Papua New Guinea’s first national telephone counselling hotline has had to broaden its service to cater for demand after receiving more than 15,000 calls over the past year.
The hotline was established by NGO ChildFund PNG, initially as a service for survivors of gender-based violence and predominately women and children.
ChildFund’s Wesh Siku said more than two-thirds of women in PNG experience domestic violence.
“When the project was actually designed, [it was] designed to assist survivors of gender-based violence and it just complemented those services that have already been established. The primary focus was to support survivors of gender-based violence, mainly women and even children.”
He said the the service was allowing men to get assistance they otherwise wouldn’t seek out, and that more than half of the callers were males who called as witnesses or perpetrators of violence.
“A lot of men do not feel comfortable talking to a woman in a face to face scenario. So what they did, when this project was put up it becomes so comfortable for them to pick up a phone and call a counsellor for the issues that he is going through.
“In Papua New Guinean culture, men will not front up [to] a woman and ask for their support.”
Wesh Siku said after the Highlands earthquake in February, the hotline was mobilised to provide trauma counselling and psychosocial support.
He said the hotline had eight staff manning the phones but this may have to increase as the workload has doubled since last year.