Women, land and natural resources

Down to Earth No 63  November 2004

Women in Indonesia are disadvantaged by poverty and marginalised by the development process. Control over the natural resources that sustain their lives remains largely out of their hands. As a new president takes office, women's groups are reiterating their call for women to have a greater voice at national and local level in the decision-making which affects them.


Focus on women

This edition of Down to Earth includes several articles related to women, land and natural resources, drawn from both Indonesian and international sources. They reveal positive attitudes to women's traditional roles in natural resources management (see Ngata Toro), but also some ambivalence (Halimun case study). They include examples of women challenging aspects of adat (custom) within indigenous society and organising to improve their position (Yosepha Alomang). They also include a reaffirmation of women's rights and calls for governments, corporations and financial institutions to respect those rights (mining conference).

In October this year, Indonesian NGOs organised an International Conference on Land and Resource Tenure. This included a panel of women speaking on the theme of women and tenurial rights (see www.landtenure.net). The panelists covered the areas of indigenous women and land rights; the impact of large-scale commercial plantation projects on women and land in Jambi, Sumatra; the effect of state laws and international policy on women's inheritance rights among ethnic Chinese Indonesians, and a study of women, land and commercial exploitation in the Halimun ecosystem of West Java - see (abridged translation).

Women and land tenure have been highlighted by Indonesian NGOs at a strategic time: March next year is Beijing+10, or the 49th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, where United Nations member governments will review progress towards their commitments made at the Fourth World Conference of Women in Beijing in 1995. The Beijing Declaration states that

Equal rights, opportunities and access to resources..are critical to the[..] well-being [of women] and that of their families as well as the consolidation of democracy...(para 15)


Eradication of poverty .... requires the involvement of women in economic and social development, equal opportunities and the full and equal participation of women and men as agents and beneficiaries of people-centred sustainable development (para 16).

As the situation for many women in Indonesia shows, there is a big gap between the goal of equal rights to resources and the reality. Women's disadvantaged position and the continuing destruction of natural resources also mean that Indonesia has a long way to go to meet the UN Millennium Goals of gender equality and environmental sustainability. Pushing for an equal role for women in decision-making over natural resources is one way that civil society - both in Indonesia and internationally - can work towards these interrelated goals.


Rural women dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods and daily needs suffer most from the negative impacts of development. Women living near large industrial projects like mines and oil or gas installations, suffer loss or damage to land and resources such as forests and water, while any compensation available is usually paid to men. Impacts of large-scale projects which require imported labour and/or security guards drawn from the police or military, often also include increased levels of sexual violence against women. Women in many rural communities perform the majority of farming activities, but, where land is under pressure from state or corporate exploitation, they often have even less control than men over the decision-making that affects their land and resources.


Ka-Pal Perempuan's view
According to the alternative women's educational NGO, KaPal Perempuan, in natural resources management, women are usually just involved as 'implementers' of decisions taken by men. They are not involved in planning, benefiting from or controlling development, although they always end up being the victims of development. Instead, women should also be involved in natural resource management at all stages. Women work harder than men too, says KaPal, citing statistics for Asia and Africa which show that women work around 13 hours per week longer than men. In Southeast Asia, women supply more than 90% of labour for rice-farming.

Women's representation is needed at local level, says KaPal's Yanti Muchtar, to question and negotiate natural resource management. "For example, if a Bupati [district head] wants an investor to come into the area, negotiations with the investor must also involve women's groups. If they don't, when the environment is destroyed, it will be the women who are affected. For instance, women suffer miscarriages because of water pollution; poverty too, where forests are cut down and women, who have no land rights, end up living in poverty in the cities".

There are three important reasons why natural resource management should be participative and take the perspective of gender-justice, according to KaPal. First, to ensure that all stakeholders, especially marginal and poor people (where women are in the majority), are involved in natural resources management. Claims of 'community participation' are invalid if women are not among those participating. Second, to tackle the problems associated with Indonesia's decentralisation programme which gives authority to local governments to manage natural resources and investment in natural resource exploitation. Decentralisation has led to the 'feminisation of poverty' (including the trafficking of women), and a decline in women's health, especially reproductive health*. Third, to strengthen women's organisations as an element of civil society in the struggle for social and gender justice.

KaPal provides alternative education that encourages critical thinking, as well as teaching low-income women to read.

"These are the women with the least access to education. They are the ones that need it most, and who have the potential to be agents of change," (Source: Jurnal Perempuan 26/Oct/04 via Kalyanamitra website www.kalyanamitra.or.id/; Jakarta Post 22/Apr/04. See also DTE 56 on the impacts of mining on women - cases from Indonesia).

* Maternal mortality in Indonesia remains the highest in Asia - at 307 deaths per 100,000 live births in the year 2000. The rates are highest in Papua (1,025 deaths), followed by Maluku (796) and West Java (686).

