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Bougainville women are ‘referendum-ready’

Women leaders throughout Bougainville came together in a strong show of unification and solidarity following the week long forum held in Arawa last week.

 “Women have the Power to Lead and Make Changes” was the theme of the forum that was attended by sixty participants of both past and present leaders, inclusive of young women and women living with disabilities from all regions.

President of the Bougainville Women’s Federation (BWF) Rachel Tsien when addressing the women on the first day thanked all the women leaders in Bougainville for coming together to unite before the referendum vote.

“It is an honour to be amongst women leaders past and present, as well as those young women who have joined the federation and now is the time for us to put away our differences and unite before the voting on the 23rd of November,” she said.

ABG Member for South Bougainville Women Hon Isabel Peta who was present also challenged the women leaders to stand united with the leaders and youths as Bougainville prepared for the referendum.

The forum looked at referendum preparations and updates from stakeholders, partners and ABG Departments including Department of Peace Agreement Implementation (DPAI), Directorate of Policy and Planning, IFES, Bougainville Referendum Commission, DFAT and UN Women.

These presentations assisted the leaders to discuss, identify gaps, prioritize and develop Post Referendum Strategy and Plan for Bougainville women.

“This forum is very vital for us as women to work together and develop post referendum strategies to assist women beyond the referendum,” explained Mrs Mana Kakarouts, Secretary for Department of Community Development.

The program was organised by the Department of Community Development in partnership with BWF and UN Women.

Meanwhile, women leaders also used the forum to create space for a reconciliation ceremony which saw women leaders from the three regions throughout Bougainville reconciling by way of dialogues that ironed out conflicting issues, followed by exchanging of traditional shell money (mimis) and shaking of hands.

Leaders from each wards, districts and regions, including church representatives also laid rocks as a sign for a monument to be built to seal the reconciliation.

The event also ended on a high note in which women leaders from all three regions led by Hon Isabel Peta officially signed and declared Bougainville Women to be referendum ready witnessed by participants, partners and stakeholders.

This declaration was a sign to show that Bougainville women were now referendum ready alongside the thirty three ABG constituencies that were already declared.

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