Complexities and Context: Women's Peace-Building in Conflict and Post-Conflict Bougainville
The potential role of women in conflict and post-conflict environments has been the subject of much debate in the field of peace and conflict studies. In 2000 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325, which called for a greater involvement of women and acknowledgement of gender issues in conflict and post-conflict environments, and this has led to further discussion about what this might mean and how it might be implemented. Despite this women are continually under-represented in nearly all peace processes and there is no universally agreed upon way to ensure this situation does not come about. The barriers women face range from cultural to logistical and economic, and surmounting them can be hard to achieve. One case where women have been involved at all levels in the peace process with substantial success is the Pacific island of Bougainville, where a conflict over mining issues and secession from Papua New Guinea was waged from 1988-1997. Women were active in attempts to bring all parties to negotiations during the conflict and have also been heavily involved in the continuing reconciliation and healing processes. For cultural reasons Bougainvillean women were well placed to perform the role of peace-builders but that is not to say that they did not face challenges and barriers to their involvement. This thesis examines the involvement of women in both the immediate peace negotiations and the longer-term aspects of the peace process in Bougainville in order explain how and why they enjoyed these successes and what lessons can be learnt from this case in regards to the potential roles of women in other post-conflict environments. Four factors will be identified as key to women's involvement in the peace process: the history of Bougainville up to and including the conflict; the grassroots mobilisation and organisation of women; the traditional cultural roles of women in Bougainville; and the identification of women with motherhood and its associated traits. These factors indicate that the involvement of women in peace processes is highly context-specific and although there are policies which can be pursued to encourage their participation the potential barriers to this are imposing.