“The work for the prevention of sexual and gender based violence is result of the war and the linkages with the women, peace and security drives the agenda forward” says Agnes Titus, the Advocacy Coordinator of the Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation (NCR) in Bougainville who shared the work of the From Gender Based Violence to Gender Justice and Healing Project at a side event of the Pacific Feminist Forum. The NCR is a member of the Shifting the Power Coalition and GPPAC Pacific Network.
Their Women’s Human Rights Defenders network is an ongoing programme and is a sustaining a network gender equality hubs and to address the inter-generational prevalence of violence. Outreach through school programmes aims to bring about behavioural chance with young people, in school, because too often these issues are not being addressed at home says Titus, “Change has to happen in the homes because that is where the violence happens”.
This is in addition to providing crisis services and GBV response through safe houses, as well as a Male Advocates Programme is tackling the root causes of violence, by providing counselling services for men, including perpetrators and in affected communities.
The work extends across the 3 regions of Bougainville and in 3 years 300 males advocates have been trained to undertake school based education while 650 men accessed the counselling services. The programmes have extended beyond Chabai, to reach the remote communities of Paruparu and Torokina.
The Women’s Human Rights Defenders Forum has enabled 46 women to be training to take up leadership roles as ward members of the local government structure: “We continue to train them to support their leadership and so that is what we are continuing to do” says Titus – this is further supported by legislation that affirms women’s leadership roles.
The network has used a variety of organising strategies taking events out of Chabai and in 2018 a mobile-forum was organised reaching 6 villages in North Bougainville that connected the food security agenda of the rural women in their network:
“Women took ownership of the programme. The women’s human rights defenders worked with their chiefs” says Agnes, “for me to see the women, the youth, the school children to and the chiefs together, that was the highlight”
An important focus area has also been to tackle sorcery related killings in the Bana District:
“The women human rights defender network is led by a young woman and has become an important model for other communities” says Titus.
As the work continues, alliance strengthening continues across Bougainville as well as in other parts of Papua New Guinea: “We share with one another and acknowledge one another. Regional partners include Pacific Women, as well as Shifting the Power Coalition, GPPAC and IWDA. They amplify our voices”
It has been a long, long journey since peace agreement was signed after the war but the work continues says Titus: “We still need our government to adopt a safe house policy so that they also take ownership. We are helping women in Bougainville and from other parts of Papua New Guinea. We have to raise our own money to get them home safely”