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The Aftermath of Investment and the Right to Life of Papuan Women

 The Aftermath of Investment and the Right to Life of Papuan Women

From the global context to the national and the local one, the question is still, where is the position of Papuan women?

Film presents many things. This so-called “passive activity” does not offer mere entertainment. Mostly, even, arousing various feelings.

Just like these two short films, Mama Kasmira Punya Mau and Mama Mariode. These cinematic products carry social messages inside and call on its audiences to think critically as well.

At least, it was felt and experienced by the members of the Joint Solidarity Community for International Women’s Day. Those are the institutional activists/NGOs, churches, and individuals having concern and support to the fulfillment of Papuan women’s rights.

They did not watch the show only to amuse themselves, instead to evoke the discussion held afterwards. And this community often holds a series of joint activities as a reflection to answer on to what extent the Papuan women’s rights have been heard and fulfilled by the State.

One of those took place in Waena, Heram, Jayapura, Papua, Saturday (Jan 26, 2019). Taking the momentum ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, these individuals exchanged ideas and information pertaining Papuan women’s rights.

he Women of Investment Victims

And those two short films truly became the discussion’s lighters which presented the theme on “The Women of Investment Victims.” And indeed the films really depicted that context.

The scene background is the area of ​​oil palm plantations where Papuan women serving as the figures. They were marginalized by a large investment instilled in their hometown, Keerom, Papua and Sorong, West Papua.

These women were directly affected. Their sources of livelihood were lost and if it existed, the location was too far to reach.

They could not do anything due to weak positioning and low capacity, or more precisely because they were weakened by the situation. They were weak for the limited access to the information they had.

It was hard for them to access the protection guarantee in living a life in their place that had been the location of oil palm plantation. Even they were “tricked” by the company offering “sweet dreams” in the initial meetings.

Yes, from the dawn of the company’s coming to Papua till they finally controlled the area, sweet promises had been offered. The company promised proper compensation for local residents to open up new land.

But the patriarchal circle that was strongly applied caused Papuan women only accepted the results agreed by their men serving as decision makers in the family and community.

Forest clearing was something that certainly disrupted people habits in the region. Because Keerom, as we know , is surrounded by forests and has become a sacred place to process food and other sources of life, including traditional medicines.

And now, most of it has been damaged and lost.

“During my work there, I saw that there was a habit change, in which women who usually gardened eventually worked as day laborers. They were interested in the payroll method gained in every two weeks, “said Magdalena, speaker of the discussion.

He further explained, it was very important to pay attention to the environmental sustainability because it was closely related to the sustainability of the community.

This situation caused “colateral damage” where school-age children preferred to work than to study. It could be “understood”, because they could easily obtain money through their roles as unskilled laborers.

In the end, the children preferred to work instead of continuing school.

Other issues regarding women of workers, according to Magdalena, was, no guarantee of work safety and the absence of exception of working women’s treatment.

The workers, on their way to work locations, were transported in trucks without distinguishing men and women. All are equated. Even if women of workers were with children, they were still treated equally.

Beside, the information regarding work contracts that were not understood by most workers, became another issue.

Of course, this condition was something that contributed to weakening indigenous people, especially women. The same situation also happened in the oil palm plantation area in the Sorong area.

Global and National Context

In addition to the local context, another speaker, Wirya, also mentioned the national and global context having relation to the vast investors’ expansion in Papua.

Talking about investment, he added, cannot be separated from the world geopolitical discourse carried out by the powerful countries. They keep tightening the ties with their allies and look at Indonesia as a country with abundance of natural resources.

These countries scramble to point the location for their market by making use the limitations of information access experienced by people living in the poor or developing countries as well as having consumptive behavior.

That is why, Papua and its abundance of natural resource potential, become the target.

Then a question arises, from global to national and to local context, where are the position of women?

As a group of individuals who are considered as a second sex, in this context, they are more vulnerable to marginalization and subordination. If they are not prepared to deal with this problem, it will harm them.

Challenges to Stage a Movement

Another question then arises: do those who have been awakened or enlightened not make an awareness movement?

Here is the challenge. Moving women’s issues is not an easy matter and often is colored by various obstacles, both internally and externally.

Internally, women’s issues have not been internalized in the work of environmental issues. Moreover, they are facing the lack of individuals and groups who are willing to advocate on women’s and environmental issues.

As a result, advocacy for victims, especially women of investment victims, is minimal.

Therefore, it is natural if there are no any data on the complaint handling on the impact of investment.

As for externally, several factors can be mentioned. Among other things: there is still a strong patriarchal culture in the indigenous communities; investment permission that do not obey to the relevant rules and the environmental sustainability; and women affected by investment who have no dare to report.

The Limited Expression Space

And finally, the film discussion ended with evaluation. Most of the focus of the discussion revolved around the environmental context and its problem. But few talked about how people can make changes.

The measures to organize people to join a movement is not a style of advocacy in Papua. It happens because, up to now, Papua still limits itself in providing space to express expression.

As a result, a movement is difficult to build, especially what is done openly and sustainably.

This is an obstacle for women in maintaining the right to life and other rights as a human being.

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Melania Pasifika
After graduating from the Faculty of Law at the University of Cenderawasih, Melania actively engaged in women’s issues, legal assistance for women victims, strengthening grassroots women’s capacities, and involved in writing reports on the situation of women in Papua, including getting involved in the formulation of policies for the protection and fulfillment of women’s rights. Currently, she works as an Assistant to the Ombudsman of the Republic of Indonesia in the Papua Province.

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