It is now widely accepted that women's economic empowerment brings a range of benefits even beyond gender equality gains for individual women, greatly improving the health, wellbeing, and productivity of entire families and countries, and contributing to effective, sustainable development. Recognising these substantial benefits, the Australian aid program places strong emphasis on addressing women's economic disadvantage. In the recent announcement of the appointment of the new Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, both the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash, highlighted the need, particularly in the Pacific, to promote gender equality and women's economic empowerment, and to address violence against women (Bishop and Cash 2013).
Dr Richard Eves is an anthropologist who has published widely on issues of social change in PNG. His first book, The Magical Body: Power, Fame and Meaning in a Melanesian Society (1998), is a detailed study of social and cultural change in a rural community in New Ireland, his long-term fieldwork site. Richard's work now deals widely with contemporary issues in Melanesia, straddling the boundaries between anthropology, development and international health, with a particular focus on gender, violence and the AIDS epidemic. He also has wide experience consulting on issues of health, AIDS and gender-based violence in PNG, having been a research advisor on two AusAID funded projects and a consultant for Caritas Australia. He has undertaken qualitative research in numerous provinces, including Western Highlands, Chimbu, Western, Eastern Highlands, Morobe, Milne Bay and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. In 2008, with Leslie Butt, he co-edited the important volume, Making Sense of AIDS: Culture, Sexuality, and Power in Melanesia (2008), a collection of anthropological papers on how the epidemic is being understood and responded to in Melanesia. He is now completing an ethnography of contemporary Christianity in PNG, looking particularly at the influence of Pentecostalism in New Ireland. In addition, much of his current research and writing focuses on gender in particular on forms of masculinity and how to engage men in the prevention of violence against women.
Joanne Crawford is Research and Policy Advisor at the International Women's Development Agency in Melbourne.