Mother Earth Defenders
On the Growth of an Agrarian Feminist Movement in Yogyakarta Special Region, Indonesia
In the afternoon on August 25, 2016, inside a bamboo hut that function as a library and living space of a couple who live in the middle of Parangkusumo sand dune area, a little village girl introduced herself in halting but confident English.
“Hi, my name is Natali. You can call me Natali. I live in Grogol 7.”
An English class on self-introduction took place. Other kids waited for their turns to introduce themselves. They are Bella (7), Sinda (9), Prasetyo (12), Jumadi (11), Yohan (10), Endi (12) and Bagas (12). Diligently assisted by a volunteer, they learn every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday in Sanggar Belajar Kuncup Melati Mandiri (Kuncup Melati Mandiri Learning Space) or SKMM in Parangkusumo, Bantul District, Yogyakarta Special Region. Not only English, they also learn science, social science, and art skills. These activities are carried out as a voluntary work and are free of charge. Most of the kids who live there witness the night life of Parangkusumo: smoking, scent of alcohol, drunk fights, loud dangdut music, police raid, sex workers, and violence against female escort (karaoke and sex workers). Those are a part of their daily experience. With the learning space initiative, at least they’re interrupted three times a week.
Even though SKMM was formed in early August 2016 by some woman activists of Paguyuban Kuncup Melati Mandiri (PKMM), the learning activities have already taken place since April 2016, along with the financial cooperative initiative for vulnerable group in Parangkusumo. Vulnerable group is the financially poor families with approximately Rp 1.500.000/month income on average, consisting of plastic waste scavengers, pandan leaves collectors for craft raw material, small-scale merchants, smallholder farmers, massage therapists, and former sex workers.
They also live side by side with shrimp pond business owned by military officers with approximately Rp 400.000.000 of monthly income (provided that the price remains stable at Rp 80.000/kg and average harvest is 20 tons/hectare), nightlife business (karaoke) with average income of Rp 90.000.000/month from the alcoholic beverage sales, female escort service, and hidden prostitution. The vulnerable group, the military business, and the nightlife businesses are all in the same area which is established as the core zone of Sand Dune Conservation Area (141,65 hectares) by the government favoring tourism investment plan featuring ATV (all-terrain vehicle), sand boarding and aero plane area. Therefore, the area should be cleared of settlement buildings, farming activities and constructions, and vegetations, starting from September 1, 2016.
Significant discrimination of this case is that the military business and karaoke business can still operate with a relocation plan or by converting to other forms of business, while the vulnerable group is not able to do such things due to their financial condition. They have to start all over from zero. Even without eviction threat, these kids and poor families have already been deprived of their space and chances to grow in good surroundings. Previous eviction experiences have left trauma for these kids, as experienced by Wahyu (16) who experienced eviction in 2007, and the September’s eviction plan will be the 4th experience for his family. That is why PKMM initiated an economy cooperative collective and learning space for kids.
PKMM is a women group in Parangkusumo responding to land grabbing and eviction threat from the government. Mrs. Kawit, Mrs. Erik, and Mrs. Sutinah are some of the group’s activists and initiators. They have a long history as agrarian activists and they diligently build solidarity with other groups that face similar situation, especially maintaining networks with other women activists or groups such as Persatuan Perempuan Anti Penindasan (PPAP) in Kulonprogo, which is a part of a bigger organization, Wahana Tri Tunggal (WTT) fighting against New Yogyakarta International Airport (NYIA); Kartini Kendheng in Rembang, Central Java that actively fight against cement factory project planned to eradicate around 100 water springs in Kendheng Mountain; Paguyuban Petani Lahan Pasir (PPLP) in Kulonprogo that has survived for more than 10 years from iron mining plan; Paguyuban Kawula Pesisir Mataram (PKPM) in Watukodok, Gunung Kidul striving for their land and beach ecology from hotel developments; and Paguyuban Warga Karangwuni Tolak Apartemen Utara (PWKTAU) in Sleman fighting for their living space and against the water crisis resulting from hotel and apartment developments. You can watch these amazing women’s profiles on http://selamatkanbumi.com/id/seri-perempuan-istimewa-yogyakarta/.
In 2010, Mrs. Sutinah, taking part as a field coordinator, led a mass action resisting the eviction plan in Parangkusumo. The theatrical mass action succeeded in withholding the eviction plan for 6 years. In 2011 and 2012, she was involved and actively participating on the establishment of Forum Komunikasi Masyarakat Agraris (FKMA) which consists of 15 communities facing land conflicts in Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi. In 2015, Mrs. Kawit was selected by delegations from several communities in Yogyakarta to become the coordinator of Aliansi Keutuhan Republik Indonesia (AKRI) that also fights on agrarian conflicts.
In mid October 2016, the third eviction notice was given by the government, asserting the settlers to dismantle their houses or the government would tear them down by force; which is planned in November 2016 after the shrimp pond harvest. One house that will be gone is the Sanggar Belajar Kuncup Melati Mandiri learning space, the sanctuary house for the next generation. Meanwhile, shrimp ponds and karaoke businesses will be safe, because they are moved to outside of the sand dune core zone.
Eco-feminism traces the origin of oppression against nature and its relation with the oppression against women. The enlightenment (Aufklarung) era contributed negative impacts on human working relations (subject) towards nature (object), and relations of man towards woman (subordinate). The enlightenment era has specifically become the oppression era against nature and women.
Three fundamental conceptions on oppression are; hierarchy, dualism, and domination logic applied in developmental concept and practice. As a result, development creates a community with high risk of economic, social, cultural, gender and environmental crisis.
Like mothers, women’s movements have their own way and characteristic on defending living space, source of living, and life continuity. They are beaten down and rise up, fighting against patriarchal culture worshipping power and perpetuating domination, exploitation, expropriation and oppression.
“Without mothers, there will be no future generation. Women are the wombs of life, no different from Mother Earth and land” said Mrs. Kawit closing her oration in a cultural event to fight New Yogyakarta International Airport plan held by PPAP and WTT Kulonprogo on July 14, 2016. (Kus Sri & Mita).