Posts Categorized: Women

The power of women as reconciliation leaders

By Eleanor Maineke

The women led the traditional ritual of chewing betelnut during the reconciliation The women led the traditional ritual of chewing betelnut during the reconciliation

The Bougainville crisis divided families and clans in our communities. It is a war that destroyed the social structure that existed from pre-historic times and was upheld by our forefathers.

In the Manetai area of Central Bougainville, a crisis-related reconciliation was staged on the 13th of April, to rebuild this fabric.

The reconciliation was made possible with the will of two courageous women from the perpetrator’s immediate family. These two women had the courage to approach the victims’ families to open up for the reconciliation to take place with their own willing hearts.

“The scripture says that there is time for everything,” said Grace during the reconciliation ceremony, a sister of the deceased.

“I admired the process of this reconciliation because the leading key people are two women from the perpetrator’s end.”

Grace was also a victim of the crisis, who was apprehended by the same people who took her brother and killed him.

It was late December of 1994 and at that time the Manetai Catholic Mission served as a care-centre to the people of Manetai area.

On that particular day, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army set up an ambush beyond the fringes of the care-centre. Without any knowledge of the danger ahead, two boys, Lazarus Kerepas (23) and Herman Siroke (13), went to take a bath at the river during the day.

Unfortunately, they were trapped in an ambush and were captured by the BRA fighters and taken away. A few hours later, some people from the care-centre informed the family members that the two were taken away.

With that, Lazarus’s mother, sister and niece (Herman’s sister) followed them and were also captured by the BRA members. When they asked about Lazarus and Herman they were told that the boys were taken up to Panguna. They kept the three women at Atamo care centre and were released the following day believing that Lazarus and Herman were taken up to Panguna. From that day, the family were looking for them because they were not satisfied with the answer given.

Sadly, in 1995, news reached them that the two men’s bodies were rotting away not so far from Manetai. They had been killed that same day ten months before at Atamo Junction. The family went and collected deceased boys’ bones and gave them a proper burial. The state of the remains were scattered meaning that animals had probably fed on them.

It is human not to find the space of forgiveness, especially having lost a loved one in such a manner, but there is always the right time that forgiveness calls out so that we own the issues and we unite for better future. True peace comes from one’s heart and in its own time.

It is important for perpetrators to own up, come forward and reconcile with the victims. It is now time for reconciliations to continue. Through self-giving and owning up without fear, everyone will be free. The souls and spirits of the deceased will also be given freedom with the reconciliations.

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The reconciliation was initiated and mediated by the people themselves led by the women. No financial support was given from any NGO’s or governmental agencies. Only logistic support was provided by the ABG Member for Eivo/Torau Constituency, Hon. Clarence Dency, and the ABG ex-combatant member for Central Bougainville, Hon. Noah Doko.

This shows that the financial dependency load can be lessened with the willingness of the conflicting parties to reconcile. It was a good example to other Bougainvilleans to take up the responsibility of settling these issues.

Each society in Bougainville has its own tradition and values its culture. The reconciliation was inculturated with Christianity. The testament of inculturation was seen in the prayerful reconciliations and the ritual cleansing of the parents of the deceased.

The stages of the reconciliation were the exchange of mustard, betelnut and chewing of the betelnut; the exchange and eating of Tamatama (a traditional dish); the shaking of hands; The cleansing ceremony (washing and oiling with sacred herbal leaves); and the presentation of gifts to the victims as a sign of peace

“You cannot solve a problem with a problem.” The onus is on every Bougainvillean. We must work together and willingly own up and help each other. The next phase is for the other conflicts and persons connected to the case to own up and reconcile with the victim’s families.

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Tabago Sunday market discontinued for Sabbath

By Benjamin Heriberth Noibio

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The Sunday market in Tabago is no longer a weekly occurrence in order to conform to Sunday law, which states that no one should be working and making money because it is a day of rest and worship.

The Sunday market in Tabago was started after crisis to provide services people, who travel far from the mountains of Pogisago and Leuro range to Tabago Parish for Sunday services. Since then mothers from the nearby villages thought it is acceptable to have Sunday markets in the Parish.

Local leaders have changed this to enforce Sunday law. They feel the whole week is dedicated to making other businesses, except Sunday which is dedicated to worship the living God.

