During the past thirty years tribal wars have divided people in the Simbu Province of Papua New Guinea and death increased as bows and arrows were replaced by guns. Violence became so endemic that teachers and health workers fled their positions adding even further misery to the lives of people. Finally, three women from different tribes, Mary Kini, Agnes Sil and Angela Apu began secret meetings in an effort to restore peace to the lives of their people. In theory, they were forbidden by custom from having any conversations, but they held secret meetings in which they whispered their hopes for peace.
The women organized protest marches by other women and within months hundreds were marching for peace. They told me of their pain as sons and husbands were killed. “You men don’t feel the pain. Our houses are burnt down, and the kids are with not food… we have had enough.”
Some men shouted derision at their complaints but one chief responded: “from now on I am finished with tribal fights. From right now, I am wearing a skirt, I need no more trousers that say I am a man. I want to become a woman.” Within weeks, women were leading discussions for peace and teachers and health workers returned.
Now girls can walk in safety to school. A new day has dawned because women asserted their voices in the quest for peace and justice.