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Obama Leader stands up against domestic violence in Papua New Guinea

Obama Foundation Leader uses the law to educate and protect the rights of women and girls

Emma Minimbi, a woman with a medium deep skin tone, holds a closed lip smile as she stares into the camera. Her headshot is grayscale. She has a braided bun and is wearing a black and white polka dot top. The background is a blue and yellow half circle.

"My motto is: if not me, then who?" said Emma Minimbi.

She is a 2023 Obama Foundation Asia-Pacific Leader, who knows firsthand the impact of violence in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

“I grew up seeing a lot of domestic violence around me. As a child, I saw my mother pack her bags and leave because of it,” Minimbi reflected. “I realized later that women and girls were always the domestic help, child bearer, laborer, and caregiver, but never the decision maker like men. In order to change the status quo, I had to be the change I wished to see by completing my education and becoming a lawyer.”

Minimbi says she wanted to give women and girls a chance to advocate for themselves. Today, she is a lawyer and pro bono consultant with Ashurst PNG. She also practices law at Daniel Piam Lawyers based in the Western Highlands Province.

Emma Minimbi, a woman with a medium deep skin tone, holds a closed lip smile as she stands to the left of a UN Women sign. Posing on the right is a woman with a medium deep skin tone with a closed lip smile. Both women have short hair and are wearing purple shirts that read, “Women make change.” The UN Women signage reads, “UN Women, United Nations Entity for Gender Equity and empowerment of women, and Women’s leadership and political process.”

Emma Minimbi poses for a picture with Angela Potane at the United Nations Women Political Participation Workshop.

Minimbi shared that domestic violence in PNG is often under-reported and under-investigated, as it is in many other places. She uses the law and the power of community to help eradicate gender-based violence, sorcery accusation-related violence, and other forms of violence against women and girls in Papua New Guinea.

“I am involved in advocacy and outreach work regarding gender-based violence and sorcery-accusation-related violence in rural communities, especially in my own village,” Minimbi said. “Rural communities have limited access to opportunity, money, and education. Many community members are illiterate so I do my best to promote and protect their rights through legal education. I utilize the Family Protection Act 2013 (Opens in a new tab) to apply for Interim Protection Orders for gender-based violence survivors and sorcery-accusation-related violence victims against the perpetrators.”

In addition to her pro bono work, Minimbi is the public officer and chairperson of the Roni Pingrui Community Development Association, an organization working to promote and protect women’s rights, address climate change, and promote access to education and equal opportunity for women and girls in Kintau Village and Wurup in Jiwaka Province.

Emma Minimbi, a woman with a medium deep skin tone, stands behind a podium at the United Nations Development Programme Stakeholders Consultation on Sorcery Accusations Related Violence at Loloata Island. She has a braided bun and is wearing a face mask under her chin. In the background is signage that reads, “Initiated by the European Union and the United Nations and United Nations Development Programme.”

Emma Minimbi speaks at the United Nations Development Programme Stakeholders Consultation on Sorcery Accusations Related Violence.

She says her involvement in the Asia-Pacific Leaders program has allowed her to leverage her skills and gain a deeper understanding of herself in relation to her cause. 

“This program has helped me find a work-life balance. The coaching sessions have allowed me to step back and rediscover who Emma is, aside from her career aspirations and achievements,” she said. 

“I am privileged to be a part of a phenomenal program that develops, molds, and installs leadership skills in changemakers across the globe,” she added.

Minimbi says she feels the positive effects of her work in her community and she hopes that they are long lasting.

“I want to leave my community, country, and world in a better position than when I came into it. My hope for women and girls in Papua New Guinea is that they l become all they dream to be,” she said. “I hope they are respected in their communities and contribute equally to the development of the country. One day, I hope and believe that women and girls will lead the country and hold leadership roles in corporations and in government.”