Women peacebuilders from the BARMM, Fiji, and Bougainville in a composite image.

Pictured above: Top, third from left Dr Sittie Jehann Mutin and fifth from the left (centre) Nurunnir Bakil Mohammad. Bottom left Adi Litia Nailatikau. Bottom right, centre Miriam Labanue.  

In Papua New Guinea’s Autonomous Region of Bougainville, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BARMM) in the Philippines, communities are navigating peace processes and transitions towards autonomy and independence. Meanwhile, Fiji contends with multifaceted challenges, including those exacerbated by climate change. Amidst these contexts, gender inclusion is critical for sustainable peacebuilding.

We spoke with several women working on peacebuilding in their contexts about their roles as peacebuilders and leaders, shedding light on the significance of women's inclusion for peaceful futures in their respective communities.

As they navigate the intersections of gender, conflict, and peacebuilding, their experiences provide valuable lessons in sustainable peace and resilience across the region. Recognising the diversity of these contexts, yet understanding the importance of drawing connections between them, is crucial for advancing collective efforts towards peace and gender equality.

Miriam Labanue is originally from Konnou in South Bougainville, an area that has experienced continued conflict issues with a large presence of armed factions since the end of the Bougainville in 1998. Miriam has been a Project Officer with the Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation since 2021.

Dr. Sittie Jehanne Mutin is a senior consultant with the Bangsamoro Women’s Commission and led the crafting of the BARMM Regional Action Plan as part of the Women's Peace and Security (RAPWPS) agenda from 2023-2028. She spearheads implementation of the action plan in the region, while also contributing significantly to government and development work with international agencies like USAID, Asian Development Bank, and the United Nations Development Programme.

Nurunnihar Bakil Mohammad is the current Commissioner of the Bangsamoro Women’s Commission - Sulu Provincial Office and has over two decades of experience as a women’s peace advocate and mediator, born into a family deeply involved in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) revolution. She played a significant role in lobbying for the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and continues to champion women's causes through policy advocacy and coordination, while also balancing her role as a mother of five.

Bai Rohaya U. Mama currently serves as the Project Development Officer of United Youth of the Philippines-Women (UNYPHIL-Women)  coming from an indigenous religious minority group, the Maguindanaoans.

She brings over five years of experience working in governance project management within both the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

Adi Litia Nailatikau is the Fiji and Solomon Islands Project Manager at Conciliation Resources. Litia fulfils traditional roles within her communities, rooted in Indigenous Fijian culture's emphasis on kinship and reciprocity. She is also a member of the technical working group for the Pacific Women’s Mediators Network.


Why do you think inclusion, particularly of women, is important for a peaceful transition or peaceful future in your context?

Bai Rohaya U. Mama: It is very important indeed because there can be no peace without women. In fact, instrumental to the signing of the Bangsamoro Comprehensive Agreement (CAB) in 2014 and the subsequent ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) were women. The CAB is the first agreement in the world signed by a woman as lead negotiator for the government under a peace process office headed by a woman. The ratification of BOL was the result of lobbying and campaigning where thousands of women from grassroots and communities marched rain or shine to generate support.

Women's work in the past and moving forward as pivotal actors in peacebuilding and security needs to be recognised.
Adi Litia Nailatikau
Fiji and Solomon Islands Project Manager

Adi Litia Nailatikau: It's so important for women’s participation at the political and leadership levels. The obvious one: women make up half the population. In any country, in most community settings, but also in cultural Fijian and many Pacific settings, women are the knowledge holders.They manage the homes, they manage the families, they basically make and influence the choices that they aren’t really acknowledged for. It was something I’ve always recognised since I was younger. Women’s roles and influence have been overlooked greatly over the years and how they are able to influence behind the scenes and they should be given recognition for it. When women make decisions, they make decisions with everyone in the community in mind. 

It’s so important to be able to include women at leadership levels and have them represented at leadership levels to ensure our foundation as a nation is a solid foundation.

