Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, July 31, 2014 – From 1989, the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea experienced a devastating 9 year war, which, tragically, killed 10,000 people and left 40 percent of the population displaced in camps. There was a widespread economic blockade; people’s cocoa and coconut crops – once a critical income source–turned to jungle; health and education services broke down for an entire generation. The impact of this is felt today, with many still trying to build back their lives.
The village of Itakara stands between the town of Arawa, once the bustling capital of Bougainville, and Panguna, the location of the mine which was at the heart of the conflict. Arawa itself is dotted with hollow skeletons of then prominent buildings – shopping centers, banks, government buildings – which were destroyed; the ruins remain a feature of everyday life as people go to work or to market.
Community development project to empower women
Tina Dikisi is now the Secretary of the Itakara Women’s Group. Under a new community development project, this group has decided to build a new market house. The women chose this project to allow more women to have access to a quality market and help generate critical income for their families.
“My mother looks after women from the bush, looks after the kids with mothers who died in the crisis. The market is one of the things I saw that means I can earn money and look after those kids,” says Tina.
The marketplace is funded by the Inclusive Development in Post-Conflict Bougainville project, an initiative of the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s Division of Community Development, which provides funds and training to women’s groups to help them develop their projects. It aims both to invest in community infrastructure, livelihood opportunities and to promote women’s rights and leadership within their communities.
The project works with women’s groups – 41 to date – who identify needs together with the community, develop proposals for activities, oversee project management, and receive training in leadership and finances.