Women leading and influencing



COVID-19 Leadership: Keeping Schools COVID-Safe

Monday, 5 October 2020

Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) alumni Rebecca Krai and participants Michelle Silip and Angela Pisa Tom are working together to keep Papua New Guinean (PNG) students and communities safe from COVID-19.

The PNG-native trio are collaborating with local teachers and health experts to deliver their COVID-19 prevention awareness project to secondary and high schools in the Western Highlands Province.

The project aims not only to educate on and implement hygiene and safety measures in schools, but to encourage students to share best practices learned with their families and communities.

About the School-Based COVID-19 Awareness Program

Supported by WLI as part of its COVID-19 responsethe program delivers vital health information and hygiene and personal protective equipment to eleven local schools in Mul-Baiyer District of the Western Highlands. As well as providing awareness and health education to local women in the community. 

The project empowers participants to facilitate COVID-19 prevention training within their own schools, families and communities. 

Female students at Notre Dame Secondary school – where Rebecca works as an assistant teacher to students with disabilities – received this information and training.

The project also encourages and supports the installation of clean hand-washing “tippy taps” – which are low-cost water taps that can be activated by foot to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Operating rurally, the project has a strong focus on building networks “with different people from village to Provincial Government level”, and becoming more sustainable.

Early Positive Outcomes of the Program

Already, the team says most school principals have taken into consideration the preventative measures covered in the program and “embraced [them] by putting [them] into practice”.

“One of the schools that we have visited was willing to teach parents about the tippy taps [so] that handwashing can be practiced at home before doing it in school … it’s something new for the students,” the team explains. 

The team also reflects that when they “created space” and empowered the young female students to lead, “they did a tremendous job”.

The progress and effectiveness of the entire project will be monitored closely by the team and ultimately compiled in a report to inform future policy in the area.  

Flexing Skills Learned Through WLI

The team says adaptive leadership and networking skills, which are staple learnings of the WLI program, were “much used in this project”.

“In a male-dominated culture, the skills [learned through WLI] have really helped me to work well with males while still gaining respect,” says Rebecca.

Rebecca also says the project has taught her more about leadership.

“Leadership is not about leading only from the front, but from the sides and the back … [and] about allowing people to lead,” says Rebecca.

WLI looks forward to monitoring the progress and positive outcomes of this vital project as it is delivered over the following months.  


Rebecca, Angela and Michelle’s School-based COVID-19 Awareness project represents one of 15 COVID-19-related leadership projects being conducted by WLI participants and alumni in the Pacific.

Funded by WLI, teams work collaboratively to scope, develop and implement projects with a focus on health, education, safety and security, and agriculture and food security are being implemented across six Pacific countries (Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, Nauru, Tonga and Solomon Islands).

Find out more about each project here.