Women march for peace in Bougainville

May 21, 2019

The women of Bougainville are campaigning for peace, justice and gender equality.

A coalition of women, including IWDA partners, marched through the town of Buka recently to make their demands clear and deliver a petition to leaders of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

“We, the women, call upon the government to take immediate and decisive action to protect the constitutional and human rights of all women, children and youth in Bougainville – before, during and after the referendum,” the women’s petition reads.

The referendum they refer to is a historic vote for the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. Scheduled for October this year, it will ask Bougainvilleans to vote for either greater autonomy from Papua New Guinea, or independence.

The vote is a product of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, signed in 2001 after a decade-long civil war. The conflict killed an estimated 15,000 people and displaced more than 60,000.

Women take part in a peace march to condemn the social issues that were emerging in Bougainville ahead of the October independence referendum.

The path to peace

Women’s groups played a critical role in negotiating for peace and bringing an end to Bougainville’s civil war in 2001. Coming together from across political, religious and regional lines, they mobilised to end the violence. Through marches, petitions, vigils and mass meetings, women’s groups built and maintained the pressure required to chart a new way forward.

But the path to peace is long, and the women of Bougainville want to ensure that the upcoming referendum is a peaceful process.

Their petition for change details six key demands. This includes the collection, disposal and destruction of arms; action to secure law and order; and greater government transparency.

“We remind our government of the pivotal and indispensable role played by the women to bring an end the crisis that cost our people’s lives and devastated our islands,” the petition reads.

Once more, the women of Bougainville are leading the way.

Find out more about the work of our partner Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation, and how you can support their life-changing work providing a safe haven for women and children in Bougainville.

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