Centre for Research on Education in Context
School of Education
University of New England
Armidale NSW 2351
The Bougainville Crisis disrupted life in the North Solomons Province of Papua New Guinea from
1988-1998. A wide range of government and civil society organizations were involved in attempts
at ending the conflict and ameliorating its effects. Since 1998, peace-building efforts have been
widespread, and again have involved a range of local, national and international actors. In particular
a number of locally initiated and managed grassroots non-government organizations (NGOs) have
been established in Bougainville. These NGOs undertake a variety of tasks, including humanitarian
relief, advocacy, counselling, development projects, and education. This paper reports on a case
study of one local Bougainville NGO, the Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Organisation
(LNWDA). LNWDA was formed in 1992, and has managed to survive and thrive in both war and
peace, while other local NGOs have disappeared or remained relatively limited in their capacity to
contribute to the peace-building efforts. This paper seeks to analyse how it is that LNWDA has
managed to adapt to changing circumstances in Bougainville and continue to garner local, national
and international support for its education, advocacy and counselling programs.
The war in Bougainville began as a dispute among landholders about royalty payments and
the environmental and social impacts of the giant Australian-owned Panguna copper mine in the
mountains of central Bougainville (Claxton 1998; McMillan 1998; Miriori 2002; Ogan 1990; Ona
1990; Regan 1998). The dispute initially resulted in sabotage against the mine and its associated
infrastructure. In response to this sabotage, the Papua New Guinea government sent in the police
riot squad and later the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) to quell the ‘criminal’
behavour and protect their economic interests in the mine (Dinnen 1999; Namaliu 1990). However,
the heavy handed tactics of these security forces and their abuses of human rights rallied many
Bougainvilleans to the side of the rebels, in the form of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army
(BRA), and expanded the dispute beyond the issues directly related to the mine (May 2001; Miriori
2002; Ogan 1990). As a result, older issues such as autonomy and independence for Bougainville
re-emerged (Ghai & Regan 2002; Hannett 1975; Havini 1990; Ogan 1990. 1999). Mounting
casualties and disputes among PNGDF commanders about how to pursue the conflict led to the
withdraw of all PNGDF forces from Bougainville in 1990 (Oliver, 1992; Sohia 2002). Left to rule
the province, the BRA commanders and their newly formed civilian government, the Bougainville
Interim Government (BIG) proved incapable of controlling the various factions that comprised the
BRA (McMillan 1998; Regan 1998). Violence against Bougainvilleans considered to be too closely
aligned to the PNG government resulted in some disaffection with the BRA and BIG (Regan 1998).
Some areas invited the PNGDF and government services to return, and some groups set up
resistance forces to fight the BRA (O’Callaghan 2002; Regan 1998; Sohia 2002). In PNGDF
controlled areas, up to 50,000 people were placed in ‘care centres’ where abuses by the PNGDF
were common (McMillan 1998; Saovana-Spriggs 2000). A naval blockade of the island, and
particularly the areas controlled by the BRA, meant that essential services such as health and
education were shut down, with many deaths in the war attributed to lack of medicines to treat
Numerous attempts were made to resolve the conflict, with peace talks held on the HMNZS
Endeavour in 1990, on the MV Huris in 1991, in Honiara in 1991 and 1994, at Arawa in 1994, and
in Cairns in 1995 (McMillan 1998; Sohia 2002). However, an effective truce was not signed until
after two sets of talks at the Burnham army base in New Zealand in 1997 (Tapi 2002). A permanent
ceasefire was enacted following talks at Lincoln University in New Zealand in 1998 (Regan 1998).
A peace agreement was signed in 2001, which allowed for the disposal of weapons, the
development of a constitution for an autonomous Bougainville, and elections for an autonomous
government. In 2004, the Bougainville Interim Provincial Government and the PNG government
approved a draft constitution for an autonomous Bougainville, and elections are expected in the first
half of 2005. Weapons disposal is complete in almost all areas of the province.
