Aleta Baun, Eva Susanti Hanafi Bande, and Rusmedia Lumban Gaol are just a few of the fierce grassroots leaders fighting against Indigenous cultural and environmental destruction in Indonesia’s rural areas. In July 2017, they gathered with some 50 defenders, most of them women, to share their stories and celebrate their courageous activism in the face of a socio-ecological crisis in their homeland. Timber, mining, palm oil, and other extractive industries have exhausted the country’s natural resources and defenders like Aleta, Eva, and Rusmedia have bravely opposed their efforts in the face of violence, internal persecution, and imprisonment. Photo credit: Lusia Arumingtyas/Mongabay-Indonesia
Women in Sungai Berbari, a village in Riau, Indonesia, have been organizing for representation in land use planning. Ever since the Indonesian government began opening local forests for agricultural operations, women without equal access to planning processes have been disproportionately impacted by the resulting environmental impacts. When companies burn carbon-rich peatland to develop plantations, for example, the resulting crisis-level haze becomes particularly burdensome for the women tasked with domestic duties and caring for their families. Women Research Institute has provided local women with access to forest change data and training on public speaking in order to develop advocacy strategies. Photo credit: Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
Afrida Erna Ngato is an indigenous activist and a “Sangaji Pagu” – a leader of the Pagu, a tribe living on their land since the 11th century. Previously, all leaders of the tribe were men but, Afrida stepped forward and became the first female leader. The mining in the Gulf of Kao caused water shortages, polluted rivers and bays, damaged ecosystems, and loss of biodiversity. Since the pipe burst, people began to fear eating fish, using the river water, and having trouble finding fish in the river. Access to clean water has reached crisis levels and this situation made Afrida take action. She protested for her community's rights along with 23 community members. All of them were arrested by the police but this made them even stronger. After this incident, Afrida widened her network by collaborating with neighboring tribes and now this makes it more difficult for mining companies to exploit them.
Global Forest Coalition profiles Chaus Uslaini, a rural activist and the director of the NGO Walhi, in West Sumatera, one of Indonesia’s main islands. Through her work, she helps improve rural communities’ lives around her, trying to empower and develop families, enabling children to attend school, instead of working in the fields as she once had to do. Her job also falls under the gender justice umbrella, and she helps women in four communities to set up a small fruit and cacao business production, for example. Chaus is leading initiatives regarding water rights, legal advice, youth empowerment, among many others. Photo credit: Chaus Uslaini
Rukka Sombolinggi, of the Torajan tribe, became the first woman leader of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN). Even though Indigenous women in Indonesia are subject to intersectional forms of discrimination, they keep on fighting to protect their communities. When Indonesia’s Constitutional Court ruled that Indigenous people have the right to manage the lands where they live, President Joko Widodo committed to taking further steps for its implementation. However, his plans to boost infrastructure may lead to the displacement of more tribes and the violation of their rights. AMAN has prepared a draft law for the effective protection of Indigenous peoples’ rights, which will be a priority for 2017.
Rukka Sombolinggi, a prominent activist and the first woman at the helm of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), is fighting to protect Indigenous land and communities from conflict, logging and extractive industries. In 2013, Indonesia's Constitutional Court ruled that Indigenous people have the right to manage forests where they live. Later, President Joko Widodo announced Indonesia would return 13,000 hectares of customary lands to nine indigenous groups and committed to giving back a total of 12.7 million hectares to local and indigenous groups. However, his plans to boost infrastructure and energy production mean more tribes are at risk of being displaced. Last year, a draft law to recognise and protect Indigenous peoples' rights, which is the result of years of lobbying by AMAN and other organisations, was listed by the House of Representatives. Sombolinggi mentions that the fight did not end there and this law is AMAN's top priority for the years to come.
