This articled was first published in The National Weekender on Friday, February 1, 2013
By MALUM NALU
By MALUM NALU
Go to Curtain Brothers’ PNG Dockyard on Motukea Island any day and you could be forgiven for thinking that you were back in World War 11 in the United States.
During WW11, as the men went to war, American women worked in factories, producing munitions and war supplies.
It was these women who built the planes, tanks, and ships needed to win WW11.
These women sometimes took entirely new jobs replacing the male workers who were in the military.
“Rosie the Riveter” is a cultural icon of the United States, representing the American women who worked in factories during WW11 and is commonly used as a symbol of feminism and women's economic power.
|A famous US “Rosie the Riveter” poster from WW11.|
According to the Encyclopedia of American Economic History, "Rosie the Riveter" inspired a social movement that increased the number of working American women – “Rosies” - from 12 million to 20 million by 1944, a 57% increase from 1940.
By 1944 only 1.7 million unmarried men between the ages of 20 and 34 worked in the defense industry, while 4.1 million unmarried women between those ages did so.
Although the image of "Rosie the Riveter" reflected the industrial work of welders and riveters during WW11, the majority of working women filled non-factory positions in every sector of the economy.
What unified the experiences of these women was that they proved to themselves (and the country) that they could do a "man's job" and could do it well.
Fast forward 70 years to 2013: Young women from Motuan villages around Port Moresby are being given a new lease of life, thanks to major Papua New Guinea company, Curtain Brothers.
|“Rosies”...female trainee welders (from left) Rosemary Kavanamur, Mary Louise John, and Caroline Mafu at the busy PNG Dockyard on Motukea Island.|
The company, through its subsidiary PNG Dockyard Ltd, is bringing in young women from the villages, school dropouts some of whom are only educated as far as Grade 6, and training them as welders on its busy Motukea Island outside Port Moresby.
Since then, the company has also been taking in young women from other parts of the country.
These “Rosies” of Motukea Island receive three months of intensive training - 75% practical and 25% theory - after which they are employed as trainee welders by the company and given a four-year apprenticeship during which time they can qualify as tradesmen.
Training sessions are held every three months, and since women started being trained as welders in 2011, 15 have gone through training.
Gomara Daniel, 19, from nearby Baruni village, dropped out of school at a very young age and was attending Limana Vocational Centre, when she heard about the training being offered by PNG Dockyard and applied.
|Gomara Daniel (left) at welding class at the PNG Dockyard on Motukea Island while colleagues Elizabeth Tau (and Mabata Maino look on.|
“It’s very enjoyable,” she tells me.
“I’m learning many new things.
“It’s good to receive such training and learn many new things about welding.
“I plan to become a boilermaker in future.”
Elizabeth Kalo, 20, finished Grade 10 at Kwikila Secondary School in 2010.
“After school, I had no further offers and was just at home,” she says.
“When I heard about the training being offered by Curtain Brothers, I sent in my certificate and was accepted.
“I’m enjoying it very much.
“I’m learning about welding and many other things.
“I’m looking forward to joining the workforce after completing my training.”
Mabata Maino, 16, is the baby of the trainees.
“I finished Grade 6 at Baruni Primary School in 2011,” she says.
“I’m really enjoying my training
Naoani Raho, 19, from Tatana village, completed Grade 8 at Tatana Primary School in 2011.
“I did my training last year from July to September,” she says.
|Noani Rano cutting through a piece of metal at the PNG Dockyard workshop on Motukea Island.|
“I’m now working as a trainee welder.
“I want to become a professional boilermaker in future.”
Catherine Binsgal, 21, of Baruni, completed Grade 8 at the village primary school in 20009 and after that went for training at a private institution before taking up welding training.
“I did my training last year from April till July,” she says.
“I learned many things including welding, flame, oxy gouging, MIG welding and others.
“I’m now working as a trainee welder and really enjoying it.”
Mary Louise John, 20, from the big village of Hanuabada, completed Grade 10 at Badihagwa Secondary School in 2010.
“I first went to the IT Job Training Centre at Waigani to do computer studies,” she says.
“From there, I came here for three months training, from October to December last year.
“I learned basic welding and I’m now a trainee welder.
“I want to become a professional welder in future.”
Linda Polongou, 26, from Manus is one of those from other provinces.
“I wasn’t doing anything before coming here,” she says.
“I finished Grade 10 at high school in Manus in 2008.
“I did my training from October to December 2011.
“Right now, I’m doing general welding duties.
“I see my future being in welding.”
Rosemary Kavanamur, of mixed Tolai and Baruni parentage, completed Grade 8 at St Michael’s Primary School at Hanuabada in 2009.
“After school, I was doing nothing,” she says.
“I did my training from July to September 2011.
“I really enjoy my job.”
Caroline Mafu, 19, from Baruni, completed Grade 10 at Iorowari High School in 2010.
“I didn’t have anything to do after that.
“I came here to do my training and I’m a trainee welder now and an apprentice at the same time.
“I want to become a boilermaker in future.”
Two other young ladies that I talked to, Alfreda Darty from Lake Murray in Western, and Sheorlyn Bonny from Yangoru in East Sepik, trained elsewhere before joining PNG Dockyard.
Sherolyn Bonny from Yangoru, East Sepik, a “Rosie” of Motukea Island.
Darty, 23, trained at Liunga Montfort Technical Secondary School from 2006-2007, while Bonny, 24, learned the basics at Maino Heduru Vocational Centre from 2007-2008.
PNG Dockyard operations manager, Steve Maiden, says welding is traditionally a male-dominated trade and the training for young women welders will benefit the whole country.
“It’s a 12-week programme providing dedicated welding and metal fabrication skills, enabling them to assimilate into the PNG Dockyard workforce, complementing our existing workforce” he says.
“It’s providing opportunities for both young men and women to become skilled metal fabricators and welders.
“It assists with PNG Dockyard’s and the nation’s skilled workforce.
“PNG Dockyard is committed to providing opportunities for all PNG people through all levels of our organisation.”
These young women are indeed the “Rosies” of Motukea Island.