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Mary Michael Tamia: Empowering women’s advocacy across PNG

Renowned as a respected women’s leader and gender rights advocate, Mary Michael Tamia has spent her life supporting and advancing women in Papua New Guinea. 

Passionate about helping women recognise their leadership potential, Mary has long campaigned for greater education and support for women to enable them to achieve equality.

A resident of Tari in the Hela Province, Mary’s professional background is in public health and community-based care. 

She has worked full-time in this field whilst simultaneously leading a women’s church group and running programs to support single mothers, the poor, the disabled and people living with HIV/AIDS.     

With her passion for women’s empowerment and equality, Mary was selected by ExxonMobil PNG to attend the 2011 Global Women in Management (GWIM) conference in Indonesia.

This distinguished program provides specialised education and training to women in developing nations in an effort to help them reach their economic potential and in turn help drive economic development in their communities. 

The experience, Mary says, was inspiring and gave her additional tools in advocacy, finance, management and facilitation that she was able to apply to her projects.

Mary was motivated by her involvement in GWIM to find ways to share these newfound skills with other women which saw her establish a training centre and accommodation unit in the village of Habia. 

ExxonMobil PNG supported these efforts by providing funding for the facilities where Mary now conducts training in livelihoods, cooking and sewing as well as marital relationship workshops and education programs for young girls. 

As a GWIM alumni, Mary is part of a group of Papua New Guinean women that formed the Advancing PNG: Women Leaders Network Inc (APNG:WLN).

This group provides a network for former GWIM participants to assist one another and share ideas to help drive change in their respective communities. The network has a membership of 62, spanning 15 provinces across PNG. 

The ongoing mentoring and support of these women is important as behind each of them are hundreds more women that benefit from their knowledge and leadership. 

Funding from ExxonMobil PNG has helped the network strengthen its capacity and ability to deliver programs by investing these funds in crucial administrative support structures such as human resources, systems, processes and policies.

Mary’s commitment to her community, professional skills and passion for women’s advocacy saw her elected as the network’s first President.

Following her appointment, Mary said she was proud to be responsible for nurturing the next generation of Papua New Guinean women who will lead the country’s development agenda in the future.