The Bougainville Constitutional Planning Commission has received a number of fallacious arguments from a prominent Bougainville Women leader. Whether intentional or unintentional, these arguments paint a negative impression on the work of the Bougainville Constitutional Planning Commission who have successfully conducted and are winding down on the first round of the first citizen consultation. These arguments, if not corrected from the start, can lead to misrepresentation and generalization by Bougainvilleans generally and further resulting in unfounded criticism against ourselves.
In a news article published on New Dawn FM Facebook page on Wednesday 02 November 2022, a woman leader and Executive Director for Leitana Nehan Womens, stated that “I have come to realize that women’s participation and inclusion at all these decision-making levels have been nil”.
To put the record straight, the work of the Bougainville Constitutional Planning Commission is always considerate on the valued principles of inclusivity and participatory. For the sake of Women Representation, a total of 6 sworn Women Commissioners make up the 40-member Bougainville Constitutional Planning Commission. Thus women are fairly represented to be part of the Bougainville Constitutional Planning Commission.
It is the noblest intention of the Autonomous Bougainville Government that behind a single Women Commissioner, there is a unified women fraternity contributing constructive ideas rather than shooting that individual Women Commissioner and her counterpart Male Commissioners with criticisms that will lead us nowhere.
It is also at the very basic level of governance, in our case the wards, that inclusivity and participatory is harnessed. It is at the ward level that the often marginalized individual Youth, Person with Disability, the Elderly, Chief, other minority stakeholders and more so, a woman can be given the ample space to give his or her individual or entity’s view. Thus, I suggest we rethink our strategy in attempting to accommodate inclusivity and participatory at a bigger Bougainville regional level where only a handful representatives are able to congregate. This is not inclusivity and participatory.
Mrs Hakena further stated that “women have been absent and not involved in giving their ideas to the Commissioners when the BCPC conducted consultation in the various villages”. In the lead up to the consultations, the secretariat exhaustively collaborated with the Community Government Wards Members and Community Government Chairladies in planning and scheduling awareness and consultation dates and venues. Seemingly 100% of these ward members are female and 99% of the Community Government Chairs are female. As such there is nil element of exclusivity.
The women leaders statement appears to imply that women were never a part of the Consultations that have been conducted by the Commission in the respective wards thus far. The secretariat has in its custody, records of attendance, in which women participation was satisfactory to exceptional in a number of occasions.
On several locations, Community Government Chairladies and their ward members were physically accompanying Commissioners in the appointed venues within their Community Government areas. Besides, the quantifying of attendance, there are records emanating from the 4 regional secretariat that women equally contributed submissions as individuals and as organizations.
In correcting the arguments raised, I acknowledge and applaud your determination to contribute ideas and views to the Bougainville Constitutional Planning Commission. You are at liberty to contribute at any time to the Commission whether as a group or as an individual. Let us put an end to this litany of criticism and work in unison in the development of the new Constitution for the emerging Independent Nation.
The Commission will soon recommence its final leg of the first citizen consultations and I encourage you all to be present in your locality or locations that will be convenient and meet the Bougainville Constitutional Planning Commissioners.
Hon Ezekiel Masatt MHR
Bougainville Constitutional Planning Commission
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