LNWDA was formed in 1992 primarily for the purpose of providing humanitarian relief for
people in care centres. It was founded by four former school friends and members of the Catholic
Women’s Association who felt they had to take action to help alleviate the suffering being caused
by the war. LNWDA undertook small scale local initiatives at first, and then began to obtain small
grants from local politicians as well as from Australian and international NGOs such as Community
Aid Abroad, Oxfam and AusAID. They used these funds for activities such as holding meetings of
women and youth (“youth mobilizations”) in which they promoted peace and non-violence and at
which they advocated equality for women, raised awareness about the influence and impact of
home-brewed alcohol, and taught women about their rights.
Having built up a track record in using small grants in these ways, LN teamed up with the
International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA), based in Melbourne, and secured a large
AusAID grant to undertake awareness and counselling programs in schools and villages in all the
districts in Bougainville. This program, entitled Strengthening Communities for Peace (SCP), ran
from 2000-2004, and used 13 teams of 7 volunteers, assisted by a number of full-time staff in the
organization. More recently, LN has obtained funding from NZAid to run expanded counselling
programs in Bougainville.
The work conducted by the organization has changed over time in response to the changing
situation on the ground in Bougainville. The organization has been able to build up the abilities and
capacities of its staff and volunteers, and partner with a range of local, national and international
organizations. In this paper I analyse and attempt to explain the reasons that LNWDA has been able
to continue to grow and expand its work to a variety of social sites and institutions. There are many
reasons for the successful expansion and influence of LNWDA. These include the social standing
of the founders and their spouses, and of the volunteers, the commitment and hard work of its
founders and subsequent staff and volunteers, the willingness of partners to contribute to the work,
and the ability of the organization to change and adapt to new circumstances. However, another
major reason is the organization’s ability to take up, use, promote and gain acceptance for its vision
for Bougainville, and particularly for its ideas about the role of women in Bougainville society, its
vision of peace, and its ideas about development. In this paper, therefore, I analyse how over time
the organization and its workers have conceptualised gender, development and peace, and how
these conceptualisations have changed in response to changing contexts on Bougainville.
In essence I am exploring how LNWDA’s power operates. This is not a power that is
oppressive or hierarchical. Rather, as Foucault (1975/1991: 194) observed, power is productive: “It
produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth”. In other words, it is through
the operation of power that we come to understand and interpret the world and our place in it.
LNWDA’s work in conveying particular ideas about women, peace and development therefore can
be seen as a struggle to change the way people view the world, and in particular Bougainville, and
their place in it. Most of this work of changing the way people view the world occurs through the
1 The number of deaths attributed to the crisis range from 10,000 (Henderson 1999) to 12,000
(Bennett 2000) to 20,000 (Saovana-Spriggs 2000).
use of language in particular contexts. Actions also have a major part to play by setting examples of
how to behave. Nevertheless, the meanings of these actions are not transparent, but are explored
and understood by and through language. In this paper, therefore, I focus on language and in
particular the discourses about women, development and peace that LNWDA has used over time.
Discourses are often the means through which power operates. Thus they too, are productive, since
they “systematically form the objects of which they speak” (Foucault 1972: 49).
In the case of LNWDA, these discourses have been deployed in two particular contexts,
apart from the obvious ones of the crisis and its aftermath. The original founders of LNWDA were
already active in leadership roles in the Bougainville Diocese of the Catholic Women’s Association
prior to the confict. Since the large majority of the people of Bougainville are affiliated with the
Catholic Church, these leadership roles and the CWA network provided a ready-made template on
which to graft peace building work. Second, and probably more fundamentally, the four women
who founded the organisation all hold chiefly positions in the social structure of their clans in
Nissan and Central, South and North Buka respectively. Thus they have respected and influential
social connections throughout Nissan and Buka. Furthermore, within Bougainville societies, there
are also chiefly connections across clans, and in some cases this meant that the LNWDA founders
had connections on the mainland of Bougainville as well. These connections were sometimes used
to expand LNWDA’s work into various districts in Bougainville.
