Tackling a taboo subject in Papua New Guinea

Contemporary music draws young people to ELCN-PNG workshops. Girls from Ngagiob parish perform a tambourine dance, a creative method of explaining biblical stories. Photo: LWF/M. Renaux

Lutheran Youth leader Warendo Soer says it is important to raise awareness about teenage pregnancy in Papua New Guinea.


Sex education is not something ones talks about openly in Papua New Guinea. It is considered a taboo subject at community and family level. A recent survey in Lofa district in the Eastern Highlands province indicated that most young girls drop out of school due to pregnancy or to  being married. There is little awareness among the youth about the risks of teenage pregnancy.

I saw an opportunity to talk about sexual relationships when the national education authorities reduced the normal school day from eight to six hours because of the impact of the severe drought from May 2015 until early this year. Around 40 percent of PNG’s population of 7.5 million is made up of young people under the age of 20. In a country with a fairly high teenage pregnancy rate (6-8 percent according to the United Nations Population Fund) primary and secondary school students found themselves with a lot of spare time but no organized activities. This increased the risk of engaging in sexual relationships, and being lured into other behaviors such as peddling or using narcotic drugs like marijuana.

Health is one of the focus subjects of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea (ELCN-PNG). Through the program, we raise awareness about hygiene, sanitation and high-risk diseases on the overall development of the local community.

As a member of the Lufa Lutheran Students and Graduates Association, I organized a four-day seminar on Christian perspectives on health and education, targeting young men and women. More than 400 teenagers from all over the district and its neighboring regions, and a group of 30 students from the Western Highlands Province, attended the seminar. It was a great opportunity to hear from government representatives, and to also delve into Bible study together.

In my presentation on Genesis 2:8-25 [creation of Eve from Adam’s rib] I encouraged young people to allow God to prepare them for courtship before marriage by seeking Scripture and praying together. Charles Bonny, a Lutheran working at the Department of Education, emphasized a solid education as a critical foundation for a better future. Other ELCN-PNG members presenting included Dr Haitawo Palo, a dentist with the Health Department.

The Lutheran World Federation supports the church’s health and education program. My participation was made possible through the local youth participation initiatives of the LWF Youth desk.



Warendo Soer, 28, holds a bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Technology from the PNG University of Technology. She is the treasurer of the Lufa Lutheran Students and Graduates Association.