“We come here to worship, therefore I do not want to see mothers selling food,” said Mr Nannou, a church worker of Tabago Parish.

“Everyone should come with something to eat after church service.”

Church elders and the parish chairman reiterated that Sunday law should not be breached.

“It a sin to breach the law, we all will be punished at the end,” Said Chairman Nabaam last week.

He also stated that young people today fail when it comes to attire, often wearing clothes which are unacceptable in Sunday services.

The discontinuation of Sunday market was a burden to the many who got used to the system and there have been complaints coming up from mothers about the change.

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Phoebe Koles – a role model for women in business

By Pauline Karalus

Pictured is Phoebe Koles handing over the car key to a Solos couple. With her help the couple managed to have their loan funding approved by NDB. Pictured is Phoebe Koles handing over the car key to a Solos couple. With her help the couple managed to have their loan funding approved by NDB.

Hailing from Haku (Lemanmanu) in North Bougainville and Siwai in the South Bougainville, Phoebe Koles grew up spending most of her childhood days in the northern region. This was her father’s place. Being the first born in a family of four (4), Phoebe had to perform up to expectations her parents had for her.

Phoebe finished her grade 10 at Hutzena High School (upgraded to a secondary school in 1997) and then, being amongst the top students, she was selected to attend Kerevat National High School in the East New Britain Province from 1998 to 1999.

Finishing from high school, she continued onto Commercial Training College where she completed in December 2006 and was recommended by CTC to continue on to a degree at the University of Technology. She wasn’t able to finish her studies because she was expecting her firstborn child. She had to quit studies and get back home until the delivery of her baby, however she didn’t lose the belief in herself to pursue her dreams.

Phoebe gave birth to her first child on the 12 June 2007 at Buka General Hospital. The arrival of the gorgeous baby girl was great delight and joy for the young mother, but quickly had to move back to Lae to be with her husband. Managing a family of her own was somewhat challenging for the young lady but still she strove to build on what she had started with her studies.

In 2009 she started working as a merchandiser with SVS (Super Value Stores) and was promoted to Marketing Secretary from 2010, but unfortunately, a move back to Buka during 2011 made her quit the fine job she had. She didn’t have much choice but to wait in hope of finding a new job as soon as possible as she needed to provide necessities for her family. Buka, at that time, was not a place where there were jobs for her, so she stayed home for a year looking for a new job.

While she waited though she set up a market stall for herself on the road side next to their house where she would sell ice-blocks, spears and betel nut. Whilst marketing, she had her eyes and ears open for job vacancies in regards to her specified field of work.

Luckily, in November 2013, she started working with National Development Bank (NDB) as an Admin Officer. Apparently her efforts put into the field of work she was in charge of had her promoted to Women in Business Officer at Buka Branch in April 2015.

Today, Phoebe Wamo Koles is a remarkable woman with outstanding work in her job and is well known and liked in the region knows her. There are lots of people from all around the region who have come for loans from NDB and with her help have set up businesses.

Being in charge of Women In Business in the National Development Bank she aims to help motivate Bougainvillian women do business rather than putting men as top shots all the time.

She plans on finishing her studies and getting a degree once she feels the time is right for her. She hasn’t ever given up on herself in pursuing her dreams.

For me, she is a great role model for us young Bougainvillian women.

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Women come together to protect expecting mothers and babies

The World Bank

“I was pregnant with my first son in the jungle,” whispers Francisca Kameula, a mother-of-four from the remote community of Rovo, in the mountainous central hills of Bougainville Island.

“I gave birth to him there too. All the old women from my village helped me. We had no access to any health services, no access to medicines, and we never had any antenatal checks.”

Francisca’s story is all-too-common across the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, in the far east of Papua New Guinea. The region is only beginning its recovery from theten-year conflict that killed more than 10,000 civilians, and left many thousands more fleeing for their lives – just as Francisca and her community did – into the thick, mountainous jungle that covers the island.

“Time after time, women had difficult childbirth experiences in the jungle. Many times the mother or child died during childbirth,” says Francisca.

