Indonesia: The Women’s Struggle is Reborn in Wonosobo

On Sunday, July 9th, more than a hundred women met in Purwojiwo as part of the process of rebuilding SERUNI in Wonosobo. Women movement had previously been involved in the forest conflict that opposed the peasants to the government between 1999 and 2006. In 1999, the forest that surrounds Sapuran Village were declared part of the property from Ministry of Forestry – entering the forest, taking wood, and growing seeds became a crime. To defend their land and livelihoods, the women confronted along with the men, the police, and the military until they gained the right to access the forest. While Wonosobo has become an inspiration for other ongoing forest conflicts throughout Java and Indonesia, the movement of peasants and women slowed down. The recent events have reawakened the long living struggle.

For the First Congress of SERUNI on April 29th-31st 2017, Mbak Susianti, 17 years old, who also leads the youth organisation “Pedas” (Pemuda Desa – The Village Youth, which translates “Spicy” in English) was appointed responsible for the region of Central Java. The holidays created the occasion to bring together women who don’t often have the chance to meet. Together with Mbak Rama, part of SERUNI National Committee, and other young women, they organized a first event for Halal Bi Halal, on July 3rd, which gathered around 30 women. While the event was originally planned in an informal way, it created such enthusiasm that women decided to build SERUNI again. A second meeting was held this July 9th, with the objective of gathering a wider basis. For the occasion, Mbak Nur Syamsiyah, part of SERUNI National Committee, came to bring further support.

The meeting was organized around 6 points. It was led by Mbak Yanti, an ex-migrant worker, who was elected to preside this meeting. First, Ibu Mesiah recalled how SERUNI previously existed in Wonosobo, refreshing the memories and bringing them back to life. Then Mbak Susianti spoke about the Congress of SERUNI – to show how, what is being built today, here in Wonosobo, ties into a wider women’s movement that mobilized for the Congress 15 districts of Indonesia. The mic was then given to Mas Mahmud – formerly part of the student organisation FMN (Front Mahasiswa Nasional) and now head of AGRA Wonosobo, he has been living with the peasants of Wonosobo for about 4 months. He showed the support of AGRA for women’s organisation, which are always linked to a wider political and economic struggle over land. Fourth, Mbak Nur Syamsiyah, active in SERUNI since its very beginning in 2006, shared with Great Spirit the vision of SERUNI and the importance of women to self-organize on a local basis and through national coordination. Fifth, one of the local representatives promised to reopen to pre-school that had been closed for a year, to the great disappointment of the children and the women of Purwojiwo. Finally, a new board was elected to prepare the next meeting that will be held two weeks from now, on July 16th 2017.

The next step is to keep expanding the number of women involved in the reconstruction of SERUNI. A new program is also being built, with a list of ideas and people that can consolidate local economy, culture, and solidarities. The region is filled with creativity. Most of women produce tikar mendong, and cook an incredible number of snacks – with names and shapes inspired by the nature that surrounds them – out of their vegetables and fruits. There are also strong local traditions of dance and music. The women are now getting inspired by everything they already have, to see how it could be used to consolidate their ongoing movement.

Noted by : Kassia (mahasiswa S3 Perancis, mengambil riset tentang gerakan perempuan)

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