The Decentralisation of Australia's Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Strategy in Oro Province, Papua New Guinea
Women’s empowerment is the most recent approach to women in development. The inclusion of women’s empowerment in development policies has recently gained traction in Papua New Guinea (PNG). However, the effectiveness of such policies has been questioned in its efforts to support local women to improve their lives. This study was undertaken to understand Australia’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) to PNG in terms of the contribution of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to supporting women’s empowerment in Oro province through the implementation of its Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy 2016. With the huge gender inequality gap in PNG and the rise in Gender-Based Violence (GBV), women’s empowerment is an approach that can contribute to helping local women improve their lives. The purpose of this study was to understand the trickle-down effect of Australia’s ODA to subnational organisations in PNG, and its contributions to women’s empowerment in Oro province. The study used a qualitative approach involving policy document reviews and interviews with research participants. The key findings from this study show that there is no direct support to local women’s organisations in Oro province either from DFAT or the PNG government; there are some issues with implementation and ownership of DFAT’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy and the PNG government’s gender policies in Oro province; and that women’s coalitions can be a vehicle for change in local communities in Oro province. This study offers benefits to DFAT programmes in PNG, and to national government agencies tasked to review their gender policies; as well as the Oro Provincial Administration; the Oro Provincial Government; and the Oro Provincial Council of Women. The study suggests topics for further research. It also suggests that DFAT’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy, and its associated funding have the potential to improve women’s lives in Oro province and PNG more broadly.