THE plight of women enduring horrific violence in poverty-stricken Papua New Guinea has captured the heart of former Wagga student Courtney Price.
Courtney has co-funded the youth-led, not-for-profit organisation Meri Toksave, which aims to address violence against women in PNG by improving information accessibility of services and support for women, empowering women and partnering with men.
Alongside PNG born and raised and fellow University of Queensland student Ayesha Lutshini and Tasman Bain, Courtney is seeking to change both the existing attitude, and extremely low status of women.
The organisation was established after Courtney and her two colleagues were awarded a social venture resolution fellowship from American based company, The Resolution Project.
The trio were introduced to The Resolution Project while they were participating in the World Model United Nations Conference, held in Melbourne in March.
During the conference students assumed the position of United Nations delegates in committees and forums, debating, discussing and attempting to resolve some of the world’s most pressing and complex problems
“New York company the Resolution Company attended the conference and asked us to pick a social justice problem and work on an idea to address that problem,” Courtney said.
“Basically if the idea met a certain criteria you could receive a fellowship which would allow you to access mentoring and funding to get the project established.
“There were about 20 ideas to begin with and I think six of those received fellowships.
“We had to go through different stages and do different thing like getting grilled by the judges for half an hour to get through to the semi-finals and then the finals.”
Courtney, who studies an arts degree in international relations, said it was Ayesha’s personal experiences of life in PNG that inspired the group to seek to improve the living conditions of women in the volatile island nation.
“My co-founder Ayesha was born and raised in PNG but she was lucky to do most of her schooling in Brisbane,” she said.
“So this is a cause very close to her heart and it all branched from her.
“Basically we are seeking to change the attitude towards women which is so hard because it is so deeply rooted in culture and tradition.
“Men are so much more superior to women and that’s completely normal... there is still a bride price in PNG; women are still sold off into men’s families.
“It is just so hard to imagine that something like that can still go on.
“We have to completely change the mindset.”
The organisation recently celebrated its six month anniversary, and is in the process of becoming an incorporated organisation under the Australian Government.
The Meri Toksave team recently returned from a five day trip to Port Moresby where they met with representatives from international organisations including World Vision, Oxfam, Lifeline and Anglicare.
“There are quite a few organisations in PNG which are seeing progress through the work they are doing in remote communities with men, women and children,” she said.
“These larger organisations have been so supportive of us and we are working on establishing partnerships with them.”
Courtney hopes to see Meri Toksave become a respected human rights organisation which garners the support of youth around the world.
“We hope that it will become an organisation, obviously not on the scale of Amnesty International or anything, but that we will get members who will be able to take on roles in the future,” she said.
“Because it is a youth organisation we hope that will be able to pass on the committee type roles and we will assume positions on the board of directors so we remain in touch with all the work that is done.”
For more information on the organisation, or to show your support, like the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MeriToksave.