Education is the key to helping women and girls escape poverty, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, told a gathering of women leaders at an International Women’s Day Breakfast in Papua New Guinea this morning.
"An educated girl can make more decisions for herself, has the potential to earn money, to choose when to get married and when to have children," Mr Marles said.
"She will know more about nutrition, is more likely to seek vaccinations for her children and invest in her family and community.
"All of Australia’s development programs in PNG place women at their centre, because we know that when we help girls and women fulfil their potential, their families and communities grow and prosper."
The breakfast included a roll call of inspirational women such as Sr Lorraine Garasu Soli who has worked tirelessly to help Bougainville recover from conflict.
Mr Marles said Australian support for women and girls in PNG is improving services in education, maternal and child health and law and justice.
"Australia is helping reduce maternal mortality through the provision of training, supervision and medical equipment, especially in remote and rural areas.
"Our support in the law and justice sector has seen the number of female village court magistrates increase from 10 in 2004 to 685 in 2011, giving women a real voice in the justice system especially on issues of equality and domestic violence."
Mr Marles said PNG women play a critical role in agriculture. It is one of the nation’s most significant industries and supports up to 85 per cent of the population.
"It was a great pleasure to meet with a group of PNG’s leading female agricultural researchers, many of whom are valued partners of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).
"PNG, like many other countries, shows both how far we have come and how far we have to go. One step at a time, we can continue to inspire girls to build the future for all women."
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