(Source: UNDP 2004 Human Development Report, 2004 - see box)


Indonesia's UNDP GDI

In its 2004 National Human Development Report for Indonesia, The United Nations Development Programme assesses the position of women in Indonesia by using a Gender-related Development Index (GDI). This measures differences between men and women in areas such as health, education and income. The report notes that under Indonesia's constitution, women and men have equal status, and that Indonesia has ratified the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It also states that Indonesian women face numerous social barriers, some more visible than others, in improving their position in relation to men.

Indonesia's GDI is measured at 59.2 and shows that women have a lower literacy rate, fewer years of schooling and a smaller share of the earned income - 38% is earned by women and 62% by men. Indonesia ranks 91 out of 144 countries for which a GDI has been calculated.

Women's lower status is reflected in education and work, where women train for and fulfil lower status jobs than men. This is also true of political life, where, during the Megawati period, there were only 45 women among 462 MPs.

(Source: National Human Development Report 2004, The Economics of Democracy Financing Human Development in Indonesia, BPS-Statistics Indonesia, BAPPENAS, UNDP.)


Conflict areas
In conflict areas women suffer the dual impacts of resource destruction and poverty compounded by violence, including sexual violence.

Komnas Perempuan, the National Commission on Violence Against Women, has conducted research on the condition of women in conflict areas - where women are subjected to sexual exploitation from security forces, both during and after conflicts. This exploitation is reinforced by a lack of legal protection for victims. Women experience long-term trauma as a result. According to Komnas Perempuan, the situation is worse in conflict areas that are also border areas, such as Papua and Nusa Tenggara Timur, where women must also confront border guards. The climate of violence causes a decline in women's health and also influences the level of domestic violence.

Cases of the horrific impact of conflict on women in Aceh have been documented in recent reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Tapol and Eye on Aceh.

NGO reports reveal that rape is systematically used by members of the Indonesian army and police against the families of GAM (Free Aceh Movement) suspects.

According to the Indonesia human rights campaign Tapol, the recent round of trials and sentencing includes 52 women from a total of 1,777 of detainees arrested on suspicion of being involved in GAM. The case of an 18 year-old Javanese woman from a transmigrant family, labelled commander of GAM's women's corps by the authorities and sentenced to 18 years, is an indication of how bad things in Aceh are for people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (see Tapol Bulletin 177, page 2).

Acehnese detainees include women married to GAM members, and women held as hostages for their husbands who are GAM suspects.

In West Papua numerous cases of violence committed by the security forces against indigenous women have been documented. A Yale University report on human rights violations in West Papua published in 2004 found that "the military's use of rape was targeted specifically and exclusively against indigenous Papuan women, was committed in public (sometimes by more than one soldier), against girls as well as women, and was sometimes accompanied by murder or mutilation or both."

Under these appalling conditions, it is not hard to imagine how poverty arising from the destruction of and lack of access to property, crops, forests and other natural resources in conflict areas weakens women's physical and mental health and their capacity to sustain themselves and their families.

(Source: Tapol Bulletin 177, Nov/04. Jurnal Perempuan 5/Oct/04 via Kalyanamitra website www.kalyanamitra.or.id. Tapol's report on Acehnese women prisoners includes information from the Indonesian language monthly, Acehkita, see also www.acehkita.comhrw.org/reports/2004/indonesia0904/www.amnesty.orgwww.acheh-eye.org. Indonesian Human Rights Abuses in West Papua: Application of the Law of Genocide to the History of Indonesian Control, Yale Law School, April 2004, www.law.yale.edu/outside/html/Public_Affairs/426/westpapuahrights.pdf)


Political representation under SBY
How will the new presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (known as SBY) change the situation for women in Indonesia? The new president has included four women in his 36-member cabinet - meaning that women now occupy 11% of ministerial or ministerial-equivalent positions. They are: Marie Pangestu (trade minister), Sri Mulyani Indrawati (national development planning minister), Siti Fadilah Supari (health minister) and Meuthia Hatta (women's empowerment minister).

Meuthia Hatta has said she will focus on tackling poverty by involving women in business, on women's labour rights and on the trafficking of women. She said discrimination against women was pervasive, including in the national parliament itself.

According to the Indonesian Women's Coalition (KPI), four women in the cabinet is not enough and shows that women suffer discrimination in their access to the political arena. A KPI statement said this discrimination was cause for concern, given that Indonesia ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1984 and had previously signed up to other anti-discriminatory international covenants. KPI also called on the government to wipe out all forms of discrimination against women in political life, to introduce gender-just policies and to allocate 20% of the budget for education as part of the new government's commitment to increase girls' participation in education. KPI also wants 15% of the state budget to go to health, to be channelled towards pregnant women and childbirth in remote areas, in order to tackle Indonesia's high maternal mortality rate. Five percent of all budgetary amounts should be allocated for empowering women and past cases of human rights violations against women should be addressed. Finally, says KPI, the government should end its cooperation with the IMF, World Bank, ADB and other International Financial Institutions which have a neoliberal agenda.

(Source: Jurnal Perempuan 22&23/Oct/04, via Kalyanamitra website www.kalyanamitra.or.id)