Linen drive helping PNG women is steaming ahead


Last updated:

A family in the Treaty Villages of Papua New Guinea. Image: RRRC

A CAIRNS charity drive to supply much-needed linen to impoverished women in the Treaty Villages on Papua New Guinea’s southern coast is steaming ahead, having already nearly tripled its original collection goal.

Since being launched on November 5 the linen drive has already filled two 4.6 cubic-metre shipping containers and is halfway to filling a third – much more than drive’s original goal of filling a single container.

The drive is being run by RRRC Connect, the philanthropic arm of Cairns-based environmental NGO, the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC), and is led by Yolonde Entsch.

“We have made such amazing progress, far beyond what we first aimed for,” Entsch said.

“The Cairns community has just been so generous in donating linen and they are going to make a big difference to the lives of the women in the Treaty Villages.

“For us, old linen is something that just takes up space in a cupboard, but for these women it’s wrapping for a baby, its bandages to cover a wound, it’s emergency shade for elderly people, it’s a lot of very useful things.”

Anyone with clean or useful linen like bedspreads, sheets, towels, cloth nappies or even tea-towels can donate. Cairns-based shipping company SeaSwift have kindly agreed to provide transport services.

The Treaty Villages, located on the southern coast of Papua New Guinea, are isolated from the rest of the country but are less than five kilometres from the northernmost islands of the Torres Strait. They suffer from a lack of health services, fresh water and other vital developmental infrastructure including roads to other PNG communities.

These impoverished conditions make life difficult for all residents of the Treaty Villages but women and girls in particular face challenges, including a high birth rate (on average 5.6 babies per woman) and next-to-no access to healthy birthing facilities.

Linen is a much-overlooked vital material in impoverished communities and has a wide variety of immediate uses, including as bed coverings, bandages, sanitary pads, infant swaddling and more.
The linen drive ties into a wider aid development program in the Treaty Villages managed by the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre and funded by the Australian government. Under that program, 52 rangers have been selected from the Treaty Villages and trained in a wide variety of community development skills including first aid, construction, sanitation, leadership and more.

RRRC managing director Sheriden Morris said empowering women in the Treaty Villages could make the difference in helping the villages develop.

“Empowering women is critical to increasing the resilience of these communities,” Sheriden said.

“PNG women can equally contribute to change in their villages such as developing market gardens or assisting community rangers with village projects.

“To do so we need to support these women with basic necessities, improved health, education and encouragement.”