Companies like Kellogg and Nestlé, who use palm oil for ice cream and chocolate products, buy their oil from suppliers that employ women. Women working in the fields are often assigned to spray pesticides and insecticides without any wearing any safety equipment. Minah, a worker at palm oil plantation in Riau, said a lot of the pesticide hits her face during spraying, suffering from respiratory and vision problems. NGO Sawit Watch and Amnesty International in Indonesia have unveiled many such stories, including instances when women are deprived of the two days of menstrual leave entitle to them by Indonesia’s law. Photo Credit: Wudan Yan
The Samin women of Indonesia are taking the lead to save Kendeng Karst mountains in Central Java from environmental destruction as cement companies consider expanding mining and production. The courageous Nine Kartinis of Kendeng from the Samin Community use non-violent resistance by planting their feet in cement to take a concrete stand against cement plants. Photo credit: Yes To Life No To Mining
Mariamah Achmad, a native of the West Kalimantan, Indonesia, is a forest management graduate, a leader of Sekolah Lahan Gambut, or the Peatlands School, and the Palung Foundation’s Coordinator for Environment Awareness Education. She is working to end the exploitation of forest resources by multinational logging and palm oil companies who cut mangrove trees to make charcoal, overfish shrimp, burn forestlands and drain peat swamps to construct plantations. As a result of the indiscriminate exploitation of the forest resources, rural people have been affected by health issues such as asthma, bronchitis, heart disease and lung cancer. With Sekolah Lahan Gambut, Achmad focuses on creating awareness among rural people about these challenges. The organization focuses on the importance of forests, biodiversity, mangrove swamps, and wildlife through arts, communication, and education. Photo credit: Nobel Women’s Initiative
Eva is a defender of women’s human rights, land rights, and the environment in Central Sulawesi Province, Indonesia since 1998. She founded the People’s Front for Central Sulawesi Palm Oil Advocacy when the company PT Berkat Hutan Pusaka illegally appropriated land from local Indigenous people. As a result, fields and homes were constantly swamped because of the resultant flooding and water-borne diseases increased. Eva, together with local farmers, organized peaceful demonstrations against the company but due to tensions she was arrested and sentenced to prison. Nevertheless she continued to advocate behind bars. Eva has a deep commitment to the value of education, especially for women, as she believes that land justice cannot be discussed only in the classroom, it has to be put in practice. Photo credit: Urgent Action Fund
Pipi Supeni of East Kalimantan, Indonesia is on a mission to counter false narratives and negative assumptions and discrimination against Indigenous women. Through her work as a community organizer with AMAN Women-East Kalimantan for the Dayak Benuaq Ohokng tribe in the villages of Mamcong and Muara Tae, she seeks to help her fellow Indigenous Indonesian women to feel pride and confidence in their traditional culture , skills and knowledge - and thus assume their rightful place as leaders for the betterment of their communities and the natural world. Photo credit: JASS Just Associates
In Indonesia, cities are developing methodologies towards climate change impact resistance and recovery by investing in city-level resiliency efforts. However, although women are most impacted there is insufficient data on women’s perspectives within urban resilience planning. In this assessment report, the Indonesian NGO Kota Kita presents the significance of a gendered approach in urban resiliency projects, how to improve women’s climate vulnerability assessment, and an examination of specific gender centered resiliency initiatives in Indonesia. Three out of four authors of this report are on the ground women researchers and activists. They are Sarah Dougherty, Rizqa Hidayani, and Dati Fatimah. Photo credit: Kota Kita
Kota Kita Foundation, an Indonesian grassroots NGO, analysed its methodology for the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment through a gender-focused approach, as women are the ones who suffer the most from climate hazards and are not well represented in data and resiliency plans. The low levels of female participation and deficient gender-disaggregated data raises questions about cities’ resiliency plans and the lack of consideration of women’s important role in Indonesian society. Photo credit: Kota Kita Foundation
Afrida Erna Ngato is an Indigenous activist and tribal leader in her community of Pagu, a position that women very rarely occupy. Afrida is fighting against gold and silver mining on almost 30,000 hectares of Indigenous territory. Decades of mining have led to detrimental impacts on the environment along with the health and livelihood of community members. Afrida leads protests in front of the mining company offices and collaborates with neighboring tribes to map borders, making it difficult for future mining companies to exploit the land and its people. Photo credit: Urgent Action Fund
Miranti Serad, a founding member of Citra Kartini, an Indonesian women’s empowerment organization, organized a symposium at the 2016 Indonesia Women Expo on “Women and Climate Change.” Rachmat Witoelar, the President's Special Envoy for Climate Change, discussed the negative impacts of climate change on women and how can women play an important role in decreasing increase climate change. Suzy Hutomo, a climate leader and the Executive Chairwoman of The Body Shop Indonesia, has taken steps to prevent climate change by implementing a low-carbon lifestyle both in her family and company. Rahayu Saraswati Djojohadikusomo, a climate leader and a Member of the Commission 8 of the Indonesian House of Representatives, said women’s engagement is necessary to develop the creative economy. Nurmala Kartini Sjahrir, an anthropologist, stated that climate change adaptation and mitigation should empower women because empowering women is preserving life.
