Women's Earth Alliance Indonesia 2019

Written by Prawita Tasya Karissa Executive Director and Co-Founder Biorock Indonesia

If you a woman, or you live with a woman, perhaps you heard these dialogues many times.
“My family prefer a son than a daughter.” “I want to pursue my dream, but my parents forced me to marry before I’m 25.” “After I got married and having kids, I’m just somebody’s wife and mom.”

Things are difficult for women. We often blame for something we do, or for something we don’t do. We are blamed for our clothes, and we are blamed for not being professional or committed to work just like men did. And things will be more extreme when you are a woman, and you are a grass-root environment leader. “Every time I back from out of town meeting, my neighbors asked me with whose husband I slept this time, or If I get pregnant (yet) for spending the nights out of the house.” “I witnessed so many women divorced by their husband because their genitals suffer due to contaminated water from cement factory sewage pollution.” This is just an opening statement from 2019 Cohort of Indonesia Women’s Earth Alliance, which I am one of the participants.

My journey in coral reef restoration also facing the similar problem. As a fresh graduate a few years ago, I could not get a job in coral restoration or conservation. I have no professional experience, network, and not an indigenous community, so all door closed to me. Thus, I work in another company until I get married. Then when the opportunity came, I was accepted as a Coral Reef Restoration officer, but immediately rejected when the company finds out that I was pregnant with my firstborn. A few years later, I lead my own pilot project in Maluku, and I was 6 months pregnant with my second born. After delivery, I re-visit the project carrying my baby because I am breastfeeding. Again, my heart was torn. I participate in a community meeting with an audience full of smoke, while I was there nursing my baby.

Movie Night in Paradiso, Ubud

And finally, last year, I was pregnant with my thirdborn while leading my team on UNDP assignment. The task was to create a five proposal of the blue economy in ten villages of coastal and remote Islands in Indonesia. My team and I have to combine marine biodiversity conservation, and also solved other sustainable development goals such as stunting, economic development, and other SDGs. My team was able to focus on SDGs 14 (Life Below Water) through coral reef restoration and building sustainable tourism. However, it is so challenging to address the women related issue such as health (stunting).

Why? Most of my teammates are male, and so also the community leaders and decision-makers, with I don’t think stunting was a daily Issue for them. Within14 days of surveys, I think it would also be challenging to get the trust from women community to speak up and communicate of what their needs.

The opposite happens when I participate in 2019 Indonesia Grass-Root Accelerator arranged by Women’s Earth Alliance. Through the 7 days I spent with 22 women environmental leaders, we speak about our projects and also our lives. I feel instantly connected to all participants and the design team. We know, we face many obstacles about our lives and yet we are still committed to our environment. We know, it is because we did it for our children and grandchildren. Although it is many times written in cliche government program goal, yet the approach is still male-minded and not accommodating of most of the children caretaker, the women. With all the 22 female participants and 8 designers/ peers, we can talk about deforestation, coral reef destruction, mangroves, gender inequality, religious perspectives, politics, but we also discuss on exclusive breastfeeding, solid baby food, facing corrupt male leaders, and so on, and so on.

Closing Ceremony in Klecung Village, Tabanan

As Women, we discussed all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals naturally, without limiting or provide borders in one issue with another. It feels so natural because it is part of all daily lives. We feel that. We talk that. We do that. If you wonder why, it is because we women are the environment, start by using our womb as the first environment to our baby. We are the community; we are Life. We are the Sustainable Development Goals!
Therefore, I am thinking back to my work earlier with UNDP. How to create a blue economy approach to address so many sustainable development goals? The answer is simple. Women.
If you agree or disagree with my idea above, or simply just would like to discuss further on environment and women, feel free to reach me on my e-mail tasya@biorock-indonesia.com.