My name is Agnes Nara. I have a story to tell about my leadership. I was elected the President for Bana District Women’s Council in South Bougainville back in 1995. This council also came under the National Council of Women. I was elected as a President to mobilise women in peace building. During the crisis, the women of Bougainville were involved in the peace building process. It was a time of restoration too and I also became President so I could mobilise women to talk to our sons.
With my leadership, peace was brought back to Bana District. In 1997, I became a member in the Council of Elders (COE) under the provisions of the Bolave Constitution which states that a woman leader who is elected becomes automatically the woman’s representative in the COE. This lasted till 2001, where during the peace process there was a need for a government to be established. I was again nominated to be a member representing women of South Bougainville in the interim Bougainville Provincial Government. I stayed as a member up until 2005 when the first ABG elections were held. It was then at that time in the interim Bougainville Provincial Government where we had to prepare ourselves and the government for a new Bougainville.
In June 2005, before the elections, I was nominated to contest in one of the three reserved seats for women. I campaigned for these elections and there were many challenges. People here, especially women think that when we are in the government, we or I have money or that the government gave me grants for women’s development. But at that time this was not the case, because Bougainville did not have any forms of grant allocated to the members of the interim provincial government. That was the cause of my loss in the 2005 election. I also realised that campaigning cost a lot of money. I did not have enough money to reach out to all parts of South Bougainville, which is largely scattered all over the place from the coastal areas to the mountains.
After I lost in 2005 in the ABG elections, I did not give up working with the women. In 2009, I was elected President for the Bougainville Women’s federation for South Bougainville. After the formation of the ABG we were required to form an umbrella organisation for women in Bougainville because we were autonomous and we were no longer under the national council of women. In the ABG constitution it states that there will have to be a women’s organisation for women of Bougainville.
In 2012, after establishing and completing the structure of the BWF which goes right down to the district, COEs and Village Assemblies, the umbrella body was then elected and launched. We started establishing the network from a sub-regional level, which is where I was elected as President. I was also elected vice President of the BWF.
There were also many challenges. In 2010, the women’s federation was given a grant of K150, 000 to be allocated amongst the three regions- North, Central and South Bougainville. The grant was meant for the establishment of the BWF network and its structure from the sub-region right down to the village advisors. The challenge came because the women thought this was their money.
Women now understand from a recent workshop we had that the money was not theirs. The money was for the BWF establishment. It was held at a regional level though some money was given to four districts in south Bougainvile- Buin, Siwai, Bana and Torokina. This misunderstanding was on the funding.
I think that the workshop made the women realise that we have to be self-reliant to find money for different levels e.g. at COE, VA and district level federations.
When women and girls take part in decision making the decisions are sometimes more workable and girls in my opinion- I became a level through capacity building, it was on the job training through leadership I can honestly say. Women know how to manage their homes so they are good decision makers.
The plan for us now for leaders who have been around for a long time and the plan for the BWF, we have identified the needs to strengthen the running of the organisation. We have identified that there should be capacity building as I said earlier.
In 2012 we identified areas where we thought needed strengthening and the smooth running of the organisation. We have identified the capacity building of the present leaders and the younger women. We have observed that there is a very large gap between the two and there are not too many young girls at the back of us to take over when we are gone. So the next step will be to build capacity of the young women to take over the leadership when we finish. We have plans now in the first quarter of 2013 to train women at the district level and then us at the BWF and then the next step is to build the capacity of the young women.
The future looks good and we are hoping that we will achieve our goals. Our vision and mission of the BWF and of the BWF Constitution is to empower and promote the women of Bougainville.