Faces of Bougainville: Mother and Daughter

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

“Mother and Child”; Autonomous Region of Bougainvile; December 2012

This image, my favorite amongst my Bougainville portraits, made me think  of the unusual role this mother and daughter play in the family.  Almost all the clans in Bougainville are matriarchal.  Intrigued by this unfamiliar practice, I had to ask a Bougainvillean woman colleague how it works and she summed it up like this:  “Mothers hold an important leadership role, not only in the family but also within the clan, especially when it comes to rights and ownership over ancestral lands.  Clan land has to be under the name and discretion of the clan’s woman elder.  Only female children are entitled to inheritance.   Men and boys may use the land to prosper the family but the ownership remains under the name of a woman.”   I truly wonder about the advantages and disadvantages of this arrangement compared to those practiced in patriarchal societies.  What is its impact in terms of empowering women in the society?


March 8 is International Women’s Day.  To all the mothers and daughters in the world, I salute you!  And I join the United Nations in its call to end violence against women.

“There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon