"Leitana Nehan’s story began with three women giving birth on the same day in 1990 (in an empty warehouse, hiding from the fighting). One of the women was myself, giving birth prematurely to Max, my fourth child. I was seven months pregnant when I gave birth. I survived while the two other women died in childbirth leaving their two sons behind. I could not let other women suffer the way I did. Through my experience, I began to advocate for peace together with my friends.” Helen Hakena, co-founder of Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency.
Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency (LNWDA) was formed in 1992 in an attempt to prevent and overcome violence caused by the Bougainville Crisis. It has grown to be an influential NGO, with 91 volunteers, including 38 counsellors, working in the districts to implement the Agency’s programmes. The 38 counsellors are mobile and provide confidential counselling to victims and survivors of all forms of violence against women.
VSA has worked with LNWDA since 2007. In 2010, a fire destroyed the LNWDA headquarters, offices and counselling space in Buka. Since then the Agency has occupied a “temporary” office space which has allowed their work to continue but has no water nor toilet facilities.
VSA Volunteer Christine Ramsay is working alongside Helen and her team as a Business and Office Management Mentor as they build a new purpose-built space, which they've now moved in to. This will provide not just much-needed facilities for the services they offer, but income-generating conference space for rent.
Hear what Christine and Helen have to say about Leitana and VSA's work, below.