1-Tok Helpline is a lifeline for survivors of domestic abuse in Papua New Guinea

1-Tok Helpline is a lifeline for survivors of domestic abuse in Papua New Guinea

The International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women is November 25 but sadly domestic abuse is still a daily reality for 64% of women in Papua New Guinea. ChildFund Technical Advisor Sally Angelson writes why ChildFund's 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain, a helpline for survivors of gender-based violence in PNG, is not just important, it's vital.

Since 2013, ChildFund New Zealand has supported the 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain in Papua New Guinea, a national toll-free helpline for survivors of family violence providing counselling along with pathways to support and justice services. In the past two years, the service has received 25,000 calls.

Despite the high rates of domestic violence in Papua New Guinea, no similar service existed prior to the 1-Tok Helpline. I remember reading the initial idea  and it seemed relatively simple, to have counsellors on the end of the phone to give instant advice to callers who needed it, however the reality goes deeper and is more complex.

People call the 1-Tok Helpline for many reasons and, sadly, often they have suffered for a long time before gathering the courage to call and seek help. Callers are women, children and men, with the latter sometimes calling to stop or avoid being violent, and callers are from across PNG spanning many cultural groups.

Many of the 1-Tok Helpline counsellors are also survivors, they are immensely talented and dedicated to their job. Of all the projects I have worked on during my career, including ten years with ChildFund, the 1-Tok Helpline is one of the proudest I am to be involved in. 

Over the years I have worked in many places around the world, and sadly have seen first-hand many forms of violence, mostly against women. The response to gender-based violence needs to be nuanced, context specific and holistic in it’s approach.

The response to gender-base violence should not ‘target’ the victims, but work with the community, the perpetrators, the families and the wider system to have real and lasting change. This is what the 1-Tok Helpline in PNG continues to provide and it is something ChildFund and me personally are so very proud to be a part of. 

Some facts about gender-based violence: 

  • 58% of women had experienced spousal physical or sexual violence,
  • 64% had experienced a form of emotional, physical, or sexual violence by a spouse, and
  • 57% of women had been injured due to spousal physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

(From the Demographic Health Survey 2016-2018) 

Services delivered by the 1-Tok Helpline for the two years to 2021

The 1-Tok Helpline uses mobile phone technology to overcome issues of service delivery coverage and low literacy in PNG. It delivers counselling, information, and referral services in three languages of Hiri Motu, Tok Pisin and English and is staffed by professional counsellors and information officers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

The helpline receives thousands of calls a month, from women, children and men, and the nature of the calls can range for those who have been abused, who are being abused, calling for others and even those who are perpetrators of the violence themselves. This vital service is a lifeline for those in the remote areas of PNG, who can access help through their phones for the first time.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the helpline has become even more important as people are isolated and stressed at home, which is not always a safe place for them to be. 

Counsellors are confronted daily with cases of abuse, including extreme abuse, and sometimes to very young children, and they are saving lives on an hourly basis. They provide a safe ear to listen, provide advice and connect them to the best local services that can help them to safety. 

There are many horrific cases which have a good ending thanks to this incredible group of counsellors, who do all they can to get the survivors the help they need. There are still so many yet to receive such help in PNG, reminding us the absolute importance of continuing this service. 

Pre COVID-19 some of the counsellors visited us here in Aotearoa to connect with our services for survivors of family violence and have been able to take the learning back to PNG. 

ChildFund New Zealand receives funding from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and New Zealand supporters for the helpline. Around 13,000 Kiwis support ChildFund's projects in the Pacific, Asia and Africa.

November 25 is International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women, it's an opportunity for us at ChildFund to confirm our commitment to supporting survivors of gender-based violence, and also to recognise the amazing Tok-1 Helpline counsellors and staff who are helping these survivors.

There are still so many survivors of domestic abuse that need help in PNG. Help continue this vital service through ChildFund New Zealand here.


Please donate now to help end violence against children and families now. 

Read more about ChildFund's work to prevent domestic abuse in Papua New Guinea and other work here.

Read more about Sally Angelson here