Veronica Naisy lives in a large house in Oria, a remote village in southern Bougainville, the largest island in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. She has two adult sons and an adult daughter.
The death of Veronica Naisy’s husband, Jacob, sparked the Konnou Conflict in 2007. His death was a payback killing by members of the Me’ekemui community, a reprisal for events that took place during the Bougainville Crisis (1989–1999). In response, the Wisai Liberation Movement (WILMO), took up arms and retaliated, launching an intense five-year war between two neighboring groups that resulted in the death of an estimated 500 people in Konnou constituency.
“It [the Konnou Crisis] was turning us into prisoners,” said Veronica. “We didn’t have any freedom to move. To go to our own gardens we acted like thieves, going in to pull the bananas off the tree and then run off. This made us really frustrated. Our gardens didn’t seem like ours anymore.”
She says the women of Konnou were integral in ending the conflict.
“If it wasn’t for the women, they’d still be fighting each other,” said Veronica. “All of us talked and asked for the fighting to stop or else all our boys would end up dead.
“I was worried about my son who was involved in the fighting and we thought of the children — when they went to school, all they did was draw pictures of guns, or of people holding guns. They didn’t learn anything: all they knew was fighting and violence.”
Since her husband’s death, Veronica has struggled to find a source of income to support the education of her three children. She’s frustrated that a community that her husband ultimately died for, has provided little financial support raising her family.
“When my husband was killed, I felt like I lost one of my arm,” she said. “I felt so empty inside. He died in 2007… some women would be fine by now but not me.”
Veronica’s children were young when their father died. When their mother was no longer able to afford their school fees or support them financially, they became resentful as teenagers and young adults. Her daughter eloped, while her sons threaten to seek revenge on their father’s killers, almost a decade after their father’s death and in spite of the peace agreement.
Today Veronica still grieves for her husband. She has a plot of land where she grows cocoa through the World Bank-supported Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP) but admits that she often struggles to find the mental and physical strength to care for it.
“My husband used to take care of my children, especially the two boys. I worry about their future,” said Veronica. “As for me, I am not happy because I still think about my husband and grieve for him.”
“What little I make we buy food like meat for the house and other items that we need. If [the children] had gone to school, they would be able to have a better life. So we are sad and struggling. My sons and I live with worry.”