For the people of rural communities like Rovo the lack of health services is an ever-present threat. Bougainville has some of the highest rates of maternal mortality in Asia-Pacific – with 55 deaths for every 1,000 children under the age of one, just eight medical staff per 21,000 people, and one in four pregnancy cases in Bougainville’s Buin Hospital classified as an emergency.

Yet just as the development challenges are immense, so is Bougainvilleans’ determination to improve life across the region. This determination is not, however, easily spotted on Francisca Kameula’s face. She speaks in hushed tones about her life before, during and after the conflict, and about her dreams for her and her children’s future. But ask her about the lack of health services in her community, and her eyes widen, with fierce determination shining through.

“Because of the civil war, there were no government health services. So we could not access clinics or even basic posts for medicines. For pregnant women at that time, we just had to have our babies in the bush,” she says.

Giving birth still a very difficult experience for women in post-conflict Bougainville

The shadow cast by the Bougainville conflict continues to be a long one. Collapsed infrastructure such as bridges, roads and houses remain scattered and broken, and essential services such as health and education, decimated during the crisis, have continued to struggle despite the restoration of peace.

Conflict is over and villagers have returned to their homes, yet women still face difficulties accessing even the most basic health care for themselves and their children. With few passable roads, expensive fuel costs, impassable terrain, even getting to the few health posts that are running across the 9,300-kilometer-square island remains an enormous – and often dangerous – burden. The nearest clinic – located in central north of Bougainville Island in the town of Arawa – was some five hours drive by truck in good weather.

For her monthly antenatal checks in Arawa, Francisca was faced with at least a five hour journey, which was challenging enough in normal circumstances, and even more so for a heavily pregnant woman.

“To get to the main road to catch a truck, we’d have to come down into the valley, cross the creeks and walk up the hill again to get to the main road. The roads were very bad, the bridges were falling away. Drivers would try to maneuver their trucks carefully on the broken bridge to avoid flipping over.”

“And because I had to travel for my monthly antenatal checks at Arawa Health Center, each time we came to a broken bridge, I used to feel very scared that the bridge might give way and we would fall and die.”

Experiences like this drove her determination to improve health services for women in her community.

 Giving women a stronger voice

In 2012, Francisca formed the Koro Women’s Group to improve the lives of the women in her area. She and others began asking around about applying for community projects, with the idea of building a health clinic closer to the community.

She soon heard about the Inclusive Development in Post-Conflict Bougainville Project, led by the Government of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, supported by the World Bank and the Australian Government. The project was set up to give women a stronger voice in Bougainville’s development; to ensure decisions on community priorities – a process that is all-too-often led solely by men – positively support women’s needs.

“In the past there were no health facilities in this community. This prompted us to work hard towards getting a health post built in our community. We really wanted to have a health post in our village,” said Francisca.

And work hard they did. Within months, with the support of the whole community – including her husband Andrew, who was taking nursing classes – the Koro Women’s Group secured funding for the community health post.

Two years on, the health center has not only improved the maternal health of mothers and children in the community, but is also now able to provide other basic health care and treatment to the surrounding communities.

“Now we have our own health post, pregnant women have their check-ups and they have safer births,” said Francisca.

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Crowd funding campaign launched for domestic violence safe house

A collective of women in North Bougainville has turned to social media for a crowd funding campaign to continue construction of its organisational headquarters, which also acts as a safe house for women.

When completed the Hako Women’s Resource Centre will be a multifunctional space serving as an office, education centre and safe house for women escaping domestic violence.

The project is an initiative of the Hako Women’s Collective (HWC) which was formed in 2006 by the women of Hako village in the north of Buka Island to address issues related to safety, security and development in the surrounding communities.

The original plan was to build the Resource Centre at Laheitana in Tanamalo village but the organisation was unable to secure the funding that was initially made available. In 2015, a secondary site was found in Ngalkobul village and, after signing the lease, work began to refit the existing building which had been used as a mechanical workshop.

The requirement for a facility such as the Resource Centre was identified nearly a decade earlier. According to the available police statistics the constituency has the highest reported crime rate. According to HWC, this crime can largely be attributed to the lack of government and law & order services, the high rate of early school leavers and teen pregnancy and a mixture of high community expectations and lack of opportunities for young people.

