The Bilum Campaign; Harnessing PNG Traditional Culture to Advance Gender Equality and Bodily Function, was recently launched at the National Museum and Art Gallery in Port Moresby.
The Campaign is an initiative of the United Nation’s Population Fund in partnership with the National Museum of Papua New Guinea and the Founder of the Goroka Bilum Festival, Ms Florence Jaukae Kamel.
Ms Marielle Sander, Representative from the UNFPA said the purpose of the Bilum Campaign, is to harness cultural tradition and bilum patterns to raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health and the need for investment in reproductive health across PNG.
“The community rituals of bilum making are slowly dying away in modern day Papua New Guinea and so are the conversations that once accompanied these cultural rituals, on social norms and expectations.”
“Conversation about reproductive health have always taken place in PNG and it was marked with ritual and inter-generational communication,” said Ms Sander.
“Modern day Papua New Guineans are not having these conversations that they once used to have,” she added.
“So where do young people get their information to protect themselves from complications around pregnancy, how do they stop unwanted pregnancy and STIs which are on the rise in PNG and HIV/AIDS?” asked Ms Sander.
“What we would love to do through this event, is to take a step back in time, to understand the importance of these rituals, to draw from the meaning of bilum patterns, to focus on knowledge sharing and guidance and to encourage more dialogue about ‘taboo’ topics in the country, particularly with sexual and reproductive health,” Ms Sander stated.
The Launching of the Bilum Campaign involved the Haus Man and Haus Meri panel of discussions, to identify and address the many issues affecting Papua New Guinea today while also encouraging more donor and government partnerships, to invest in primary health and education in the reproductive health sector.
The Haus Man panel was led by Governor of East Sepik, Mr Allan Bird and the Haus Meri panel was headed by Ms Debbie Kupesan.
“We have no investment in access to primary health care and we have a growing population and these needs are not going away, especially in the rural areas, where 80% of the population lives,” said Ms Sander.
“As elders now, we have the responsibility to get that message out there and to encourage the government and the donors that are partners, to support the investment in this sector, that is the purpose of the campaign,” Ms Sander concluded.