Speaking out to #ENDviolence in Papua New Guinea

Little did 16-year-old Natasha Boropi know that a five-minute speech she gave on child abuse and neglect would lead to a positive change in her father’s abusive behaviour.

She travelled from her home in Goroka to Port Moresby, capital of Papua New Guinea, to speak about the effects of polygamous marriage and alcohol abuse on children, at the launch of an ‘End Violence against Children’ campaign, organised by UNICEF and the Government.

Natasha recalls the life she lived for many years: “My father loves drinking. He married many wives and left them all except for my mum but he never treats us well. He would get drunk, come home and chase us out of the house with a bush knife in the middle of the night. We would run to our grandparents for protection.”

“It’s not safe where we live,” she continues. “Many boys take drugs and abuse women. I was in school but my father’s behaviour affected me. He didn’t care about me, my sisters or my brother. He didn’t pay for my school fees so I had to drop out. My older sister also dropped out of school for the same reason.”

That evening, hundreds of miles away in Moro, Southern Highlands Province, Natasha’s father and a few of his friends gathered around the television after work to watch a game of football. When the local news came on before the game, Natasha’s father was shocked to see his daughter on the evening news talking about child abuse and neglect.

Initial shock and disbelief turned to guilt and regret as Natasha’s father realised she was talking about her own life and experience. In her speech, Natasha called for a children’s desk to be established in police stations across the country so children who are victims of violence and abuse can report their cases and get help.

“Natasha’s father didn’t know she was speaking at the event,” her mother Atomi says. “She had been raising awareness of violence against children in Goroka with the Kafe Women’s Association, so I encouraged her to share her story at this event.”

To the family’s delight, Natasha’s father has been behaving more positively since seeing his daughter talk about her experiences.

“When he came back to Goroka for a break after seeing Natasha on TV, he did things that he never did before,” Atomi says. “He spent time with us as a family, did household chores and even provided financial support for me and the children which he rarely did before.

“He used to be very harsh towards his children but I don’t see that anymore,” she continues. “Instead he sat down with his older daughter and counselled her because she had a problem. I’m very happy to see that because that is a big change.”

Natasha is also happy to see the change in her father: “Now if he comes home drunk, he knocks politely on the door, and then goes to bed without disturbing us. We like that.”

Atomi is all smiles as she says: “I’ve experienced this abusive life and struggled for such a long time, so I want to say thank you to UNICEF for allowing Natasha to share her experience. Now we can build our family unit and live together as a family.”

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