As well as providing a safe house for women, the Resource Centre will provide a place for training and education programs and courses coordinated by HWC and partners, including local schools, churches, health and hospital and sports associations within the Hako Constituency.

It is also expected to eventually operate as a community library with the ability to provide basic administrative services to the community, such as printing and laminating.

The crowd funding campaign can be viewed at: https://www.gofundme.com/6ur2aces

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Leitana Nehan – 24 years of advocacy and support for women

In 1992, as Bougainville reeled from the effects of the crisis, a group of North Bougainville women came together to address the issues of violence and the disempowerment of women brought on by the ongoing conflict.

Under the leadership of Helen Hakena the group grew in to the Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency (LNWDA).

Though Leitana and Nehan are the traditional names for the Buka and Nissan islands, the organisation has always had a Bougainville-wide scope.

The vision of the organisation is for women and children to become aware of their rights; Bougainville society will be gender balanced and peaceful; Bougainvilleans will act as agents of their own change; and that organizations working for justice, peace and development will have greater capacity and collaborate to achieve common goals.

One of the most vital aspects of LNWDA’s work is their counselling services. These are offered not only to the victims of violence, but also to perpetrators in order to address the issues at its roots.

The counselling service provides a confidential, secular setting outside the normal social framework of Bougainville.  As well as address the psychological and emotional issues related to trauma, the LNWDA counsellors are also able to provide basic legal advice to their clients.

During the crisis LNWDA worked to get equipment, medicine and clothes to the women most affected by the crisis. This support was apolitical and the team provided support in areas controlled by both the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.

In recent times LNWDA has been an advocate, both public and behind the scenes, on human rights, gender equality and non-violence. The organisation achieves this through the engagement with key decision makers (community leaders, NGOs and the different levels of government) and taking positions on key issues.

The organisation has also become involved in raising community awareness on various issues.

One of the biggest and ongoing issues addressed by LNWDA is alcohol abuse, homebrew and related problems. Recently the organisations has also begun to raise awareness on the impacts of climate change, a major issue facing Bougainville, and this is done through its regularly broadcast radio programmes, workshops, and submissions and input in to national and international networks.

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Street vendors unhappy with law enforcement

By Leonard Fong Roka

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A group of women at the Bendaun Market at Section 17-18 suburb of Arawa Town have complained that they are not allowed to sell around the town.

The women believe they should be allowed to sell their produce anywhere in Arawa in order to earn a living and that there are greater law and order issues that should be pursued.

“The police’s task is to help with the bigger law and order problem on Bougainville,” the Kongara-Pokpok Island woman said, as she sat brushing flies away from her smoked fish.

“They are not here to chase our poor women around Arawa that are trying to make a living by selling their goods.

“We mothers are not the ones littering the township as they have said; we are not the ones drinking alcohol and howling like while dogs during the nights.

“Police should chase the boozing populace that roam free and lock them in the jail and do not suppress our right to earn a living.”

To the women vendors the Arawa Urban Council is the culprit that is pushing the police to chase them from vending everywhere in town.

“We run after customers everywhere in town,” said the other woman, a Panguna lady who resides in Arawa with her businessman husband.

“We set up our tables anywhere in response to the movement of customers. That is how I make a living to add onto what my husband makes from our business.”

“We have power bills to pay for, school fees for our children and I have heard that soon the urban council will be charging us for water usage.”

“We are not only talking about women from Kieta or Panguna alone. Arawa is Bougainville’s town and we have women from Nagovis, Siwai, Buin and many other parts of Bougainville that the police are chasing around.”

Late in November, a police patrol running after women vendors in the business centre of Arawa was confronted by a band angry women who told to the police that they were the mothers of Arawa and who will not be uproot them.

According to the Bendaun Market women, if they continue to be chased away from their business they will march to the offices of the two government bodies and demand compensation.

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Bazaar brings Kurai community together

By Tevu Tenasi

717-grace-paul Ms Grace Paul, Kurai Women’s Association chairlady, addresses the crowd at the bazaar.

While everyone else was relaxing celebrating the Christmas and New Year festive season, the Kurai women in South Nasioi constituency were getting active.

Kurai Women’s Association comprises of 5 groups, Manuatavu, Eko, Kompani, Ponsinae and Osivotu.

