Arlington, Virginia— A new peace building program will strengthen the capacity of women’s civil society organizations in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARB), Papua New Guinea to address major social issues, such as gender based violence, that have resulted from a decade-long conflict.
With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the goal of the two-year Women’s Peace Building Initiatives (WPBI) program is to help achieve sustainable peace, security and development in ARB by building the capacity of women as effective change agents.
The program will work with a number of civil society organizations in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville to raise awareness and increase understanding of gender-based violence and the rights of women. In addition, it will provide treatment and counseling support to victims of sexual and domestic violence.
“The U.S. Government is pleased to partner with Counterpart International to support the empowerment of women, strengthen their role in peace-building and increase awareness of gender-based violence. USAID experience has shown that women are effective peace advocates, community leaders and champions of civil and human rights, and that women who experience violence from partners are less likely to earn a living and less able to care for their children,” says Gloria Steele, Mission Director for USAID Philippines which also oversees programs in the Pacific Islands.
“Working in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville provides Counterpart with the opportunity to promote social transformation to improve women’s rights and empowerment and decrease gender-based violence, by working with local partners to provide services and raise awareness,” Abiosseh Davis, Technical Specialist at Counterpart International said.
Women in ARB play an active role in civil society. Counterpart plans to work with these civil society groups to enhance the ability of women to play a leading role in shaping their society.
Through this program, Counterpart will work with both women and men to protect human rights and improve security. A special emphasis will also be placed on engaging youth – the majority in Bougainville’s population – to serve as agents of change in reducing abuse and sexual violence and enhancing peace and security in ARB.
Women leading the peace movement
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.
But 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.
“Communities emerging from wars often face the compounded challenge of reconstructing their communities and dealing with the trauma experienced by individuals and the community as a result of conflict. However, these communities also have an enormous opportunity for the transformation of social norms,” Davis explained.
As ARB continues the recovery process, USAID’s new program, implemented by Counterpart,will support these efforts to further the region’s healing and transformation.
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