A Powerful New Rugby Documentary Aims to Shift Societal Views in Papua New Guinea
The arrival of Papua New Guinea’s first national women’s rugby league team onto the world sporting stage in 2017 was celebrated globally as a monumental women's rights win. However, despite global acclaim, criticism and sexism continue to stifle the women in their home country.
Now, a new documentary is following the tumultuous journey of the Orchid Rugby League Team as they make their way to the 2017 World Cup in Australia, with the explicit aim of changing the attitude towards women in Papua New Guinea.
The film, entitled Power Meri, conveys the wider societal challenges the team face every day in a nation where women are treated as second class citizens and where more than two thirds of women experience family violence. The documentary, filmed across Papua New Guinea and Australia, explores themes of feminism, resilience, aspiration, and citizenship.
"In Papua New Guinea, I hope the film will help change attitudes about how people view the strength and leadership potential of women,” former journalist and Power Meri director Joanna Lester told the Post Courier. “I also hope the story of the Orchids, a group of pioneering women putting their hands up to be part of something new and exciting despite criticism and barriers, will inspire audiences everywhere.”
According to a Human Rights Watch report, Papua New Guinea is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. Despite criminalizing domestic violence in 2013, women still face shocking levels of abuse thanks to police corruption, prosecutors failing to investigate crimes, and a lack of legal aid.
Orchids captain Cathy Neap believes the documentary will pay dividends in the fight to change Papua New Guinea's sexist mindset.
"I think this film will allow people to see how far the Orchids have come, and the struggles they have come through to get this far,” she told the Post Courier. “It’s also important because it will help get the message across to the nation that women are starting to rise up and doing things that were not usually done by women before, and it’s important for men and little girls and boys to see that.”
Proud, strong and hopeful, the pioneering @PNGOrchids players have overcome more challenges than most to take the field in their much-loved national sport. #PowerMeri#WomenInSporthttps://t.co/327W6Gsyr0pic.twitter.com/pMgKjwPnMs— IWDA (@iwda) November 5, 2018
Papua New Guinean and Brisbane Broncos player Amelia Kuk echoed her competitors comments.
"It’s an amazing feeling to have this documentary made about the real struggles that women go through in this country,” she stated. “In Papua New Guinea, we still have this mindset that men are more important or better than women. It’s time to wake up and realise that everyone should have equal opportunities, and that women can do anything that guys can do. This film will help give girls a voice.”
For rugby supporters, feminists, and young children in Papua New Guinea, the Orchids represent more than sportsmanship and athletic ability. They, more than anything, represent hope and the notion that sport has the ability to change the world for the better.
Power Meri is currently screening throughout November in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, and Queensland.