Rural Women Bringing Peace in Papua New Guinea
Education, commitment, sacrifice and full participation in the daily life of her community is the recipe for Lilly Be’Soer’s success as a leader. Lilly recently brought about a peace agreement in a Papua New Guinea Highlands community which had been in conflict for the past four years, and in which four previous attempts to bring peace had been unsuccessful.
- A community at conflict for four years
- Four attempts by different actors to bring peace were unsuccessful
- Voice for Change worked with the community and mediated the conflict, paving way for the return of 500 displaced villagers
Lilly gave up her paid employment five years ago and returned to her village to work with women struggling to support themselves and their families. Working through the non-government organisation, Voice for Change, she came across many women who, like herself, had been displaced from their traditional lands.
“Voice for Change is supporting women who have been displaced from the community. Many of these women did not have food, could not send their children to school and had no land on which to grow food or bury the dead,” said Lilly.
In 2011, Voice for Change received a small grant under UNDP’s Strengthening Capacities for Peace and Development (CPAD) project to support their work in mediating a peace agreement to end the conflict between the clans and pave the way for the return of the displaced clan to their ancestral lands. A total of 500 people had been displaced as result of the conflict.
Lilly said that in the past three years, various actors had made four attempts to resolve the conflict and while all were started they all failed.
“Voice for Change led the fifth reconciliation attempt. What we did was to have intensive consultations with the clans, the elders, the women and the men. These went on for six months. In one of our initial consultations we had presentations made by the displaced women to the policemen. As the presentations progressed and the women spoke about how they or their daughters were abused and how they could not pay for their children’s education or get their sick children treated in hospitals, the faces of the men changed and they said that they had to do something to resolve the conflict.”
Lilly described the challenges she faced in the reconciliation process, the length and complexity of the consultations as well as how traditional leadership structures and processes had to be respected to pave the way for the peace agreement.
“Now, we are just starting the return of the displaced clan,” she said.
In addition to her work in the community, Lilly is also the General Secretary of the Highlands Regional Human Rights Defenders Network as well as a member of the newly established regional network of Women Human Rights Defenders. Lilly is now a single mother of six children having left a polygamous marriage. In 2010 Lilly was awarded a Pacific Human Rights Defenders Award.