In the following analysis, I show how LNWDA through its founders and associates have
productively used, in the contexts described above, three sets of discourses around gender,
development and peace. These deployments have for the most part been productive in the sense that
they have allowed the organization to recruit a growing cohort of volunteers, obtain approval to
conduct their programs in a growing number of villages, schools and other social institutions,
promote their work to, and create philosophical and financial partnerships with, a growing range of
local, national and international organizations, and ensure women’s issues are considered at various
levels of the peace building process, including disarmament talks and constitutional committee
meetings. I analyse a range of official LNWDA documents, as well as data from the interviews with
LNWDA founders, paid employees and volunteers.
Women and Gender
LNWDA has employed a range of the wide variety of discourses of gender that circulate globally
and that have been identified by Tong (1998). In the first few years of its existence, LNWDA
tended to deploy culturally oriented discourses of gender that emphasised the important roles that
Bougainville women have traditionally played in Bougainville societies. As LNWDA founder and
executive director Helen Hakena noted, the early emphasis was on “kamapin gutpela sindaun long
famle, mama emi bungim man, pikinini, olsem mama emi bos bilong graun emi olsem lida long
kirapim gutpela sindaun long famle na komuniti”2, that is, improving family life, mothers bring
adults and children together, as mothers are custodians of the land and leaders in improving family
and community life. The purpose of using these discourses was to attempt to re-establish women’s
social roles that had been eroded by Australian colonialism, which ended in 1975, and by the ten
years of civil war.
In the mid-1990s, and particularly after two key members of the organization, Helen Hakena
and Agnes Titus, attended the International Women’s Forum in Beijing in 1995, LNWDA began to
deploy liberal discourses of enhancing women’s opportunities and protecting and promoting
women’s rights. This was partly a result of discussions that Helen and Agnes held with women in
parishes on Buka, who decided “women’s rights” was compatible with what they needed. The
women realised they needed to speak out (as was their right) because the men were “bagarap”
(incapable) and too scared to speak. Helen gave the example of two of her uncles who were
murdered in front of their children for speaking out about killings and disappearances perpetrated
by the BRA at Hanehan.
2 Interview, Helen Hakena, 19 February 2004
These liberal discourses of women’s rights are reflected in LNWDA documents. For
example, article 3.6.1 of the LNWDA constitution (1997) states that one of the aims of the
To promote, maintain and protect the interests, rights and privileges of the women of
Bougainville irrespective of religion, colour, creed or affiliation.
The proposal submitted by LNWDA and IWDA to AusAID for the Strengthening
Communities for Peace (SCP) project indicated that one of the proposed outputs would be
“increased awareness throughout Bougainville Province, PNG and the Pacific about women’s rights
and concerns” (LNWDA and IWDA, 1999, p. 3). Similarly, the 2000 Annual Report notes that the
overall goal of the SCP project is to “contribute to the restoration of peace in Bougainville by
promoting non-violence and women’s rights” (LNWDA 2001a, p. 10).
A promotional brochure produced in 2001 takes up the theme of women’s rights, as well as
indicating a concern with enhancing women’s social standing
To meaningfully contribute to restoration of peace in Bougainville by promoting non-
violence society and Advocacy of women’s rights. And also empowering women as agents
of change and the improvement of their social status (LNWDA 2001b)
Most recently, the LNWDA strategic plan (LNWDA 2003a, p. 1) identified as one of its key
strategic priorities the promotion of rights, and in this case the discourse of women’s rights has
been extended to include children’s rights. For example, the strategic plan (LNWDA 2003a, p. 5)
states that the organization exists for “the promotion of women and children’s rights”. According to
one of the monthly reports for the SCP project (LNWDA 2003b) one of the achievements of the
project has been the inclusion of a statement on women’s and children’s rights in the draft
constitution for an autonomous Bougainville.
