The involvement and experience of women in any new sphere of life can be the basis for changes in perspectives and the re-prioritization of values. Women’s contributions to the political processes of peace and post-conflict reconstruction in Bougainville acted as a catalyst to changes in perceptions regarding women as decision-makers. It challenged notions of gender equity and attitudes to inclusive political participation. Women's groups were instrumental in working for peace and reconciliation at local, national and international levels. Women created opportunities to stimulate dialogue, participated in peace talks and were part of the constitution building process. Despite their valuable and much recognized contributions women still found themselves greatly under-represented during the 2005 elections. This paper considers the political gains that occurred and their relationship to the engagement of women with political action in the post conflict era; however it will also underscore the reality of limitations to women’s participation. In doing so it takes into consideration the spaces women occupied within the conflict and post-conflict environments. Drawing on aspects of communitarianism as a window through which to frame the women’s movement, the paper reflects upon the development of women’s networks and their subsequent engagement with peace negotiations. Despite this involvement, like the greater majority of nations both rich and poor, political equity eludes the women of Bougainville. For women on the ground however, even the limited gains to date signal a positive trend for the future.
Drawing on interviews with over half of new Labour women MPs, Sarah Childs reveals how the women experienced being MPs, and explores whether they acted for and like women - in constituencies, in Parliament and in government.