Women leading and influencing



COVID-19 Leadership: PNG Awareness & Support System

Friday, 5 March 2021

Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) alumni Paula Zebedee Aines, Rose Polume, Janet Tawake and Karen Anawe are empowering Port Moresby health centres, educational institutions, urban settlements and rural communities to stay open and safe from COVID-19.

Through the provision of information, resources and hand-washing facilities, the team’s COVID-19 Awareness and Support System project equips at-risk communities with the tools needed to prevent disease transmission and stay connected to education and health services.

The project also imparts the skills and knowledge needed to continue sewing reusable facemasks, building additional hand-washing stations, maintain temperature guns, or share practical health advice with others – beyond COVID-19.

About the COVID-19 Awareness and Support System

Paula, Rose, Janet and Karen’s project involved the installation of ‘tippy tap’ hand-washing stations and provided reusable face masks, temperature guns and health information (delivered in the form of hard copies, flash drives, verbal awareness, health kiosk information centres and on billboards) to people within National Capital District, Port Moresby and Central Province.

From June to November 2020, a total of 69 hand-washing stations, 5,400 reusable face masks, and 12 temperature guns and information packs were provided to schools, colleges, health centres, and settlement communities identified to be at high risk of disease transmission and forced closure. 

The team says many of the people this project supports live on low incomes with limited or no access to water.

Many also have low literacy skills, making typical health messages difficult to interpret.

Funded by WLI in response to COVID 19the project also assists students and soon-to-be mothers who would otherwise be unable to attend school and health check-ups without face masks.

Communities now ‘equipped to deal with COVID-19’

Already the project is showing immediate signs of success, with schools being able to safely manage students’ temperatures, and settlers adopting new, regular hand-washing behaviour.

And the team has yet to hear a reported case from the project sites. 

“[The] settlement leader stated that hand-washing used to be rarely practiced, but having the tippy taps has motivated them to maintain the practice regularly,” the team says.

Project Team Leader Paula Zebedee Aines also explains that church community volunteers who supported tippy-tap installation in the settlements are continuing to use and pass on the skills they learned through the project.

“They are now empowered to share the skills to others, even from other settlements, who are interested and want a tippy tap station”, Paula adds.

The knowledge and application of sewing reusable masks was also demonstrated to a number of women who were unemployed and in need of financial assistance.

Now, the women are “sewing and selling masks at the markets” to earn an income – creating an avenue to support themselves and their families during the pandemic.

One of these sewers explained, “I am a single mother and struggle with school fees for my Grade 12 son, so, this money will go to that.”

Paula says, “These results have now given confidence to the WLI leaders that the beneficiaries in the settlements are equipped to deal with COVID-19-related issues.”

Exercising Developmental Leadership

Paula and her team are confident that their project has helped them exercise developmental leadership – whereby communities are engaged, equipped and empowered with the skills and resources needed to drive their own solutions.

The project also “enabled the WLI leaders to think and work politically, and exercise coalition”, which they believe enhances the project’s capacity for this developmental leadership.

“[We] identified the group of people who are actively involved and leading, to achieve the objectives of the project,” says the team.

Paula adds, “Networking and working in partnership with these groups resulted in effective implementation [and] achieving these project objectives.”

The success of this project has also empowered and motivated the WLI leaders to work on a new project; relating to women’s chronic health issues in PNG.

WLI looks forward to monitoring the progress and positive outcomes of these vital projects as they’re delivered.  


Paula, Rose, Janet and Karen’s COVID-19 Awareness and Support System 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.