Written By: Syaharani
Edited By: Anna Mohan, Associate Editor
Climate change is one of the most significant global
challenges of the twenty-first century.
Though climate change will affect and impact every circle of society, it will disproportionately impact vulnerable groups, including women. This condition is shaped by pervasive and entrenched gender inequality that is yet to be addressed by our communities, something that will be only worsened through the changing climate. Gender inequality has caused women to live in poverty at greater rates than men, resulting in them having less access to basic needs and human rights. Gender inequality also caused women to face systemic violence that often escalates in periods of instability or crisis.
As climate change impact worsens and makes our world even more dangerous, catastrophic storms, prolonged drought, and heatwaves that are destroying lives, homes, and businesses, women face greater health and safety risks as water and sanitation systems become compromised. Since existing inequalities force them to have limited access to resources and decision making, an increase in domestic and care work is expected as resources dwindle.
Women in many developing countries, like Indonesia, suffer gender inequalities in regards to their political and economic status, land ownership, housing conditions, exposure to violence, education, and health. Climate change will be an added stress which is likely to aggravate women's vulnerability. It is widely known that during periods of conflict, women face heightened domestic violence, sexual intimidation, human trafficking, and rape.
Climate change deepens inequalities and threatens women's rights and overall life outcomes. Women all over the world are facing the destruction of their livelihoods and grappling with the exploitation of natural resources. They are calling for a fight against the patriarchal powers which continue to exploit resources and destroy the environment.
In Indonesia, women leading the climate protests demand that significant action be taken against the climate crisis in addition to a call for women’s involvement in climate mitigation, adaptation plans and decision making. Indonesia's climate target is highly insufficient; it will lead the planet – warming up to 3-4 degrees celsius. The climate protests held every month in Indonesia are organised and led by women as they are calling for the public to fight against climate change.
These protests prevail, even in conditions where protesters have to face barriers including police repressiveness and security threats. Earlier this year in October, protests against new labour law turned violent. Students and climate activists argued that the law weakens labour laws and will cause great harm to the environment. Through protesting on the street, we hope to demand and influence the government and related stakeholders' decisions on climate action and urge them to advance towards a more ambitious plan. These protests led by women are also shown as a form of solidarity for the vulnerable and affected groups, especially women in rural areas and indigenous communities who are severely affected by climate change, resource exploitation, and injustices who fight for their land rights, rights to a healthy and adequate environment as well as their rights to life against the government and big companies.
We demand the government to declare a climate emergency.
We demand the related stakeholders to act.
We demand an adequate gender action plan in climate mitigation and adaptation plans.
We demand a bigger number of women representatives in decision making related to climate.
We also demand a just regulation that stops exploitation and causing harm to the people, hampering women's ability to survive.
The protest started with small numbers of people, limited to big cities in Indonesia such as Jakarta and Bandung. A year after our first climate protest in Indonesia, the numbers of protesters showing up has only increased.
Women, through protest and solidarity, are transforming the community by embracing sustainability and demanding actions. Other than the climate protest, many women also take part in leading Indonesia's climate action. One of the notable figures in climate protest is Salsabila, a youth leading 'Jaga Rimba' that fights against deforestation and harmful exploitation in Indonesian forests. Salsabilla goes for a strike every Friday in front of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry demanding a stop to deforestation. Another one is Farwiza Farhan, who encourages and educates the local community, especially women in Aceh, Indonesia to preserve their ecosystem and forest. Women are also leading various public-private initiatives, such as Gita Syahrani, who is leading a collaboration forum for local government to practice sustainability. Women are leading the change to sustainability in Indonesia not only through protest but also through fieldwork, programmes and unique initiatives.
While climate change may disproportionately affect women, it has also led them to seize the levers of power in a moment of profound precarity and rewrite society's rules when the current systems of power and economy no longer seem reliable.
Women shouldn't be seen as victims of climate change per se but as active and effective agents and promoters of sustainability.
The protest and initiative led by women in Indonesia is a living example of how empowering women can drive the country forward to an even more sustainable change. They prove that women can be an agent to empower change in our communities, improving their knowledge and skill and raise people's voice and demand for livable earth and future, free from the climate crisis.
*All images courtesy of Jeda Untuk Iklim at https://id.globalclimatestrike.net/