When people think about a Hiri voyage, they often think they were merely about the exchange of clay pots and sago. But as Dobi Isaiah explains such voyages were so much more than that, "they were about bringing people together, exchanging culture, and sharing stories."
Dobi Isaiah is the president and co-founder of the Helaro Hope Association, a local women's group in Porebada, Central Province. Helaro Hope Association holds Hiri Motu pottery workshops in coastal villages to revive this amazing pottery tradition.
Together with Loa Seri, a co-founder of the association, the objective is two-fold: to revive their once-thriving culture and to create economic opportunities for women.
"When we initiated the Motu Pottery workshop we knew that the Motuan tradition of pottery-making was on the brink of extinction and there was limited opportunity for women to be involved in income-generating activities to support themselves and their families.
"We were trying to think creatively about how to merge these two ideas, and that's how everything began."
As one of the 67 participants supported by ExxonMobil PNG to participate in Global Women in Management (GWIM) workshop, Dobi says the program helped her to understand the importance of economic empowerment while also providing her with the technical business and organisational skills to start the association.
Dobi is also a member of the Advancing PNG: Women Leaders Network (APNG:WLN), an organisation established by GWIM alumni to ensure lessons learned from the program are put into practice to support the broader development of local communities.
"We have the opportunity now to provide income-generating activities for women, while at the same time passing these skills on to younger generations. We hope that youth develop and enhance these skills, embrace our culture, and empower others to hold on to their heritage.”
Dobi says the journey has not been easy, and there was a lot of trial and error involved in terms of making the pots and establishing it as an income-generating activity for the women.
"Despite many challenges along the way, together with the association's executive, we are committed to making this effort a sustainable enterprise for those involved. Without support from ExxonMobil PNG and APNG:WLN, we would could not even have started on this journey. EMPNG and APNG:WLN have helped turn our dream into a reality," she concluded.