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PNG’s Community Rangers Deliver Equality … and Babies

community ranger
Waidana Gauso (far left), a ranger support officer (RSO) from Mabaduan village, welcomes three new female RSOs living with a disability to the BRTV program.

Improved maternal and child health. Strengthened gender equity. Greater inclusion of people with disabilities. Since 2016, Abt has managed the DFAT-funded Building Resilience in Treaty Villages (BRTV) project, which has been yielding significant improvements to the lifestyles and living conditions in 13 Torres Strait Treaty villages in Papua New Guinea’s South Fly District.

Through BRTV, Abt seeks to sustainably improve Treaty villages’ economic and social livelihoods and health outcomes. The program recruits and trains people living in remote villages to become community rangers, who provide civil services to citizens. The training includes basic plumbing, building, sanitation, disaster response, first aid, well-digging, marine rescue and community health.

Yawan Mut is a community ranger from Mari village who has safely delivered over 10 babies and has seen first-hand the difference the program has made in remote communities, especially for women and infants.

“It costs over 100 kina to travel from my village to the main Daru General Hospital, an amount not many people—let alone women—can afford,” said Yawan. “It broke my heart how many women lost their babies at childbirth.” Yawan explained that women traditionally used tree bark and bamboo as birthing materials and were assisted during childbirth by older village women.

Dorothy, Lesia, Yawan and Dani hold birthing kits used during childbirth in their villages of Mari and Tais in the South Fly.

“Since the BRTV program came in, our women have been using modern birthing kits supplied through the program, and we female rangers teach the pregnant women how to use them,” she said.

A key aspect of the program is gender and social inclusion. With the endorsement of participating villages, the training for both men and women is identical, with no separation of roles, regardless of traditional cultural norms. 

Social inclusion is further promoted through the hiring of ranger support officers (RSOs). RSOs support Community rangers and, when filling these positions, priority is given to people with disabilities.

Twenty-five-year-old Waidana Gauso has been an RSO in Mabaduan village since 2015. Despite living with a disability, Waidana joins rangers in training activities and provides logistical support.

“When I lost my leg after falling from a coconut tree in 2013, I cried for my legs,” said Waidan. “Believing this was the end of me, I was thrilled when offered the job of RSO in the ranger program a few months later.”

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