Bravery Award for IOM Anti-Trafficking Staff in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea - They say a friend in need is a friend indeed. For many people, Enid Barlong Kantha is the epitome of this saying. From a young age, Enid has always had a heart for helping people – a passion that her parents instilled in her at a very young age.

Her selfless nature comes through in her role as the Counter-Trafficking Specialist in the Migrant Protection Unit at the IOM mission in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Thus, it was only fitting that Enid was honoured with the ‘Bravery and Courage Award’ at City Pharmacy Limited’s Pride of PNG Awards last week.

The accolade was given for her tireless work in combatting human trafficking as well as sorcery-related and gender-based violence in PNG. (Sorcery and superstition are big influencers in the Pacific nation.)

“Well, I’ve always had a passion to help others, and I guess it’s just something that’s always been in me. My parents looked after people from all walks of life, and they would always be there to help them…. Growing up among so many different people has made me appreciate that we always had more despite the struggles,” recalled Enid.

Enid’s gratefulness led her to become a counsellor to a number of people. While her vocation may seem clear-cut to others, the journey was not as easy. After graduating with a degree in Psychology in 2004, Enid opted to do volunteer work while most of her fellow graduates lined up jobs in the field of Human Resources.

Although volunteer work proved more appealing, counselling jobs were hard to come by. Still, Enid remained resolute by sharing her kind-heartedness with those hurting within her community. With no training in counselling, she helped rehabilitate young adults who had missed out on securing places in higher education. It wasn’t until 2006 that Enid’s compassion reached a wider group of people, when she became a volunteer with the safe house Haus Ruth.

“[People] thought I was stupid [for accepting this job] because my husband was away studying, my daughter was a baby, and life in Port Moresby was hard. But, I said I’ve got to start somewhere, and I did,” explained Enid.

Never one to follow the crowd, Enid took a leap of faith with volunteering and has since grown with each step – from the rehabilitation of countless victims of violence to the capacity building of government stakeholders. From being a volunteer at Haus Ruth to working as the Deputy National Programme Coordinator for PNG’s Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee, Enid continues to show tremendous amount of courage and dedication, especially with her work at IOM.

“We’re proud that Enid’s selfless work with the victims has been recognized nationally. This is a testament to IOM’s lifesaving and protection activities in the country,” said George Gigauri, IOM PNG’s Chief of Mission.

Enid’s wealth of experience plays a great deal in IOM’s holistic and multi-disciplinary approach to combatting the crime of trafficking persons in PNG.

“After learning about human trafficking in training, a fire was ignited in me for more counter-trafficking efforts. [Even though] trafficking has been occurring for generations in PNG, its awareness and understanding is relatively new to my people. Being part of IOM and the UN, it would help build the capacity of all stakeholders to not only respond to human trafficking but to also understand it,” said Enid.

While Enid knows that combatting human trafficking and other forms of violence may not be easy, she hopes for the best. Her award is further testament to Papua New Guineans’ dedication to developing a society free of crime and hurtful practices, despite the many challenges ahead.

“My award has given me more work,” said Enid smiling from ear to ear. “I’m still trying to get over it. [But] I’m humbled and blessed that whatever blessings I have, I can use them to bless others; and just being able to touch one life can make a difference.”

IOM is part of the UN Delivering as One effort in PNG.