On May 20, 2014, Counterpart launched the USAID-funded Women Peace Building Initiative (WPBI) project in Buka, Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARB), Papua New Guinea. The project aims to support the ARB to achieve sustainable peace, security, and development by building the capacity of women as effective change agents and assisting with the implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.

Throughout the project, small grants will be issued to local women-led civil society organizations (CSOs), who will implement activities in three areas vital to Bougainville’s sustainable peace and security:Trauma Counseling and Mental Health Services and Support; Family and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment; and ARB National Action Plan Awareness and Implementation.

While the project will engage men, women, and youth in its activities toward healing and transformation, it also recognizes the unique role that women have played in the peace and reconciliation processes in Bougainville. Women were among the most affected during the civil war in the Bougainville region.  The increased risk of rape, torture and abuse restricted their movements and limited their freedom to express their views. The lack of access to medicine and health services during the crisis increased maternal and infant mortality rates.

However, it was the women who effectively used civil society – first through church groups and then CSOs – to support the peace movement that contributed to the end of the conflict. Women-led civil society groups played a key role in the peace building and recovery process in the region, providing counseling and other services to victims of conflict and violence. The WPBI project recognizes Bougainville women’s outstanding contributions in their roles as community leaders, peacemakers,  and defenders of human rights, and seeks to partner with them in the effort to achieve a sustainably peaceful, secure Bougainville.

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