“Kanaky, my land, for your liberty I will never stop fighting”: Investigating Kanak women activists’ roles, experiences, and strategies within the independence movement in Kanaky, New Caledonia
This research uses a post-colonial feminist lens to investigate how development towards gender equality and equity can be promoted alongside processes of decolonisation in Kanaky-New Caledonia. In particular, it explores the ways that Kanak women in the pro-independence movement negotiate gender and indigeneity, and how these interactions subsequently influence society and the movement. Three key themes emerged from this research: violence, gender roles within the customary context compared to the western political context, and the responsive strategies that women employ. Issues raised related to violence focus on: physical violence related to political unrest, removal of self-determination, racial gaslighting around independence negotiations, gender and racial discrimination, and physiological and mental health. This thesis finds that Kanak women have different roles in customary contexts compared to political contexts. This thesis subsequently investigates how Kanak women experience and interpret these roles and highlights links and disconnects between gender roles and experiences in these two spheres. Tensions and negotiations between the customary sphere and the political sphere become very clear in institutions like the Customary Senate which occupies a place between the customary sphere and the Western political sphere. The Kanak women independence activist participants in this research utilise a plethora of strategies to navigate challenges they face in the customary sphere, in wider society, and within the independence movement. This indicates significant self-mobilisation of Kanak women towards gender equitable social change, which development actors should value and support. This research emphasises the intersectionality of Kanak women’s experiences, the importance of self-determination to gender and development strategies, and the value of recognising and supporting self-mobilisation. Based on these research findings this thesis argues that decolonisation and decoloniality are integral to gender-focused development.