With the competition finished, the team have begun preparations to submit their research and findings to the upcoming Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia’s Relationship with the Pacific, under the Safety of Women and Girls in the Pacific on 17 July. Their recommendations will be around how Australian aid can be redirected to grass roots actors in Papua New Guinea, to maximise impact in the solution to gender-based violence.