On May 12, 2016 a group of Indigenous women leaders from South and North America (Turtle Island) united to share their concerns, struggles and plans for change at “Indigenous Women of the Americas Protecting Mother Earth: Struggles and Climate Solutions,” an afternoon event presented by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International and our allies at Amazon Watch and the Indigenous Environmental Network. It was held in New York City in parallel to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to bring public visibility to the diverse stories, solutions and demands of frontline women climate leaders. The speakers shared with the audience unique experiences and all focused on several main areas: (1) respect for and implementation of Indigenous rights and knowledge as a prerequisite for climate justice and effective sustainability solutions and (2) the protection of the rights, health, lives and lands of Indigenous peoples, and nations. Photo credit: Emily Arasim, Joan Beard
Ibu Inspirasi: Indonesian Wonder Women Provide Climate And Gender Justice Through Low Carbon Emission Technologies
In Indonesian, the program name Ibu Inspirasi refers to a group of inspiring Indonesian women that are providing low carbon emission technologies to their local communities. Ibu Inspirasi is also shielding especially underprivileged women from their specific vulnerability to climate change. In English, the women of Ibu Inspirasi are called wonder women for their work initiating and providing solar lanterns, water filters, and fuel efficient cooking materials that replace polluted air with safer air for women to cook over. Over the next three years these climate and gender leaders will be training 250 new green technology agents in East Indonesia after receiving a grant for their outstanding work. Photo credit: UNFCCC
Magdalena Kafiar is an Indigenous Papuan priest who works throughout Indonesia reporting on human rights violations. Her work as an activist encompasses education about women’s rights, advocacy for justice, and surveying environmental destruction. As part of the Young Indonesian Women Activists’ Forum (FAMM), she defends Indonesia’s people against the extractive activities of foreign companies, the military, and the police. Photo credit: Global Fund For Women
Mining activities contaminated the soil in Buyat Bay, Indonesia, causing adverse health impacts in Indigenous communities in the area. To tackle the problem, Jull Takaliuang started a movement in Bangka Island community and founded Yayasan Suara Nurani Minaesa (YSNM), a human rights organization. As a result of their campaigning, the company responsible for the pollution halted its activities. Having worked for over ten years in various fronts to guarantee the rights of her indigenous community, in 2015 Takaliuang was awarded the N-Peace Award from the UN Development Programme. Photo credit: Urgent Action Fund
In this TedTalk, Elora Hardy explains how she founded Ibuku, an organization that brings together sustainable resources and aesthetic imagination by building exquisite homes and schools in Bali. Bamboo is a magic material that takes root on otherwise uncultivable land and requires very little water to grow. Hardy shows how bamboo has endless potential as a sustainable resource and as a force for earthquake-resistant, affordable and durable construction.
In 1986, Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas helped to found the Orangutan Foundation International, an environmental conservation group to promote the rehabilitation and preservation of orangutans in Indonesia. Today, Galdikas continues her fight against the encroaching palm oil industry which threatens not only the orangutans, but much of the vast biodiversity present in Indonesia and southeastern Asia. Though palm oil may be considered an economic boon by some, Galdikas hopes our human connection to the large primates will inspire the passion to protect the rainforests of Borneo from human encroachment. Photo credit: HuffPost
Aleta Baun, an indigenous Mollo woman from West Timor, Indonesia risked her life to oppose the destruction of local forests by mining and palm oil companies. Despite facing death threats and beatings, she led a group of women to stage four sit-ins at the mines, which forced the mining corporation to close operations and saved 130 homes and local forests. Photo credit: Goldman Prize
Aleta Baun is an advocate for rights of the Earth and Indigenous peoples on Timor Island, Indonesia. Beginning in 1996 and for over a decade, Baun has assembled and helped lead hundreds of local people in peaceful resistance to the mining of marble and other minerals and resources. For a full year, Baun and over 150 women sat in non-violent protest at a mine’s entrance, opposing the growth of the mine through peaceful actions, including weaving traditional Indigenous fabrics. Baun’s grassroots activism, and work with her non-profit Pokja OAT for the protection of Timor’s forests and people’s has gained worldwide attention, including as a recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize. Photo credit: The Goldman Environmental Prize
Philippa Ross of the U.N. Women’s multi-country office in Fiji write about how women are impacted when tsunamis, cyclones and other natural disasters hit their communities. Age and gender are the two most powerful determinants of survival during a natural disaster. Oxfam carried out a household survey in Aceh, Indonesia following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and demonstrated that up to four women died for every male in the most affected areas. Despite its critical importance in developing effective humanitarian disaster response, the collection and analysis of sex and age disaggregated data is routinely neglected. Photo credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters
Phillippa Ross, a gender and protection adviser with UN Women in Fiji, writes about the sobering statistics regarding gender and natural disaster. For example, after the massive devastation caused by the 2014 Tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Oxfam released a study revealing that for every man that had perished in the storm, four women died. The study also shows that women are at higher risks for gender-based and sexual violence, in addition to physical displacement as they primarily carry the burden of caring for the children. The humanitarian studies in the region did prove effective in coordinating more effective responses to aid needed, and hopefully will assist in curbing the effects of natural disaster for women in the future. Photo credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters
A new report by the International Center for Transitional Justice makes clear the links between natural resource extraction and violence against Papuan women. The report, titled Enough is Enough!, is the result of an initiative begun in 2009 to document incidences of violence against women and human rights abuses in Papua over the past four decades. The report also includes sections on the growth of women’s organisations, on domestic violence and on equality in the context of Papuan Indigenous institutions. Photo credit: International Center for Transitional Justice
The participatory action research conducted by Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development explores some of the most important adaptation strategies rural fisherwomen in Cilincing, North Jakarta are using to cope with climate change. The report notes that these fisherwomen lack the control over resources due to prevalent social-cultural traditions, which often pushes them to opt for adaptation strategies like lowering family nutrition, collecting garbage, selling belongings and borrowing credit. Photo credit: Use Default
Persatuan Perempuan Sama (Women’s Union for Equality), or PPS, is at the forefront of helping women from Wangkolabou Village on Tobea Island in Sulawesi to initiate sustainable income-generating projects. Women from the fuel wood industry are trained on the ecological benefits of protecting mangroves and alternative livelihood practices. The initiative has reaped many income-generating and ecological benefits for the women and community over the years. Photo credit: Global Greengrants Fund