Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Launching of the Maria Family Books by Foreign Minister Hon. Julie Bishop in Goroka 18 December 2014

Minister Bishop at BbP library about to read 'Maria's family goes to market'. Photo Eva Kuson/DFAT
It was a blissfully cool and clear day as the sun came out from behind the clouds amidst the pine tree tops. Dr Lalen Simeon and I were delighted to be part of the team that travelled up to Goroka to meet the Foreign Affairs Minister; Hon. Julie Bishop, for the launching of the “Maria’s Family” books at Buk bilong Pikinini (BbP) Library, at the University of Goroka campus.

Although school was out for holidays and it was only 7 days to Christmas, that did not deter the pikininis (children) from gathering as they huddled together to welcome the Minister with a song. It was a feeling of pride and accomplishment for the kids as well as for Lalen, who on behalf of the ACIAR team presented the series of Maria Family books to the Minister. The Minister then presented these beautiful books to Gavin Edwards, the national coordinator for Buk bilong Pikinini.

Minister Bishop greeting pikininis at University of Goroka campus. Photo Eva Kuson/DFAT

The Minister was then led by the BbP team into the library to read from the big Maria Family book to the children. The children were ecstatic to have a misis meri (expatriate female) read to them as they sat quietly in their little chairs and paid full attention. I should say they were well mannered and followed all instructions vey well. As I later found out, children as small as 3 years old attended the library and were taught at kindy level to primary level to Australian standards.

Minister reading 'Maria saves her kina' at the Buk bilong Pikinini library Goroka. Photo Eva Kuson/DFAT

Buk bilong Pikinini was started by Anne-Sophie Herman (wife of the past Australian High Commissioner to PNG, Chris Moraitis) in 2007 and has now over ten libraries, of which two are Goroka-based. It was a unique experience for the kids and the university on which the library was situated. Also, to my surprise, the volunteer who was engaged to help with the library from Scope Global was the Minister’s niece.

The Minister when giving her remarks highlighted the work of ACIAR, through its partners Canberra University, NARI, PAU, BUPNG and ENBWIY, in carrying out research and identifying ways to help women farm sustainably, and to be able to market their produce to sustain themselves and their families through the monies received. She also said that due to the high illiteracy rate, women were incapable of making decisions on how much they earned and how to budget their monies. As a result, Maria’s Family books were produced to highlight not only farming and marketing issues but also to show how women can manage time and resources. She said the books were aimed at empowering women and children but is a valuable resource where men could also learn from as well.

Dr Lalen Simeon presents Minister Bishop with the 'Maria's Books' series at Goroka's BbP library. Photo Eva Kuson/DFAT

Lalen was up next and thanked the Minister and welcomed the dignitaries. She was at first very nervous about the idea of speaking. But after going through her thoughts and actually doing the presentation, she said it was a great learning experience for her and a boost to her morale – and it gives her great pleasure to be involved in ACIAR projects. Through this project, she has met a lot of people, made lots of friends, and the benefits of sharing her knowledge and learning from local women has been tremendous. She now confidently says she can do this again, anytime!

As soon as it started, it ended and we were on the next flight out of Goroka.

In acknowledgement, I would like to thank the ACIAR project team ‘Examining women's business acumen in Papua New Guinea: Working with women smallholders in horticulture (ASEM/2010/052) for their tireless effort in making the Maria’s Family book series a success. Special thanks to Professor Barbara Pamphilon and Associate Professor Katja Mikhailovich, both from the University of Canberra, for leading this project. And congratulations to Friedah Wantum of the Baptist Union PNG, who as part of this project has been awarded an ACIAR John Dillon Fellowhip which she will take up in Australia, in February 2015.

By Rebecca Bogosia, Assistant Country Manager ACIAR, PNG.

The suite of Maria’s Family books can be downloaded from the ACIAR website.

Maria’s family goes to market (Western Highlands edition)

Maria’s family goes to market (East New Britain edition)

Maria’s family saves their kina


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