LNWDA also deployed a discourse focused on international conventions and national
obligations to strengthen their claims concerning women’s and children’s rights. This is a practice
that Chan-Tiberghien (2004) refers to as leverage politics. It involves using the ideas, status and
standing of international conventions and declarations to lobby for change at the local level. The
1999 Annual Report (LNWDA 2000a, p. 6), for example, stated
LNWDA in a small way carries out public awareness on the rights of women stipulated
under the Papua New Guinea constitution and any other international laws and declarations
issues under the United Nations charter.
Furthermore, the 2004-2007 Strategic Plan (LNWDA 2003a, p. 5) states that the organization
promotes these rights “as stipulated in the Convention on all Forms of Violence against Women
(CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)”.
Another impact of the Beijing forum was that LNWDA openly eschewed certain elements
of separatist radical feminist (Tong, 1998, p. 47) discourses that excluded men from contributing to
the organization’s work. Rather, they argued that in Bougainville societies women, men and
children work together, and therefore it would be inappropriate to adopt a separatist stance.3
Furthermore, as one founder noted in the margin of the interview transcript which she proof-read:
If we confine gender issues to women only to deal with, then it will be seen as women’s
issues. But we are involving men to make them feel they are part of the issue and it is their
issue, too. So the problems are community issues to be worked out together, by men and
3 Interivew, Helen Hakena, 19 February 2004
Thus, in a submission to International Alert (LNWDA 2000b), LNWDA stated: “The issue
on gender development has to be aggressively promoted to enable men and women [to] work hand
in hand on issues and programmes affecting their lives”. Similarly, in the 2000 annual report
(LNWDA 2001a, p. 10), LNWDA stated:
There is a big need for men to see women as equal partners in all areas of development.
Bougainville men and women need to work together hand in hand to find a lasting peaceful
solution to the armed conflict on Bougainville.
LNWDA also uses other cultural discourses of gender, particularly when lobbying for
women’s representation at disarmament talks and other public political forums that men attempt to
numerically dominate. These cultural discourses argue that Bougainville women as Bougainville
women have a unique place in Bougainville societies and therefore particular roles to play in peace
making and post-conflict recovery. This is a form of what Tong (1998, p. 47) calls a radical
cultural feminism in which “Women should not try to be like men … they should try to be more
like women, emphasizing the values and virtues culturally associated with women”. For example, in
the SCP proposal (LNWDA and IWDA 1999, p. 5), the executive director of LNWDA was quoted
as saying, “Our women feel that their potential and capabilities in helping with rehabilitation and
development need to be recognised because they hold important keys no one else can turn”.
Similarly, in the 2000 Annual Report (LNWDA 2001a, p. 10), LNWDA argued, “Women have a
special place in the Bougainville society … as a result of the matrilineal system that existed on
Bougainville”. The LNWDA promotional brochure (LNWDA 2001b), also takes up this theme:
“We recognise and endeavour to build upon capacities of people to resolve their own conflicts and
we support the distinctive peace making roles of women in societies affected by the violent
In some contexts, such as international forums, LNWDA deploys global feminist discourses,
in which all women are viewed as part of a sisterhood, despite their differing experiences of
oppression (Tong, 1998, p. 242). For example, in a speech in Melbourne marking International
Women’s Day in 2003, Helen Hakena (2003) addressed her audience as “sisters”.
