However, challenges still remain with regard to unifying the women of Bougainville; having them take a seat at the same table to further the common goal of maintaining peace by peaceful means.
In August 2017 an historic conference took place that saw women from North, Central and South Bougainville come together to highlight the significant role, both in times past and at present, women play in both building peace and fostering social cohesion in the region.
Supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Bougainville House of Representatives’ Parliamentary Committee on Gender, Peace and Security, the conference was designed to ensure that women's efforts in peace building were recognised and their voices heard by political leaders and decision makers both within Bougainville, and across Papua New Guinea.
Building upon this conference, women have again come together, this time within their respective regions to ensure that they present a unified voice; a voice that will be heard both far and wide.
In Rau Constituency of Central Bougainville last week, Bougainville House of Representatives (BHoR) Women’s Representative for Central, Marcelline Kokiai, emphasised the importance of coming together as one as the region furthers implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
“Peace is what we want, and peace is what we are striving for here in Central Bougainville.
“Unification is a vital part of the peace building process, and we want to ensure that we are together as one we move closer to determining our political future,” said Ms Kokiai.
The event in Rau involved an incredible display of sound and colour, with UNDP, UN Women, The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (UNDPA) all in attendance alongside Member for Rau in the BHoR, Thomas Keriri.
With the attendance of multiple agencies of the United Nations, the people of Rau heard presentations on the important link between unification and peace building, as well as the topics of gender equality and human rights.
Rui Flores, UN Liaison Officer, said these meetings were of critical importance, and have the full support of the United Nations in Papua New Guinea.
“To quote the Secretary General of the United Nations, we have to transcend our differences to transform our future.
“From what I have seen here today, that is precisely what is happening in Bougainville,” Mr Flores said.
The women of Bougainville continue to transcend their differences to embrace a new future; a future in which they are united, living in a weapons free environment, and one that is governed by leaders who are champions of good governance.
The unification event for North Bougainville, organised by Deputy Speaker and Women’s Representative for North Bougainville, Francesca Semoso, was staged last week with the event’s focus on women moving into the small to medium enterprise sector.
UN’s work with the unification of women in Bougainville is supported by the United Nations Peace Building Fund. The fund is currently supporting more than 120 projects in 25 countries to ensure that peace is maintained via a peaceful means.
(Women’s Representative for Central, Marcelline Kokiai)