Councillor (Women's Rep), Minj District, Jiwaka Province, Papua New Guinea
Mary Gele is a former senior police woman with the Royal Papua New Guinea Police Force and Councillor (Women's Rep) for Minj District, Jiwaka Province, Papua New Guinea.
Mary is from a family of five and is the eldest in the family; she has two sisters and two brothers. Mary married in 1986 and has five children: two girls and two boys. Her eldest is 27 and is married with children making her a ‘bubu’(grandchildren) already.
Upon completion of secondary school, Mary went for teaching training in Rabaul in East New Britain province. During her second year she left due to the increased volcanic activity in the area. She then got herself recruited into the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary in 1983. In December of that same year she went down to Bomana Police College where she graduated as a Police Woman constable.
Mary worked her way up and found herself as Officer in Charge (OIC) in various police stations all over Papua New Guinea, including as OIC of the Sexual Offences Section and OIC of Community Policing.
Mary resigned in 2007 to return to her home district to look after her aging parents. After her parents passed away she decided to work with her community within her district. This was at the same time that Jiwaka was in the process of achieving status as a new province. As an ex-police woman and being very outspoken within the community, Mary was regarded as the voice of the women within her district. In 2008, she was appointed women's councillor for the South Waghi Local Level Government (LLG) and represents the district women in the chamber.
She says that one of the main challenges was the lack of women within the council. "There was just myself and another women’s representative appointed in a chamber full of men. I saw that on numerous occasions it was often hard for us to get our voices heard."
"When I was I in the police force I had joined Peace Foundation Melanesia which is a leading NGO in PNG which deals with peace negotiation. This gave me a good opportunity to use my networks to get some of the developments we had in mind through to my district. With this in mind I decided to write up a proposal and send it down to them. They approved my proposal to have peacebuilding training conducted in my province, and with the help of European Union funding this was able to be achieved. I took ownership of the peacebuilding team of South Waghi and the province as a whole."
This is Mary's sixth year with the council and she hopes to continue her work in the district and encourages more women to join local governments and be the voice of women.