Marcelline Kokiai

Marcelline is from Manetai village in Central Bougainville. She was born in 1959 at Manetai Catholic Mission station. She went to high school in Arawa, got married after high school and lived in Arawa. She has nine children. In 2015 she was elected to the Bougainville House of Representatives as the Women’s Representative for Central Bougainville in the House.

When the war started, Marcelline fled from Arawa into the mountains with her children. They first stayed in a mountain village, then moved on to Panguna, to the BRA headquarters. Being from the coastal area she found it very hard to live in the mountains. They moved on to Nagovis, but had to flee again when the Papua New Guinea Defence Force landed. She and her family moved from one place to another, they spent “a life on the run” all through the war.

During the war Marcelline did community-based peace work, organizing the women at the village level. She participated in setting up the organisation ‘Bougainville Women for Peace and Freedom’. In the transition period from war to peace, Marcelline had the opportunity to go overseas and to attend international conferences as a Bougainville women’s representative. She went to the Netherlands and to Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra in Australia. At conferences and public meetings she talked about life in the bush: what it is like to run away, to see people die, to give birth in the bush.

As a member of the Bougainville House of Representatives her focus is currently on preparing the women in Central Bougainville for the referendum on independence, which is scheduled for June 2019. She is a member of the House’s Referendum Committee and as such is also engaged in referendum preparations at the Bougainville level and at the level of negotiations with the government of Papua New Guinea, as well as the international level. She is committed to make the voices of the women heard in Bougainville politics and public life. This is an ongoing challenge as women are still under-represented in Bougainville politics.

Marcelline maintains close links with civil society, in particular women’s NGOs and peacebuilding NGOs. She was a determined supporter of the Misereor-funded Panguna Dialogue Project (PDP), and currently she actively supports the Bougainville Referendum Dialogue project (BRD), which is also funded by Misereor.