It dawned on them the idea of earning a little cash to support their families, especially during the year ending festive season.

Through their chairlady, Miss Grace Paul, a mini-bazaar was the best suitable means of meeting their needs.

Held over two days the mini-bazaar brought the whole community together during the Christmas and New Year celebration.

The main highlights of the fundraiser were item sales at each stall including crafts, sewing and food, which kept the mothers busy, self-reliant and productive.

According to Ms Paul, the main aim of hosting such an important event was to enable mothers to earn funds to support their families during the festive season and also to cater children’s school fee needs.

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The event also brought some of their political leaders together. Constituency leader Mr Simon Dasiona, ABG Central Women’s Representative Ms Marcelline Kokiai, Mr David Maliku and other local leaders all contributed through their presence at the event.

In her official opening speech Ms Kokiai said that Women are to be supported in the community because life begins with them. On the other hand she also encourage women to pursue education on much higher standards so that they help their communities.

Mr Dasiona mentioned that parents are entirely responsible for their children and not to rely heavily on government funding.

“Parents: utilise cash crops such as cocoa and copra to meet your basic needs; don’t wait for government funding all the time,” Mr Dasiona told the crowd.

A challenging speech by Mr David Maliku also brought attention to law and justice. He talked about problems arising from alcohol and other drugs like marijuana, which are affecting most communities in Bougainville.

The second and final day of the event was closed with traditional and contemporary dances and live musical performances.

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Tumpusiong Valley faces major social challenges as alluvial mining declines

By Leonard Fong Roka

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In the early 2000s, the Upper Tailings area of Tumpusiong Valley in the Panguna District was the hub of alluvial gold mining. From the little kids to the grey haired adults everybody had cash and the marketing culture was booming.

But as the gold production declines social problems, like childhood pregnancy and extra-marital affairs, are sweeping through the valley.

Pastor James Torua, chairman of the Ioro 2 Council of Elders (CoE), recently address a village court hearing that was trying to sort a case where a 13 year old girl named four local business men and four other youngsters as the possible fathers of her unborn child.

“It was that unsustainable money culture we developed in the midst of our families that is ruining us all,” said Pastor Torua.

“Many of these young girls are the ones whose parents were active gold diggers and traders who had them know money before education.

“A lot of them did not go to school but spent their time down in the river with their parents digging gold and going shopping in Arawa.”

The area, which is occupied by a population of about 7,000, now has 11 child pregnancy cases, out of which 5 are child prostitution cases and in all 6 cases more than 5 men had been named as the possible male parents.

In the first prostitution cases the valley had ever seen, two young girls aged 14 and 13, were exploited by the local businessmen and other persons who could offer money in exchange for sex.

Extramarital affair cases are also driving the community into conflicts. A handful of wives have gone astray looking for money and husbands spending money on young local girls.

“I will do the same if they do not compensate me,” a pregnant wife of a local businessman, who had been named as one possible father to a pregnant girl of age 13 said.

“I am waiting to be compensated with K10,000.”

Many concerned locals say that there needs to be more focus from local leadership in addressing the social issues affecting the community.

The community has not produced students that have carried on to in higher institutions in PNG to help contribute to the progress of Bougainville. Most of the students put out by the local Darenai Primary School reach Grade 12 in higher secondary school but return home to the social chaos.

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Floriculture engages women in small business

633-floriculture-womenBy Ancitha Semoso

Some women of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville have been growing flowers as one means of earning income.

As many people talk about agendas such resource development, cocoa and copra production and other related assets that can generate revenue to the region, these Bougainville mothers are doing it their own way by growing flowers and selling them.

There are Bougainville women who have turned to the flower business as a means of generating income, which they see as a way of contributing to their families’ needs.

Many women have now made agreements with the ABG directorates and divisions to put fresh flowers in the offices daily, with each mother engaged for a period of three months. This is an exercise which is a way in which we empower women to make sure of to make use of their talents and what is available to them.

Each woman is given the responsibility of decoration for three months and at the end of the period she is paid K1500.

While some women in other parts of the country are looking into big projects and other business means, these black pearls are developing flower business products to sell their flowers and other handcrafts at the end of every month.

Women must be treated fairly within the society; we should empower women of all skillsets and see them as assets of development.

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