Women flying flag for peace


THE president of a women’s organisation in Bougainville says women must “come out from behind the so-called kitchen walls” and have their voices heard.
Priscilla Bisiro is the president of the Kieta branch of the Bougainville Women’s Federation.
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.
“In Bougainvillean culture, we haven’t always taken part in the decision-making process. But now we can,” she said.
It is estimated that between 15,000 and 20,000 people lost their lives during the Bougainville crisis, a 10-year-long civil war from 1988 to 1998.
The Autonomous Region of Bougainville straddles both the Pacific Ocean and Solomon Sea, just six degrees south of the equator and east of mainland Papua New Guinea.
Here, the  process  of  peace  building  and reconciliation is now a 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,” Bisiro said.
Women in the province are uniting to ensure their voice is heard in the lead-up to the 2019 referendum for independence.
Many want 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,” Bisiro said.
“In the past we were not recognised. So for one, I’m privileged to be in the position I am today.”
UNDP Assistant Resident Representative in PNG Julie Bukikun said women had 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,” she said. “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 Sustainable Development Goal 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions – and we  know that women can be big contributors towards achieving this.”
UNDP’s work in Bougainville is being  greatly assisted and supported by the United Nations Peace-building Fund.
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  as the  region makes progresses towards the referendum.
The UNDP through the project encourages women to have an opportunity to speak up for their rights derived in Global Goal 5 – gender equality.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted by PNG and 192  other  UN member states in 2016, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people are enjoying peace and prosperity by 2030.