“Having lived and witnessed the suffering, I decided to do whatever I could to help our own unfortunate mothers and children.”
Hunted by the Papua New Guinea Defense Force as bait to capture her husband, Josie Sirivi took to the jungle during the Bougainville crisis. She saw women and children suffering and organized local women to earn income and assist other families in need. She lobbied and obtained relief supplies from NGO agencies to distribute through women’s groups. She founded and was the first president of Bougainville Women for Peace and Freedom and led a women’s team to conduct a peace awareness campaign. She was a key negotiator representing women in the peace process that started in October 1997.
Young, pregnant, and married to a Bougainville Revolutionary Army general with a 200,000 kina (PNG currency) dead-or-alive price on his head, Josie Sirivi and her husband were forced to take refuge from the Papua New Guinea Defense Force in the Bougainville jungle during the 1990s civil war. There she witnessed the loss of life and suffering of many mothers and children, and decided to do everything she could to help. She initiated and organized a women’s group to earn a little income to help under-resourced families in the villages. She supported women in setting up schools in the bush community during the war, and in reopening former schools upon return to villages after the war. She was the founding president of the Bougainville Women for Peace and Freedom (BWPF) organization which not only survived the initial reason for its existence (i.e. as a forum for women during the peace talks and a mechanism for the appointment of women by women as negotiators to peace talks) but became a grassroots indigenous organization that founded several community initiatives that continue to operate today. She led a women’s team to conduct a campaign of visits to Bougainville communities to explain the peace process, especially to outlying community groups. These peace campaign meetings were instrumental in breaking down communication barriers so people were correctly informed about the peace process at every stage of the negotiation process. Josie represented women at negotiation tables since 1997. Currently, she is setting up an Open Learning Center for people of all ages who have been deprived of an education due to the protracted length of the war and blockade. Together with her husband, Josie is trying to develop a Bougainville cash-crop economy and they have several self-help community projects to maintain with local village communities.
Bougainville Women for Peace and Freedom (BWPF)
Oceania | Papua New Guinea