How Our Community Project For Women In Papua New Guinea Began
I thought you might like to learn about how our community project for women in Papua New Guinea began.
A number of years ago my brother was doing some work in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. On a trip to visit him, my sister in law, Melissa, had to travel in a convoy along rugged, isolated dirt tracks with security guards, to ensure her safety.
At one point on the trip, she saw a woman, sitting by the side of the dirt road with some traditional string bags [ Bilums] in her lap. The convoy were the only cars that had travelled through for several days but she had patiently sat for days in the hope that some one would eventually pass by and buy one of her bags.
This particular area was notoriously dangerous and violent, yet here was a woman, sitting by a dirt track, in a jungle riddled with tribal warfare, trying to sell her hand made pieces. Such resilience and fortitude!! Needless to say Melissa bought every bag she had!
Too Many Bilums!
Not long afterwards, Tim and Melissa moved to Kimbe, the main town in the province of West New Britain. Melissa started buying up bilums from local women in an effort to help them earn much needed money as well. Unfortunately she had no ready market to sell them on and cover her expenses. [ You can only give so many bilums as gifts to friends and family!]
I had just started setting up Nu4u at the time, so happily offered to include them on my website.
Having grown up in Papua New Guinea, I understood the issues and challenges these women faced. It is an honour for Nu4u to be able to help in a small way.
How It Works
The agreement we have is as follows- Each woman sets the price for her bilums, and because we need to sell them on, we only purchase ones which are good quality. Weaving these bilums requires skill and also time, as it’s done free hand with basic tools.
To give you an idea Susan, in the pictures below, is weaving her bilum using a simple needle she’s made from the thorn of a local plant. To make it easier to handle while she weaves, the bilum has been rolled up.
In the final picture you can see the completed bilum. By the way – don’t you love her seat?
The price you pay for one of these bilums, is what Melissa has paid each woman. We add postage, handling and admin costs only. There is NO mark up other than that.
This project is not set up as a business to make money, but as a community support project.