Barbara Tanne sitting between young peacebuilders she is observing and who are part of mentoring

Being a Woman Mediator

Through my membership with Conciliation Resources, I am considered a "Woman Mediator in the Commonwealth." However, while I do facilitate dialogues between parties, I have not fully completed any study on Mediation. Because of this and because I am not certified in mediation, I do not feel good about using the word Mediator, but rather dialogue facilitator.

I developed my tools in peacebuilding at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) in 2014. I took the courses Peace Education: Concepts and Approaches, Arts Approaches to Community-Based Peacebuilding and Trauma Healing and Reconciliation in Divided Communities. But living with the issues and concerns in my community in Bougainville is where I first began my work as a peacebuilder.

Women Leaders Reconciling
Women leaders reconciling

My mediation work revolves around my community and at the district level. I also do formal or informal mediation with individuals or couples and the community. I use facilitative mediation when dealing with land disputes with the goal of helping everyone achieve their interests and to reach a durable or long-lasting agreement. This mediation takes a long time, but it works as long as everyone cooperates and agrees with it.

I also facilitate dialogue when there are community conflicts or party disputes that involve everyone (the chiefs, women, youth, church workers, etc.). An ongoing advocacy engagement with the community helps them to identify different conflicts and issues they have in the community.

In practicing mediation or facilitating dialogue, I bring my skill as an active listener or good communicator. I also know I have to have empathy; that is, the ability to show parties that I understand their interests and concerns. In addition, I realize I have to be flexible and adaptable and to have patience, humor, and creativity.

My story of how I became a mediator or a facilitator started from being a human rights defender and a counselor. I conducted a lot of advocacy regarding the violations of human rights. The elders (chiefs) and community leaders recognized the work I was doing as a woman leader apart from my official duties as a Finance Manager and later as an Executive Manager from 2004 to 2017.

I was invited to community conflicts, representing women in the fields of mediating and dialogue. At the time, I realized I needed to improve my skills. So, I applied to attend MPI's peacebuilding training, sponsoring myself.

When I returned with the new skills, it motivated and inspired me to become a peacebuilder, particularly dealing with issues affecting women and girls, whether they be family issues or petty arguments that often end up involving the whole clan. These would sometimes even lead to land disputes. I also dealt with conflicts as a result of assault cases or crisis-led issues.

Women Carrying Ballot Boxes
Women carrying ballot boxes to the polling booths

With the Bougainville Referendum preparations, I was then tasked to lead and coordinate my community steering committee to conduct peace dialogues and mediate long outstanding cases, mostly involving land disputes, with the goal of peace and reconciliation prior to the referendum election process that began in November 2018.

The key factor that enables and drives me to become a mediator or dialogue facilitator is being consistent with the work I am doing. It is important for me to be a role model and have confidence in myself when sharing and advocating for sustainable peace for everyone and ensuring that everyone's human rights are respected.

One cannot work in isolation when it comes to dealing with conflicts. I am privileged to be an alumna of MPI, and now a local consultant with Conciliation Resources through its peacebuilding work in Bougainville. I have gained access to the key actors by sharing information and learning from other networks or institutions. Collaboration brings new skills and a better understanding of my role as a woman mediator. Networking brings trust and healing through comparative learning. Now, being a member of the Women Mediators in the Commonwealth, I am able to share and learn more from other experienced women mediators.

Barbara Tanne is currently attached to Conciliation Resources as a Local Consultant and is a peacebuilder and activist on women, peace, and security.