In terms of development, there has been a shift in the emphasis that the organization makes on
social, cultural and economic change. In its original form as a humanitarian relief organization,
LNWDA provided clothes and medicines for women and children who had been moved from the
war zones into ‘care centres’ by the PNG military. Later, the organization began to emphasize
development. For example the LNWDA Constitution (LNWDA 1997) states that one of the
organization’s objectives is “to work towards the improvement of the living standards of the women
of Bougainville so as to enable them to achieve gradual economic and social development”. By the
end of the 1990s however, and with a truce in the war, LNWDA began to emphasise integral human
development (IHD), based on certain Catholic teachings that argue that economic and infrastructure
development is premature without personal, spiritual, and moral development. For example, in the
SCP proposal, one of the major activity outputs was to be, “A mutually supportive network formed
of 120 community representatives able to work with their communities in an ongoing fashion using
IHD principles to address social problems” (LNWDA and IWDA, 1999, p. 3). The same document
gave a detailed description and rationale for IHD:
IHD provides a holistic approach to community development that highlights the inter-
relatedness of social problems. The IHD workshops will explore the wide range of factors
that cause violence and disharmony in the community, including anger, grief, fear, trauma
and lack of self understanding, lack of self worth and insufficient guidance/direction for
young people … the workshops will aim to equip the community representatives with the
tools to facilitate psychological, emotional and spiritual rehabilitation, and to motivate
communities to creatively address social problems. (LNWDA and IWDA 1999, p. 10)
The above quote particularly indicates the priority given to non-material development as a
pre-requisite for economic and physical development. Other documents provide further insight into
the reasons for this priority. For example, the 1999 Annual Report (LNWDA 2000a, p. 1) states that
IHD is a priority because “many Bougainvilleans were traumatised and suffered a lot during the
ninth [sic] year armed conflict on Bougainville”. Furthermore, the 2000 Annual Report (LNWDA
2001a, p. 1) states, “The focus on Integral Human Development must be given priority in order for
Unity, Peace and Development to prosper on Bougainville.” LNWDA tends to view IHD as
‘people-centred development’. The promotional brochure (LNWDA 2001b) states, “Above
everything else, men, women and children of Bougainville shall be at the centre of any form of
development politically, economically, socially, spiritually and culturally”.
Most recently, the organisation’s strategic plan (2004-2007) has continued to emphasise
The organization will practise a holistic approach to development that encompasses
physical, spiritual, social and economic well being. LNWDA believes that each person
deserves an opportunity to develop, to the fullest possible extent, his or her own physical,
mental, emotional and spiritual potential. (LNWDA 2003a, p. 5)
For several years, LNWDA has promoted integral human development as a prerequisite to
economic and infrastructure development. We believe that any form of development should
improve the quality of life for all Bougainvilleans. (LNWDA 2003a, p. 3)
It is noteworthy that in both of the above passages, there is a shift from the 1997
constitution, which focused solely on women’s development. In the 2004-2007 Strategic Plan, the
vision has expanded to improving the quality of life for all Bougainvilleans.
Many of the interviewees subscribed to the integral human development model. When asked
what was development, they mentioned ideas such as: assisting people to know and understand
themselves and how to relate to others; developing respect for other people; that development had
mental, physical, spiritual and social dimensions; that it involved the whole person; creating good
people; changing attitudes and behaviours, including one’s own; decreasing troublemakers; and
ridding the community of bad things such as homebrew, domestic violence and child abuse. One
interviewee suggested that development was about training and informing the public about issues,
providing opportunities to debate issues, and knowing the differences between various approaches
to dealing with specific issues. Some interviewees, when defining integral human development,
contrasted it with models that focused only on infrastructure, such as buildings, schools, bridges
and rainwater tanks. One interviewee, however, argued that development did involve “schools,
trade stores, and providing services to the people”. One interviewee argued it is no use building
schools and clinics if people are in the frame of mind to burn them down, which is what happened
during the war, and therefore it is important to deal with the psychological trauma of the war before
re-establishing infrastructure. According to another interviewee, reconciliation as well as
psychological healing is necessary so that people trust each other and can work together to improve
their lives. This interviewee cited two instances in which an outside aid organization had
implemented programs prior to adequate levels of reconciliation and healing occurring. In one case,
the program had sapped people’s initiative and led to a hand-out mentality, while in the other case,
it had made people suspicious of the aid organisation’s local partner, with the result that the local
partner had to work hard to allay these fears.
Some of the interviewees who advocated IHD also argued that development involved
employment generation projects, such as those that supplied sewing machines, ovens, or seeds, or
provided for the creation of other small businesses. There was a sense that people needed to be
gainfully employed so that they did not go back to making home brew and causing trouble. One
interviewee also observed that such projects worked best when focused on the extended family,
rather than the whole community.
The source of a substantial proportion of LNWDA’s ideas on IHD is a book by a Catholic
Priest, Father Tony Byrne (1983), which focuses on “Integral Development”, although in the
LNWDA documents the work “human” is inserted in the phrase. Byrne (1983, p. 6) cites Pope Paul
VI’s 1967 book on “The Development of Peoples”, which defines development as the “promotion
of the good of people, every person and the whole person”, rather than the development of material
things such as buildings. The book promotes a consultative, participatory model of development,
and advises against paternalistic approaches. At the same time, it treats the question of gender
equality dismissively with the following anecdote:
Some time ago I asked a group of people attending a development seminar to draw their idea
of development. One Sister who was attending the seminar had a good sense of humour. She
drew a picture of a Sister wearing a bishop’s mitre … I suppose we will have to wait for
some time before we have that kind of development! (Byrne 1983, p. 6).
Yet the 2004-2007 Strategic Plan makes it quite clear that LNWDA itself highly values
The promotion of gender equality is an underlying principle of the organization … The
organization will promote and practise equal participation by women and men in all aspects of
LNWDA operations. It is important that the organization serve as a role model of gender
equity. (LNWDA 2003, p.5)
This exemplifies how LNWDA selectively appropriates discourses of development and gender that
they consider useful to them at particular points in time. Further examples are found in recent
documents, which consecutively take up three other development discourses. First, starting in the
late 1990s, LNWDA used a discourse of empowerment. Initially, the focus was on the
empowerment of women. The SCP proposal (LNWDA and IWDA 1999, p. 3) aims to have
“women around Buka and Bougainville Islands empowered by access to counselling, basic legal
advice and referrals to lawyers to extricate themselves from abusive domestic situations”.
Similarly, the 2001 promotional brochure states (LNWDA 2001) that LNWDA has the aim of
“empowering women as agents of change and the improvement of their social status”. Yet
LNWDA also argues for broader levels of empowerment. The 2000 annual report argues, “Youth
Empowerment is the key to Youth Development on Bougainville” (LNWDA 2001, p. 11). The
2004-2007 Strategic Plan (LNWDA 2003, p. 5) also suggests empowerment for the population in
general, since “empowering communities and their organizations” is one of the five strategic areas
in the plan, and “LNWDA recognizes that people have the right to organize in pursuit of their own
interests and should be empowered to define and lead their own development efforts”.
Several of the interviewees mentioned these kinds of ideas when discussing development.
One of the LNWDA founders said development involved “empowering women to be agents of
change”, while one volunteers said development meant “developing women to exercise their
rights”, as well as helping men to understand women’s rights and not think of them as servants or
slaves. One of LNWDA’s project officers said that development involves making women aware of
their rights and of where to get help when they need it, and to involve women in decision making.
Second, the discourse on capacity building appears around about the year 2000. The 2000
Annual Report describes workshops that had been run that year to “build capacity” of Buka youth
(LNWDA 2001a, p. 9) and Siwai women (LNWDA 2001a, p. 11), while similar workshops were
run in 2001 for Buka women (LNWDA 2002, p. 5). The current Strategic Plan also deploys this
discourse, particularly with respect to the organization itself, which has “Strengthening the capacity
and sustainability of LNWDA” as one of its five strategic areas (LNWDA 2003a, p. 1). None of the
interviewees specifically mentioned capacity building, although one team leader did mention that
development involved increasing people’s skills in business management.
A third and more recent development discourse focuses on “good governance.” This
discourse first appears in the title and content of the 2004-2007 strategic plan (LNWDA 2003).
One of the strategic areas in the plan is “practising good governance”, while a goal of the plan is
“To promote good governance within the organization and in our relationships with key
stakeholders” (LNWDA 2003, p. 15). Among other things this is to be done by having “appropriate
policies and procedures … in place to ensure accountability and transparency” (LNWDA 2003, p.
15). Although good governance appears as a discourse in official documents, none of the
interviewees mentioned it specifically as a component of development.
