Women’s Empowerment

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Parents, the world over, want better lives for their children, and Yulia is no exception.  Yulia is 29 years old and she hasn’t completed primary school. Yulia had to drop out because her parents couldn’t afford the fees, the uniform, the books, or the travel.  She was married aged 15, to a husband 10 years older than her and had her first of three children aged 17.  She earns money working as an agricultural labourer, for which she earns 12,000Rps per day, just over a dollar.  Yulia hopes that she will be able to keep her own children in school at least until the end of secondary level and longer, if they want to.  But life on under $2 a day is no guarantee of this.

Yulia’s family gains an income from farming vegetables in Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, Indonesia.  The area they farm was once government land, but in 2004 a Presidential decree increased the boundary of the National Park to include the land farmed by Yulia’s family and 159 others.  Whilst this move by the government represents a very serious threat to the livelihoods of a large number of already very poor people, it was not taken without reason.  Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park protects a watershed that supplies water to the major cities of Jakarta, Bogor and Sukabumi and forms protection against flooding in these already flood prone areas.  Not only that, but the National Park is one of the best remaining Javan montane forests, home to endangered species like the Javan Hawk Eagle, the Silvery Gibbon and the Javan Leopard.  Whilst posing a threat to Yulia and other families like hers, this decree protects many more people from the devastating effects of rapid urbanisation and climate change.

To compound Yulia’s problems she also happens to be a woman.  Being a woman is the reason that she is paid 40% less than a man who does the same job.  Being a woman is the reason she is solely responsible for ensuring the house is clean, no one goes hungry, everyone has clean clothes and her children grow up healthy.  These responsibilities mean she gets up at 4am in the morning, 2 hours before her husband.   These responsibilities are the reason she is not invited to community meetings.

This year Green Initiative Foundation began working with women like Yulia to provide her with the skills needed to gain a better paid livelihood away from agriculture and the damaging effect it has had on the National Park.   Sarongge is currently full of women learning new skills; making soap, essential oils, brooches and farming organic strawberries, as well as the financial and business skills required to turn these activities into something profitable.   There’ll be other knock-on effects too:  these women will be able to contribute not only a better income, but good financial knowledge to their families, which most of their husbands, brothers or fathers have not been taught.  This is a chance for women in Sarongge to show their families, the community and the world what they can do beyond their household responsibilities.  It’s a chance to prove that a woman’s place is not just in the home.  For Yulia, we hope this will result in more confidence, greater respect, being more involved in important decisions and realising the future she wants for her children.

We’ll be keeping you updated on our Women’s empowerment project in Sarongge and if you are interested in buying any products from our women’s groups please contact Emma on e.piper09@gmail.com or like our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/GreenInitiativeFoundation

So, what do you think ?