Papua New Guinea: Helen Hakena

I believe that I have a unique gift in building bridges between communities and authorities to bring more peaceful lives for the people of Bougainville.

— Helen Hakena

Helen Hakena co-founded Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency (LNWDA) in 1992 and is its executive director. The key area of commitment was to restore peaceful lives for the people of Bougainville during the civil war with Papua New Guinea (1988–1998) over the destructive Panguna copper mine and to achieve gender equality. Women in Bougainville played a key role in bringing the conflict to an end but now in a time of relative peace, their role is overlooked and they have struggled to be involved in key peace negotiations and reconciliation and reconstruction programs for the island.

"One of the moments that I will not forget was going to New York to receive the Millennium Peace Prize Award for Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency (LNWDA) on 8 March 2001. I was nominated by Unifem to represent the women of the world in presenting a petition to the UN Secretary General. It was signed by 350,000 women leaders from all over the world calling on the United Nations Security Council to include women in peacekeeping missions. The petition also called on governments to include women in decision-making committees. I never dreamt that I would one day be called upon to represent the women of the world. The reality now in Bougainville (PNG) is that women’s rights have been violated and are still being violated by men. The negative experiences that I went through personally gave me the strength to work for peace. What keeps me going is how our women struggle for peace and security in their homes as well as in our country and the appreciation women have for my work and the work of LNWDA. I gain strength from the commitment of LNWDA volunteers in Bougainville’s 13 districts to work for a violence-free Bougainville where women’s human rights are respected. Women are not passive victims. We contribute actively to peacemaking. Our courage and contributions have made the world a better place to live and work. Imagine what more we could do if we women were enabled to take an equal place at the negotiating table. Thus LNWDA’s motto is ‘Women weaving Bougainville together.’"

Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency (LNWDA) Pacific Women Against Violence Network International Action Network Against Small Arms (IANSA)