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FEATURE STORYMarch 8, 2022

Creating a Sustainable Tomorrow in Papua New Guinea: Jacqui Joseph

Jacqui Joseph is the co-founder of Equal Playing Field

For International Women’s Day 2022, we’re talking with women leaders across East Asia and the Pacific who are advancing gender equality today to help create a more sustainable future for all. Jacqui Joseph, co-founder of Equal Playing Field, is using sport to tackle gender-based violence and empower young people in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to use their voice.
What inspired you to use sport to address gender-based violence?

My co-founder Adam and I have always been very passionate about working with young people, especially youth and children. Sports became the vehicle for us to deliver our messages, especially around respectful relationship education and life skills for young people. You will always see young people playing on a community field wherever you go in PNG. Sport was the one thing that was engaging a lot of our audiences, so we used sport as an effective tool to bring out our messaging.

If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Passionate, energetic and a leader.

This year's International Women’s Day theme is, ‘Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’. In your opinion, how does gender inequality connect with climate change?

Everything in life connects. The decisions that you make in your family impact everybody around you. Looking at gender inequality in PNG, we still struggle to listen to men, women, youth and different groups of people when making decisions about change. When we don't have consensus that can, ultimately, affect the environment. We're one people and we live on one earth and everything we do is connected.

What do you think needs to be done to ensure that more women end up in leadership positions in PNG?

My advice is to work hard and keep building yourself. Don’t stop because something gets tough or if people around you are not supportive.

Working steadily has put me at the table where I contribute to decisions. I often find myself in situations that I used to think were very hard to access, but now I find those spaces come and look for me. A huge highlight of my leadership journey is just working hard and realizing that if something is meant for you it will come.

Another issue is the lack of women in the PNG Parliament. Systems around us need to better support women and we need to hold those systems accountable. If people aren’t doing their job, then my responsibility lies in building a generation that is going to hold leaders accountable. I will invest my leadership in building up young people to become good citizens and to make good decisions. That’s why I have hope: knowing that I work with the future of this country. They can change what the future will be.

What is the role of grassroots organizations in creating change?

The NGO space is a great space to be in. There is no bureaucracy and you are free to speak. That means that we can see a problem in the system and do something to resolve it. We can show results.

In our journey with Equal Playing Field we’ve looked at the problem, we find the gaps and then try things out. We’ve found that it is very effective to deliver school-based respectful relationship education, and empower and educate teams of youth facilitators. We understood the gaps in previous approaches, and looked for new solutions. If you’re not in the communities, you don’t understand where the gaps are.

Do you have any advice for women in the Pacific?

Remember that you are a leader even if you are in the home and looking after your family. Sometimes people believe that leadership requires you to hold a high office or have a big following of people behind you, like politicians or Members of Parliament. 

But women need to see themselves as leaders where they are. If you are providing for your family, you're a leader. If you are a midwife in a village community helping to deliver a baby, you’re a leader.  If you're a teacher in the classroom, you're a leader. We need to look at leadership as something that is related to where you are and the space you come from. You draw in a community. That, I believe, is how we can create a parliament one day that has more women.

**The views expressed in this interview do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank Group.


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