Above: Bougainville women meeting at Manob elementary school yesterday
Women representatives from around Selau constituency in the northwestern region of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville gathered at Manob village just outside the capital Buka to discuss a proposed Mega City in the area.
The women came from the villages of Kirsana, Porpor, Isunda 1, Tabut, Tangari, Sanakoba, Torte, Ngalas, Gohi, Sorom, Ramundata and Manob were present at the meeting. In a society where land is inherited by maternal lines, the women have decided to flex their muscle against the proponents of the planned city.
As Bougainville emergences from a civil war that killed over 15 000 people, differing views about the development of the region now clash in a titanic struggle. The Mega City will occupy alienated land in the now defunct Bonis plantation that was once run by Bougainville Development Corporation, owned by the former Provincial Government. The Autonomous Government that succeeded it now plans to build a city at Bonis.
The construction of the city is vehemently opposed by the women as they have concerns about social, cultural and environmental implications. Many also fear the loss of land and the sense of security that comes with land ownership.
The women have created a petition which will be signed by villagers and presented to the Autonomous Government of Bougainville. In it they a demanding an audience with President John Momis, so that they may air grievances to him. They are also demanding social security benefits, should the city come to fruition.
The villagers of Manob, who are owners of the plantation by heritage, fear that the city would displace them. They currently produce copra from Bonis plantation and do their gardening as well. They also question why Bonis is still being held by ABG when other plantations in the Region have been taken by customary landowners following the civil war.