Women Peace building Leadership Program participants from West Papua, Papua NewGuinea, Bougainville and Solomon Islands were yesterday given a rare glimpse into the work of two leading women’s advocacy organisations in Fiji.

The nine participants who are currently awaiting their departure to the Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia visited the Femlink Pacific and the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement in Suva as part of an orientation program organised by the Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding.

“The visit to Femlink Pacific and FWRM was greatly appreciated by the women. I think it gave them the opportunity to connect with these organisations because the work they do are similar,” PCP executive director, Koila Costello-Olsson.

“This group of Melanesian sisters is quite diverse in age as well as backgrounds but I think they all enjoyed the presentations made to them at the two organisations. Sharing experiences is one of the best ways to build solidarity in regional peacebuilding efforts particularly as we grapple with the same issues,” Costello Olsson said.

Georgia Molia, 37 of Solomon Islands said she valued the sharing of lessons made during the visits.

“Visiting FWRM gave us ideas about how to improve our outreach to young girls. I like the fact that their Emerging Leaders Forum program gives its participants the freedom to design their own advocacy materials,” Molia said.

WPL participant and former Bougainville Minister for Women, Magdalene Toroansi during the visit to Femlink Pacific urged the organisation to reach out to other parts of Bougainville and capture stories of women outside of Buka.

“I like it that you have established focal points in the countries that you work in but I urge you to expand those networks beyond the business centres. There are many stories to be told of the women, living in those areas,” Ms Toroansi said.

Paradise Tabucala, Community Radio Coordinator at Femlink said she was awed by the
experiences and stories shared by the women during the visit.

“I’m humbled by their stories and the experiences they have shared. We have shared contact details and certainly look forward to working with them into the future,” Tabucala said.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding will tonight host a cocktail at the 5 Princes Hotel in Tamavua to introduce its 16 participants for the WPL program to its partners. This will include the nine Melanesian women and seven other Fiji participants.