• Eliorah Malifa | Migration Management Coordinator, IOM Papua New Guinea

Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea – “There was constant fear in me when my clansmen were involved in the conflict,” says Jenny Pani, recalling her first visit to an area of her district under tribal warfare back in October 2022.

Between 2018 and 2022, four villages in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea engaged in tribal warfare over land rights and access to medical services.

As the clashes dragged on, most buildings in the district were burnt down, and men were killed while women and children were often abused.

Construction of market at Pira 2 as part of Pira 2’s community peace for development plan. © IOM/ Peter Murorera

As the Community Development Officer for the Kagua Erave District Administration, Jenny worked directly with the field staff of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in the Southern Highlands. Throughout her mission, she observed a grave need for peacebuilding interventions in her area, prompting her to overcome fear and further her endeavour to assist IOM in delivering gender sensitization and community development workshops to the locals.

To facilitate peace talks and deliver the training, Jenny remembers having to hike for four and a half hours through the forest and up into mountain ranges to arrive at one of the communities at war.

“From time to time, I felt the urge to just give up when I struggled to reach the destination where the negotiations took place, but I knew I had to continue, because it was an assignment. Once, we arrived at a district up in the mountain late in the afternoon, and the children were there in their uniforms waiting for us and clapping their hands to welcome the team. The scene made all the travels worth it,” she accounts with a smile on her face.

Community waiting to enter the launch of a community health post at Pira 1 © IOM/Eliorah Malifa

With the support from local members like Jenny, IOM has been able to bring all four communities together in a neutral space. These meetings allowed the communities to participate in a series of workshops facilitated by IOM and the provincial government teams, identifying projects that they deemed necessary to facilitate peace.

Community health post at Pira 1 © IOM/Eliorah Malifa
The third community launch of community peace for development plan initiatives in Kagua-Erave district © IOM/Eliorah Malifa

In Pira ward 2, for instance, a market was built following the discussions, offering a space for women and children to sell their traditional crafts or products. Since the launch of the market, female vendors from all four villages have successfully utilised the space, forging peace while building pathways for more sustainable economic empowerment of women in these communities.  

Jenny’s experience of bringing peace in her community accentuates the important role that women have held in hostile environments in Papua New Guinea. Her story serves as a testament of empowerment for not only herself but also other women from Kagua-Erave.

“I’m proud to be one of the individuals to be involved in developing and building peace in the community,” she says proudly.

“I look at Pira 1, now that they have their own health facility, women no longer need to come to the health facility in Pira 2. They are able to acquire health services down in their community.”

The peacebuilding interventions were implemented with the support of the UN Peacebuilding Fund.

Written by: Eliorah Malifa, Migration Management Coordinator, IOM Papua New Guinea.

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 16 - Peace Justice and Strong Institutions
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals