By Hope Imaka – EMTV Online
It has been over a decade of rehabilitation for the island of Bougainville; rebuilding from the scars and ruins left behind from the 10-year conflict, Bougainvilleans are working together with partners to restore the island to its former glory.
Papua New Guinea’s 20 Days of Human Rights Activism had Bougainvillean women reflect on their critical role in maintaining hundreds of kilometres of roads in the region, and the impact of the work on their lives.
In partnership with the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Australia employs thousands of women on road projects through Community Works Agreements.
The agreements engage the local community in crucial road maintenance activities such as grass cutting, drainage clearing and minor repairs.
A total of 18,000 Bougainvilleans have been funded by Australia last year through the Community Works Agreements, with the female participation rate increasing to 33% per cent within the last year.
North Bougainville Community Liaison Officer, Rhonda Siro, describes how this gives local residents a sense of pride in the section of the road they have worked on.
“Teams working on the road value the community agreements and the income they generate. There is also a strong sense of looking after this vital road link that brings economic and social benefits to the whole island,” she said.
“The women who work as team leaders in North Bougainville tell me that the position and the income gives them confidence and a greater voice in the community.”
Veronica Tasin, a community team leader sees the many benefits that have transpired from this project; such benefits include the flexibility of paying school fees and family necessities.
Team Leader, Anna Vataro, firmly believes that the work being done by the women contributes to women’s empowerment.
Giving the women this sense of responsibility has also built in them a sense of pride towards their work, and has gained them the respect of the community.
Building and developing a town is one thing, maintaining it is another, and these women have done their community and themselves proud by ensuring the road projects are kept in good condition for the benefit of the region.