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Civil Society Organizations Push Protection for Women Environmental Human Rights Defenders

Photo caption: First consolidation meeting of the Caucus for Women Environmental Human Rights Defenders in Jakarta, 13 July 2023

Jakarta, 13th July 2023 – Twenty-seven participants from various civil society organizations who are members of the Caucus for Women Environmental Human Rights Defenders (WEHRDs) gathered for their first consolidation meeting in Jakarta, on 13 July 2023. This caucus aims to create an action plan to strengthen advocacy for gender-sensitive protection policies for women human rights defenders, especially on environmental issues.  

The meeting was held to determine strategic issues and develop follow-up plans to be advocated together, to push the WEHRDs program to become a policy priority of the government.  

The caucus consolidation meeting is one of the activities supported by KEMITRAAN through the ELEVATE (Enhancing the Leverage of Women Environmental Human Rights Defenders) project. ELEVATE aims to increase the ability and influence of women human rights defenders in preserving the environment with gender-sensitive policies. 

“Civil society organizations consider that cases and types of violence against human rights defenders are increasing, but their protection is still inadequate. Moreover, women human rights defenders experience multiple risks in carrying out their advocacy. They are often attacked not only for their identity as human rights defenders but also for their identity as women, mothers, and community members,” explained Dewi Damayanti, ELEVATE Project Manager, KEMITRAAN.

The current development that focuses on mining and other extractive industries possesses an exploitative character towards natural resources, increasing the risk of destruction of nature and ecosystem functions that affect humans. Women face a higher vulnerability in dealing with environmental damage due to increased workload at home when access to water, food, and other resources is disrupted. However, women are left behind and underrepresented in decision-making and advocacy.

Photo caption: First consolidation meeting of the Caucus for Women Environmental Human Rights Defenders in Jakarta, 13 July 2023

Andi Rahmana from the Alliance for Ecology and People’s Emancipation (AEER) presented the results of an AEER study in the area around a nickel smelter in Central Halmahera, North Maluku. “Currently, the people there are experiencing a clean water crisis because the rivers are starting to get polluted, and the groundwater becomes salty. Leaders around the mining area have advocated for their rights but received rejection and threats. Women themselves face significant obstacles because they do not have the same understanding of the problems they face and are still struggling on their own.”

Andi also added that women in the area have also lost their livelihood such as their farm since the land acquisition for nickel mining.

“In society, there is a role standardization that places women only to take care of domestic affairs. Women are often considered to have no capacity for advocacy, so as a result women are marginalized in various decision-making within their area of residence. Women’s voices are not represented properly,” explained Citra Referandum, Director of LBH Jakarta.

Besides the vulnerabilities faced because of the marginalized position of women in society, WEHRDs often experience sexual violence, attacks on gender roles, and their reputation and credibility. Throughout 2015-2021 Komnas Perempuan recorded 87 cases of violence that befell WEHRDs.4 This number is just the tip of the iceberg, where the reported cases may be far fewer than the cases that occurred.  

The ELEVATE project focuses on women and communities whose rights to land and natural resources are threatened by large-scale development projects such as the expansion of monoculture plantations or irresponsible extractive industries. The women and the community are scattered in several villages in East Kalimantan, Riau, and Central Sulawesi. It is hoped that these women and the community will be able to increase their ability and influence to advocate the gender-sensitive environmental policies. 

Together with KEMITRAAN, the first consolidation meeting of the WEHRDs Caucus was attended by Komnas Perempuan, LBH Pers, Pusaka Bentala Rakyat, INFID, ICJR, ICEL, Imparsial, LBH APIK, WALHI Eknas, AEER, Sawit Watch, ELSAM, LBH Jakarta, SAFENet, Kontras, and HUMA.

1WALHI. (2018). Diakses melalui https://www.walhi.or.id/perempuan-bergerak-melawan-industri-ekstraktive-batubara-2
2Itzá Castañeda Camey, Laura Sabater, Cate Owren and A. Emmett Boyer. IUCN. Gender-based violence and environment linkages, halaman 106.
3Prof. Shri. Srinivasan Balakrishnan. (2023). Empowering the unheard: Why women’s voices are crucial in environmental policy and action https://www.iucn.org/story/202303/empowering-unheard-why-womens-voices-are-crucial-environmental-policy-and-action
4Juli Hantoro. (2022). Komnas Perempuan Sebut Kasus Kekerasan terhadap Perempuan Pembela HAM. Naik. Diunduh dari https://nasional.tempo.co/read/1662344/komnas-perempuan-sebut-kasus-kekerasan-terhadap-perempuan-pembela-ham-naik