Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

FEATURE STORY Breaking the Barrier: Gender Equality in Papua New Guinea’s Health Sector

Joshua Jochapai, a dedicated shift supervisor with the Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority (WHPHA) is utilising his insights from an Australian funded Male Advocacy Training to ensure his women colleagues are thoughtfully rostered to ensure his community can access the best healthcare when needed.

In the provinces of Western, Western Highlands, West Sepik, East New Britain, Morobe, and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, GEDSI Sensitisation and Male Advocacy workshops have become tools for change. The trainings aim to shift attitudes and foster supportive environments for women and men in health sector leadership.

Joshua, having encountered several instances where female nurses faced domestic abuse, hindering their ability to work, drew from his training and extended timely support.

He recounts, "Upon learning that a nurse couldn't work a night shift due to her husband's restrictions, I accommodated her request, scheduling her for daytime shifts and swapping her night shift with a male colleague.

In another distressing incident, a male nurse perpetrated violence against his wife at the hospital. In response, I allowed the affected nurse to leave work early, followed by counseling sessions for the couple the next day."

Papua New Guinea grapples with gender inequality in its health sector, where women, despite comprising over 50% of the health sector workforce, face barriers in decision-making and endure increasing levels of gender-based violence.

Gender disparity remains a challenge in PNG and is a barrier to social development. The Australian Government recognizes this issue and provides support through training and awareness in strengthening and promoting gender equality for equitable access to health service delivery in the PNG health system.   

"The facilitator shared numerous impactful examples during the training, which deeply challenged me personally.       I used to view household chores as solely women's responsibility. Now, I actively assist my wife with cooking and chores,” added Joshua.

"I realised that I was wrong in my attitudes towards women.  Even my children told me that I am not the same person as before," confesses Joshua.

“I now understand the reasons why women nurses are sometimes absent from work, and I am confident to advocate against Gender Based Violence and provide counselling to the females nurses and their partners.”

His commitment to addressing gender-based violence, cultural inequalities, and promoting women's leadership has translated into concrete actions to strengthen health systems. He actively supports female staff, ensuring their needs are considered in planning and budgeting processes and ensuring they receive necessary assistance without being unfairly penalised for work-related absenteeism.

As Australia continues to promote gender equality, the hope is for individuals like Joshua to emerge, who not only understand the importance of gender equality but actively contribute to building a healthier, more inclusive future for Papua New Guinea.


Joshua Jochapai

For further information, including access to related materials, please contact the Australian High Commission media team: +675 7090 0100