An example I would give from my work with communities with our partners, Transcend Oceania and Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding: When the community of Vunidogoloa was relocated, one of the issues that came up about the new relocation site was that the homes that were built did not satisfy each family well because the women weren’t consulted…These things could have easily not been overlooked had you included women in the conversation. That’s just at the grassroots level. Even just looking at that and seeing what time and money could have been saved by including women’s voices. It just multiplies as you go levels up in governance - the community level, municipality level, local government level and at national and regional levels. Should women’s voices be more included, more time is saved, more resources are saved, and everyone is taken care of.

Women's work in the past and moving forward as pivotal actors in peacebuilding and security needs to be recognised. A movement of Pacific Women Mediators made up of experienced peace-builders from the Pacific investing in and building a network that mentors younger women who are first responders in the gender development and humanitarian nexus and when responding to climate and human security issues.

Miriam Labanue: Women have always been in the forefront in peace negotiations between conflicting parties and therefore women are more generally respected or women are more neutral in peace processes in Bougainville. They are the ones who cried for peace, they strive for peace and they make peace between conflicting parties.

There is a saying in fact, that women hold up half the sky, and in the development process (in the Bangsamoro) it is not enough that only one sector’s opinion would matter.
Dr. Sittie Jehanne Mutin

Dr. Sittie Jehanne Mutin: You see the inclusion of Bangsamoro women in the peace processes opens and deepens and enlarges the capacity of the policy makers or the law makers to make more well thought out choices, well thought-of policies when they make decisions for the future of the Bangsamoro women. There is a saying in fact, that women hold up half the sky, and in the development process it is not enough that only one sector’s opinion would matter. What really matters most is to get as many, as wide as possible, get the opinions of everybody, stakeholders who are also concerned about how things are going, how things will be moving forward and so this leaves a very big chance for our Bangsamoro women to really say what they want for their own future, what they want for their children’s future. 

What role do civil society organisations (CSOs) play in peacebuilding in your context and what do you think their role will be in the future?

Bai Rohaya: ​​I believe civil society organisations must ensure that all steps and measures in sustaining the gains of peace in Mindanao are in place. Social preparation and community empowerment through their meaningful and vital representations in all spheres of public life is a necessary strategy, while making the government and other stakeholders accountable and responsible to the needs of their communities.

Miriam: Civil society organisations play a very important role in all programmes in Bougainville. They provide the sense of manpower required to monitor the problems.

Litia: Civil society organisations including faith based organisations (FBOs) are leading the way on how to connect with communities. Our partners, as part of civil society in Fiji, have played such a huge role in connecting to communities where there has been a disconnect between communities and leadership.

All our government and leadership is basically centralised on one big island, Viti Levu, to Suva, the capital city. A lot of the communities we work with are on the next big island, Vanua Levu, but all the main government leadership and decision-making bodies are here (on Viti Levu).

When communities in Vanua Levu were hit by cyclones Winston, Ana and Yasa over the past eight years and didn’t have a sufficient or timely response from government during those, and as the COVID pandemic and other climate change related issues, it was CSOs and FBOs that responded and built and nurtured the long term relationships.

Government has provided initial support and relief after a disaster, however it is CSOs and FBOs that have been present before a disaster or for longer after. Not just providing immediate relief but also consulting and working with communities for trauma support, conflict resolution and knowing the intricate details and needs of the communities on the ground.

A landscape portrait of palm trees against a blue sky in Bougainville
Palm trees in Bougainville.

How has Conciliation Resources supported your work and the peace process?

Sittie: Conciliation Resources is one of the international partners coming in to ensure that in the peace process, participants at the negotiating table would keep to their promise and will keep to the end of their promise and ensure that each party would really deliver on the terms of the next phase. Not only that, it is always good to know that in our quest for peace there are friends who are with us to support us all the way.

Bai Rohaya: Conciliation Resources and UNYPHIL have been partners for decades and one of the significant aspects of this partnership was increasing the capacity of UNYPHIL Women to do advocacy work and peacebuilding through technical assistance.

