Leaving the kitchen behind - Bougainville women take the lead

Nov 15, 2017

Priscilla Bisiro, President of the Kieta branch of the Bougainville Women’s Federation. ©Nick Turner/UNDP

Arawa, November 2017 - “It’s time for women to come out from behind the so-called kitchen walls. In Bougainvillean culture we haven’t always taken part in the decision-making process, but now we can.”

Priscilla Bisiro is Kieta District President of the Bougainville Women’s Federation and she speaks proudly about the pivotal role that women are playing in Bougainville following one of the largest conflicts in the Pacific region after World War II.

Tens of thousands of people lost their lives throughout the Bougainville Crisis, a near 10-year long civil war which started in the 1980s.

The Autonomous Region of Bougainville straddles both the Pacific Ocean and Solomon Sea, just 6 degrees south of the equator and east of mainland Papua New Guinea.

Here, the process of peacebuilding and reconciliation is now a high priority on the national agenda and it is women who are standing up to promote peace, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“It’s only natural for women to be peacemakers, I don’t think a woman would stand aside and say otherwise, as women take ownership,” she said.

Women across the province are uniting to see that their voice is heard in the lead up to the 2019 Bougainville referendum for independence, with many looking to break the glass ceiling and take up leadership roles during the process. 

“It’s timely that men are now realising that women are also important. In the past we were not recognised, so for one I’m privileged to be in the position I am today,” Ms Bisiro said.

UNDP Assistant Resident Representative in PNG, Julie Bukikun, said that women have a huge role to play in regard to the referendum process.

 “UNDP has always supported the women of Bougainville, as we see them as being of vital importance to the work we are doing here.

 “The biggest part of our work is to make sure that peace prevails, there is good governance, and that people feel secure. All of this sits under SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and we know that women can be big contributors towards achieving this,” she said.

 UNDP’s work across Bougainville is being greatly assisted and supported by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund. Since its creation to the end of 2015, the fund constitutes an essential component of the enhanced UN architecture to provide for a more sustained engagement in support of countries emerging from conflict, and will support peacebuilding activities which directly contribute to post-conflict stabilisation and strengthen the capacity of Governments, national/local institutions and transitional or other relevant authorities.

UNDP and the Bougainville House of Representatives’ Parliamentary Committee on Gender, Peace and Security recently supported a Women’s Unification Conference in Buka to discuss key issues and priorities women, as the region makes progresses towards the referendum.

Women from South, Central and North Bougainville have come together for the five-day event from 28 August to 1 September 2017, to highlight the significant role, both historically and currently, that women play in peacebuilding and security in the region.

The conference is designed to ensure that Bougainville women's efforts in peacebuilding are recognised and their voices are heard by political leaders and decision makers in Bougainville and in PNG. 

You can find out more information about UNDP’s work in Bougainville at the following link

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