Some interviewees identified a cultural component to development, which had two
dimensions. First, some interviewees saw development as involving a return to the lifestyle or
customs that existed before the war. For two interviewees, development meant moving towards
attaining “sindaun bilong bifo” (life in the past), in which traditional customs were followed such as
sharing, speaking properly, respect, working together and not fighting. For one of these
interviewees, development also meant reducing the impact of custom on women’s rights. Second,
one interviewee noted that development projects have to be compatible with, and fit in with,
ceremonial schedules. For example, participants in a development project should observe the ten-
day mourning period after a funeral and obtain permission from the chiefs before recommencing
Like the discourses of gender and development, the discourses of peace employed by LNWDA
have shifted in response to the changing situation in Bouganville. The LNWDA constitution
(LNWDA 1997), which was developed at about the same time that the 1997 truce came into effect,
lists as objectives of the organization “women’s integration into the reconciliation, reconstruction
and rehabilitation process of Bougainville”(article 3.4) and “to assist and partake in the peace
process of Bougainville thus ensuring that normalcy returns to Bougainville” (article 3.10). The
former article in particular indicates an emphasis on participating in three of the major tasks of post-
conflict recovery. The triumvirate of reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation has persisted
into the discourse in the current strategic plan, with an acknowledgement of the inter-linked
contributions of a range of actors at various social levels:
Bougainville is now on the road to recovery. We are in the process of rebuilding our lives
and restoring essential services. Reconstruction, reconciliation and rehabilitation are
people’s highest priority. Peace-building programs are being implemented in all area on
Bougainville, supported by communities and assisted by churches, NGOs, the government
and international aid agencies (LNWDA 2003, p. 4).
The SCP proposal (LNWDA and IWDA 1999) shifts the ‘peace’ emphasis somewhat from
the crisis itself, which effectively finished in terms of armed conflict in 1998, to violence in general
and against women in particular when it argues that the overall goal of the project is to “contribute
to the restoration of peace in Bougainville by promoting non-violence and women’s rights”
(LNWDA and IWDA 1999, p. 6). Identical wording is used in the SCP Year 2 Annual Plan
(LNWDA and IWDA 2001, p. 4). The work of reconciliation was a particular aim of the youth
mobilizations held in the late 1990s. The 2000 Annual Report reflects this when it states that one of
the aims of the Youth Mobilization held at Tinputz in north Bougainville was to “bring together
youth as a means of promoting peace, unity and reconciliation among youth” (LNWDA 2001a, p.
9). In addition to reconciliation, the organisation has emphasised emotional and psychological
healing as an important component of the peace building process:
Weapons can be containerised and disposed of, expensive infrastructure can be built, with
assurance of a better and brighter future by leaders. However, peace will be just a dream if
people’s minds are not healed. (Hakena 2003)
There is an intersection of the discourse of gender and the discourse on peace. In particular,
the radical culturalist feminist discourse that identifies unique social and cultural roles for women,
described above, is employed to explain the role of women in both peace making and post-conflict
It was the women who risked going out into the jungle to persuade our sons, husbands and
brothers to avert war. It was the women who really made peace, not the menfolk. They were
busy killing, destroying and raping women. (Hakena 2003a)
Women are not passive victims. We are contributing actively to peace making. Our courage
and contributions have made the world a better place to live and work. Imagine what more
we could do if we women were enabled to take a more equal place at the negotiating table.
The volunteers and staff members interviewed for this study defined peace in terms of
particular absences and presences. The most common definition, mentioned by nine respondents,
was that peace means to have a good life, to ‘stap gut’ or have a ‘gutpela sindaun’. Six respondents
said that peace meant ‘freedom’, which is not surprising because during the war freedom of
movement was curtailed with many displaced persons in the government controlled areas confined
to care centres and those behind the BRA lines unable to cross the blockade (see, for example,
Siviri and Havini, 2004). Three or less respondents mentioned other components of peace,
including contentment, satisfaction, respect for others, respect for property, abiding by the law, ‘bel
isi’ (tok pisin for ‘peace’), reconciliation, cooperation between people, loving each other, living as
one, listening to chiefs, being happy (‘amamas’), enjoying life, respect for traditional values, having
basic needs met, being settled, and ‘brukim bonara, wokem bikfala kaikai, wokem lotu’ (ie the
traditional peace making rituals of breaking weapons, having a feast and a church service – see
Howley, 2002; Fisher, 2004).