Nurunnihar Bakil: Conciliation Resources has been an important entity in the peace process and would be a great support to the Bangsamoro Women’s Commission in advocating for the agenda of women.

Miriam: Without the consistent support from the Conciliation Resources the peace process would not have made it this far….The support of Conciliation Resources is a driving factor behind peacebuilding efforts here in Bougainville, and this is really clear because the political will is not evident.


What are your hopes for the future?

It was not very easy for me to become a peacebuilder. I had to build peace within myself and keep peace and mean it, so that I can become the light and soul for my people and the community to build and come out of the struggles they are suffering.
Miram Labanue
Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation Project Officer

Miriam: In my constituency after the Bougainville crisis…. so many lives were lost and people were displaced. So many people are still suffering from the traumatic violent experiences. Helping casualties built my interest in being involved in the peace process during the conflict in Konnou. It was not very easy for me in the beginning because I was one of the Bougainville crisis victims. It is only through the Capacities for Peace1 training and workshops that allowed me to have a better understanding of perspectives of peacebuilding, and I changed and made my decision to make peace within myself and help my people who are suffering in Konnou today. It was not very easy for me to become a peacebuilder. I had to build peace within myself and keep peace and mean it, so that I can become the light and soul for my people and the community to build and come out of the struggles they are suffering.

The peace process in Bougainville has potential for another possible war if it is not endured properly during the transition period. Therefore inclusion of women is very important to provide balance in ideas and discussions during the transition period. It’s necessary.

Nurunnihar Bakil: My hope for the Bangsamoro is the everlasting peace of the region so that mothers can send their children to school without fear of being caught in crossfire, conflict or war. The women will be given equal opportunity and to be consulted in all levels of decision making, inshallah!

Sittie: For so many years Bangsamoro people have always been complaining how governance in this part of the country has not been working very well, and so we were given the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. In other words we were given the chance to govern ourselves and I hope we don’t waste this chance. - his support that has been given to us - that we will really do everything that we can in our power. We will work together. We will cooperate with each other, really make each other’s opinions, make other people’s lives matter. In so doing we can really be forging a united front as we move along in the future. Towards this end I think, it is not easy for the government of the day or the government in the Republic of the Philippines to do this alone. This would really entail a lot of work which would need everybody including civil society organisations, international partners and international agencies, the community organisations, NGOs, traditional leaders, families, even religious leaders, the youth, the women, the marginalised, the indigenous peoples - all of these people would really need to come forward and help each other out, put their differences aside and work together to achieve common goals. In this instance the goal is to really achieve a lasting and sustainable peace.

Litia: The true nature of our culture, some say it’s Bula2 culture. We are a very inclusive people. At our very best we do think about our fellow woman and man. There is a sense of veilomani3 where you are always looking out for the other person. There is a lot of reciprocal giving amongst our people. There is a lot of respect for our culture and tradition at our very best. Because of that culture I really do believe we can get through the conflicts that we have had but we just need to address them, like you do have to address the elephant in the room and get through that. I do believe traditional governance will play a huge part in that, especially with the economic impacts we see with indigenous youth, Fijian youth today. It’s sad because the lack of traditional governance, the absence of it, you really see the impact on the youth today and I think it’s still early days enough that we can address it, unpack it and do better by them and for the future of our country.

Bai Rohaya: I just wish and pray that peace will remain in our communities amidst diversity and complexity and that development and more opportunities for all come in. Above all we can all stand united with peace and security.



1. Capacities for Peace’ is Conciliation Resources peacebuilding programme in Bougainville.

2. Bula means hello in iTaukei Fijian, but is also the word for life. Bula culture can be interpreted as a way of being and a Fijian way of life encompassing values of friendliness, humility, love and consideration for others.

3. Veilomani in iTaukei Fijian means to care for/to be inclusive/think and act inclusively of everyone in a space.