As I sit on a slick, vintage black sofa in a modern café in the capital Port Moresby, sipping a chai latte and salivating over a freshly baked chocolate and berry muffin, it’s hard to imagine that this city is one of the most dangerous in the world. It’s even harder to rationalise the stereotypes of the people who live here when you are meeting one of the most inspirational young businesswoman in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Amanda Donigi is the owner and editor of Stella magazine, PNGs first women’s magazine. At 34 years old, Amanda has already set an incredible standard for what can be achieved if you put your mind to something. It is understandable where her strength and determination came from as her parents went against the grain in the 70s when her Dad, who was born in Lowan in East Sepik, married her Mum from Melbourne, at a time not long after it was illegal for a Papua New Guinean man to touch a white woman. “People would spit in the street at him” but despite this prejudice and lack of understanding they had the full support from their family, went on to have five children and lived a happy and fulfilled life together.
Ms Donigi has always been interested in the world and travel and often looked longingly at her spinning globe, wanting to visit everywhere: “It has been amazing to travel to places and realise that they aren’t just colours on a map.” Despite living and studying in Australia, Germany, Taiwan and South Korea, Amanda’s heart has always been in PNG and this is where she was driven to come back to.
Stella magazine was born through Amanda’s vision to tell stories of women in the Pacific in a positive way, with a focus on fashion, health, travel, the arts and lifestyle. She identified a niche as female readers in the Pacific didn’t have a magazine tailored towards their experiences and interests and wanted to give budding writers the opportunity to be published. Since it began in 2012 the magazine has surged in popularity and each issue sells out with Amanda not being able to print enough copies to fill the demand. The magazine has a strong cultural identity with all content touching on cultural values within the Pacific region even if it isn’t the focus of the feature.
As an editorial stance, despite the strong fashion focus of the publication, bikinis are never featured within the fashion shoots as Amanda feels strongly that it would influence men in the wrong way. With some of the highest rates of consumption of pornographic images and the highest rate of gender based violence in the Pacific she is very aware of ensuring that Stella’s content doesn’t perpetuate this.
As one of the few women in business in PNG Amanda has been challenged by disrespectful behavior from her male counterparts: “I have been to meetings where I have been the only woman and I have been really disrespectfully treated. Because I have been in a business setting I have held my tongue but on one occasion I wrote an email to the persons boss following the meeting and they got fired. I was glad I kept my cool and dealt with the situation professionally.” But she has also found that it can be challenging working with women in business: “Women can be our own worst enemies. I have been in a situation where I felt that another woman was jealous of my achievements, but it won’t stop me from trying to raise the profiles of inspiring women and the amount of support I get from so many people far outweighs these small challenges.” Amanda’s experience further reinforces that inequality in the workplace can be fuelled equally by other women as well as men.
Amanda’s drive, determination and vision is an inspiration for bright, young females in PNG. Her guidance to others wanting to set up their own business is: “Just do it! Take a risk! If I thought about it I’d never have done it. Make sure that you have a business plan, have your finances in order and find a mentor. It is really important to have a sounding board to challenge your thinking on things. I also think it is important to consider how your business can impact your country not just your own pocket.”
She is motivated by anything from a TED talk to a painting: “There is so much inspiration in the world. I can see a video on the Internet and it will get me fired up for days. Look out for inspiration all around you and read books – don’t just sit on Facebook as there are so many ideas in the world!” The future for Stella magazine is to have outlets everywhere in the Pacific, to keep telling positive stories and to open people’s minds to inspire an attitude shift away from individualism.