In terms of absences, there were a wide variety of responses. The most common were that
peace involved an absence of violence (four respondents), war (three respondents), fighting (two
respondents), threats (two respondents), fear (two respondents), and harassment (two respondents).
Individual respondents also mentioned an absence of danger, disturbances, discrimination against
women, retaliation, trouble, the desire to kill, problems (‘hevi’), stealing, use of weapons, land
disputes, hatred and alcohol related problems.
In general, the respondents showed an understanding of peace that went beyond simplistic
definitions of peace as the absence of war. In particular, there was an emphasis on the quality of
life, both for individuals and for groups. A similar level of sophistication was displayed concerning
respondents’ understanding of the causes of peace. A common response was that peace begins with
a change in one’s own perspective. One respondent said that “a change in people is needed; a
transformation to respect others as oneself”. Another said that “peace grows from within us …
realising what I’ve done wrong to the other person”. A third respondent said that peace was the
result of “lustingting olsem pait, stil” (forget about doing things like fighting and stealing). A fourth
said that peace was the result of a spiritual change, while a fifth said that peace involved
“rehabilitation of the minds of the people”. The heart was considered by a number of respondents to
be a locus for initiating peace: “It has to come from the bottom of your heart”, and “genuine peace
comes through the heart” were two responses. Alternatively, families were considered by some
respondents to be a starting point for peace making. One respondent said peace “must start with the
family”, while another said that “children must respect parents na tok tok gud long famle [and speak
respectfully to family members] in order to make a different community”.
A number of respondents argued that once individuals were at peace with themselves, this
would have a flow-on effect. One respondent said “Emi stat long ol wan wan man na emi save go
long famle na long ples” (It [peace] starts with individuals, then spreads to the family and
community). Another said, “We have to produce peace in ourselves, then the family, community,
district and province”.
For some respondents, the spreading of peace described above was not inevitable, but
required actions such as cooperation, a collective effort, hard work, reconciliation, forgiveness and
trust-building. One respondent suggested that it is necessary to reconcile, admit failures, give
compensation and return stolen property. Another respondent indicated faith in traditional methods:
“Not just shaking hands, but killing a pig and giving it, witnessed by the chiefs”. On the other hand,
two respondents were sceptical of the efficacy of traditional reconciliation methods. One said that if
peace is “just a handshake and a feast … that’s superficial and won’t last … [we] need to address all
the unfinished issues such as polygamy, stealing, adultery, domestic violence.” Another said,
“Reconciliation feasts won’t work if it doesn’t come from the heart”.
While most of the respondents saw peace as a process that involved individuals, family and
community transformation, only one respondent took a more external, political view that reflected
some of the issues that provoked the Bougainville crisis. He argued that “sipos jastis emi kamap bai
pis emi kamap” (if there is justice, then there will be peace), and that if independence comes, then
peace will come.
A number of respondents discussed the consequences of peace when defining peace and its
causes. Apart form general comments about making communities better places to live, six
respondents mentioned that peace meant that health and education services could be available, and
other development work could be done. During the blockade, these kinds of services were difficult
or impossible to maintain (see Siviri and Havini, 2004), and one of the major arguments used to
promote the peace process and to encourage reluctant ex-combatants to join has been the promise of
the so-called peace dividend, namely improvement of living conditions and restoration of services
(see, for example, Barter, 2004). One of the founders’ spouses developed this point by remarking
that peace building was not just about reconstructing the economy, but also about reconstructing
morals and culture.
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Paper presented at the 2004 ANZCIES conference, Melbourne, 3-5 December.