Does respect for elders need to mean silence for young women?


Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women program partner Bougainville Women’s Federation recently conducted research in collaboration with IWDA to investigate the opportunities and barriers to young women’s leadership in Bougainville.

Most women in leadership positions within Bougainville Women’s Federation are over the age of 40. This research intended to explore the low level of engagement from young women. The report’s findings reveal that culture and education are the main generational dividers between “mature” and “young” women. The dominant ethos, “respect your elders” underpins much of the reluctance of young women to participate. Additionally, youth in Bougainville experience high levels of illiteracy, lack skills and confidence, are deterred by shame, shyness or embarrassment and are therefore perceived by “mature” women as invalid candidates for leadership positions.

The research endeavoured to understand how leadership operates in Bougainville while also uncovering methods to overcome barriers that prevent young women from engaging with their community. Surveyed participants suggested that greater awareness at village level through skill-based training and workshops would give young people the confidence to work with “mature” women in BWF and other community organisations more broadly.