Constant tribal fighting in her Papua New Guinea (PNG) village prevented Mary Kini from completing her agricultural studies. Instead, she worked with church, community, and women’s groups on trainings for rural development projects. In 2000, Mary was the key person to set up Kup Women for Peace, doing the ground work of awareness raising and mobilization of people on the dangers of tribal fights, and organizing the activities developed by Kup Women for Peace as a result of a community commitment to say “No to tribal fights” and general lawlessness in PNG.
Mary Kini campaigns against tribal fights and “pay-back” attacks in Papua New Guinea. An uncle who did not have any girl children adopted her so she is now displaced from her home village in Kup and lives with her family in her uncle’s land. All village children were raised to know who their tribe’s traditional enemies were, taught how to behave, what to do during ceremonial gatherings and especially during tribal fights. Mary, one of few girls in her region to be sent to school, was in sixth grade when her adoptive father was killed in a tribal fight. Her natural father risked his own life crossing enemy lines to bring his brother’s body home. He came home in pieces. Mary never forgot the sight of the pieces being lined up by her father for proper burial. A few years later, her father died in tribal fights and, as years went by, other close relatives were killed in tribal fights. Women from rival tribal groups, even sisters, married into enemy clans and though innocent, they bore the brunt of the sufferings. In 1999, Mary and her very young children had to run for their lives from a new kind of tribal fight: people were now being killed with high powered guns, anything that moved was attacked, and all their property houses, gardens, trees, were set on fire. In a women’s solidarity gathering in 2000, three women involved in the 1999 fight hugged and wept in a display of the pain all the women felt. Mary and a friend were moved to set up Kup Women for Peace. Mary puts such passion into building peace, even walking into the battlefield to stop fighting, unheard of for a Highlands woman, and walking in mountains and valleys in hard weather with no resources, because: “I am a victim of our very bad custom tribal fights and lawlessness. It must stop. I do not want to see my children run as I have been running in the past 35 years of my life.”
Kup Women for Peace Meri Kirap Sapotim Welfare Dorcas
Oceania | Papua New Guinea