This statement by the women representatives at the Lincoln peace talks made in 1998, rings as true today as it ever did. The wolves who drool with hunger over Bougainville’s resource will have to get past the women for who land is sacred and not for sale!
“To survive, we looked within our culture, our traditional society and ourselves. In almost all areas of Bougainville, women traditionally own the land. The land is sacred and protected by men on behalf of the women. The men as guardians share leadership with women, taking the responsibility in open debate to protect women from potential conflict; however, women have the power to veto decisions, and therefore are involved in the final consultative process.
The destruction of this balance of power as held in Bougainville in traditional times occurred through Westernisation in the colonial period. It is a tragic fact that the ignorance of external powers exercised in Bougainville by default weakened the traditional balance that kept a peaceful and harmonious society. In the recent absence of formal Western political structures, our people in social crisis have turned to traditional decision-making methods in which women have been restored to their rightful place in leadership.
Women have built bridges between their families, clans and displaced fellow Bougainvilleans by working for mutual survival, whether it be in the bush, in care centres or wherever they have hosted strangers in their own communities.
In our society, although men and women have distinctive roles, they are complementary. We, women are co-partners with our men and as such we are not daunted by the enormous tasks that lie before us to bring about a new Bougainville. In holding to the peace message that has spread in Bougainville from Burnham, we, the Women’s Delegation at Lincoln University Leaders’ Meeting, affirm with all our sisters and fellow Bougainvilleans our determination to make this peace process work until we reach our common goal of freedom “.