Behind his creations is the rich heritage of Papua New Guinea

Bonnie Noa with a petticoat on a mannequin (State Dept./Amelia Shaw)
Puni Nawa of Papua New Guinea is showcasing her creativity at the first regional summit of the United States Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) held in Malaysia in March. (FCO/Amelia Shaw)

Boni Nawa has been interested in dressing since she was ranked runner-up in the Miss Papua New Guinea pageant at the age of nineteen. That was in 1992. Now the owner of Saroni Tailoring Services, she designs clothes that reflect the rich cultural heritage of her home island.

Papua New Guinea is the third largest island nation in the world and is home to more than a thousand cultural groups speaking 839 known languages. Bonnie Naua belongs to the Koke Gubarei Idibana 1 clan, famous for canoe building and clay pottery. By incorporating traditional patterns into her designs, she helps keep her cultural heritage alive, she explains.

The former participant Entrepreneur Academy* (AWE) of the U.S. Department of State believes this training has helped her grow her business despite the economic pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded in 2019, AWE has so far provided more than 25,000 women in 100 countries with the knowledge, network and access they need to start or grow successful businesses. AWE integrates the Thunderbird School of Global Management’s online DreamBuilder course, which teaches participants how to strategically focus their ideas and business plan.

Boni Nawa is one of about 1,200 Pacific Island women who have completed their training at the academy. Other participants come from Fiji, Solomon Islands, New Zealand, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue and Samoa.

A model on a runway (© Silver Soul Studios)
One of Puni Nawa’s creations was shown during her fashion show at the Hilton Hotel in Port Moresby. (© Silver Soul Studios)

Her first clothes, she made on a sewing machine given to her one day, and she perfected her art at the Papua New Guinea Garment and Textile Training Center (Garment and Textile Training Center PNG), in Port Moresby, the country’s capital.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced her to close her workshop and work from home, which she continues to do. She owns several sewing machines, including a sewing machine that allows her to cut and sew one or two copies of fabric in one operation.

It’s not always easy, but I like the American saying, Make something out of nothing (Make something out of nothing), and that’s exactly what I did.”

The money she saves working from home, Puni Nawa invests in training programs that teach women in rural areas how to make clothes from scratch. She also shares her AWE knowledge to help other women start businesses and become financially independent.

“These US government programs have really opened my eyes and helped me focus on revitalizing my business,” she says.

Six women pose at a table for a group photo. (State Dept./Amelia Shaw)
Bonnie and other AWE alumni from Papua New Guinea attend the Academy Summit in Kuala Lumpur in March. (FCO/Amelia Shaw)

Bonnie Naua hopes to expand Saroni Tailoring beyond Papua New Guinea and share its traditional designs with the world. I made a step in that direction during the first one AWE Regional Summit held in Malaysia* In March where she presented her creations. Nearly 200 AWE alumni attended, along with business experts from ten countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition, the summit gave her the opportunity to meet American business technology experts, network, and exchange ideas with other businesswomen in the region.

“I will be 50 this year. It’s time to present my creations,” she smiles.

This article was written by freelance journalist Naomi Hampton. a A more comprehensive version has been published* By the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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*in english

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