The first female graduate

By CARE Australia April 18, 2017 0 comments

Alma is the first female coffee graduate placed with SMS-PNG. Image: Patrick McCloskey/CARE.

CARE has worked with coffee industry stakeholders in Papua New Guinea (PNG) for more than three years to help the industry be more inclusive of women. The Coffee Industry Graduate Program aims to increase the number of women working in positions that give training to coffee farmers.

Alma Lance is the first female graduate to be placed with Sustainable Management Services PNG (SMS-PNG). She trains farmers in areas including land management and soil preparation as well as business management skills like equitable sharing of labour and income within families.

“I have learnt that to earn respect from the coffee farming families I have to put myself in their shoes, persevere, be resilient and learn to communicate on their terms. We have many diverse cultures in PNG, so it is important to understand different cultural ways. You have to have passion to do these things, understand how others live and associate in their communities to be able to disseminate appropriate information.

“We motivate and give them ideas to help solve their problems. Family Business Management training is very important because it works with the whole family [about] how men and women can learn from each other.”

Through her new role, Alma feels she is able to support female farmers and improve the status of women in her country overall.

“Extension is a very good job for women to do… Most of the time farmers only see men as extension officers. But because I am female, it is now much easier for women [farmers] to share their views. It’s like I’m standing on behalf of the women and I represent them – they come to me and we talk openly.

“This program has helped me realise I can stand up and be a leader in my community and be a voice for women who have been silenced for too long. Most of the rural work is done by women, [so this program] gives women a chance to be a part of the social and economic development of the country.

“Often women are kept silent, we don’t hear their views. I believe [the program] has the potential to change the way people think about the roles of women by giving them a voice.”

Joeri Kalwij, Director of Sustainable Management Services PNG (SMS-PNG) was the first to adopt the graduate program.

“This gives us the opportunity to not only support young professionals to gain valuable work experience, it also allows us to actively recruit young women and get them involved in an industry predominantly occupied by men.

“The feedback and active engagement [of farmers] with our team during field visits is fantastic. I like to think this is partly due to the fact we have women in our team that maintain rapport with female coffee growers. We have seen an increased appreciation, and a strengthened relationship with the supply chains. I like to think the focus on gender issues has contributed.”

Alma agrees. She says, “I think what CARE and SMS are doing with female extension officers is important – I believe in having females in extension because it will create change. I am the first, but I know this is just the beginning.

“I believe if you want change you cannot wait, we have to create it.”

Find out more about CARE’s work in Papua New Guinea.

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