Land, Love and Surrender: Experiences of Women’s Movement in Indonesia









by; Ade Indriani Zuchri

Chairman of Sarekat Hijau Indonesia (Indonesia Green Union)

The forest is a mystery, a mystery that will run through your body when enter it. Sometimes the mystery follows your life, so the forest becomes absolutely exotic to you. Covering its body with a mystery that not everyone can solve. But when you give your life to the forest, it will be willing to protect you no matter how bad and miserable its condition. Because it is love, its love for all of you and for life.

We never thought before if one day forest would be disappeared? We just believed in the fact that forest is a pleasent home for us, it gives happiness because of its ability to provide what we need. As women in patriarchal conditions, where we have to working a dozen hours in a day, meeting the forest is our happiness, we easily grasp everything we want, as vegetables, seeds, water, wood and and of course a happiness.

For advanced societies who think people living with the forest are not progressing, must be immediately saved, as progress measured and seen from the attainment of modern and advanced values is a confusing definition for us. Because nature and forest have provided completely what people need, why we still have to pursue progress? Then finally the nightmare came, one by one grabbing our happiness, the happiness of our parents, our grandchildren, and the joy of the dream of a longer life. In fact, they can not be said to be advanced, they eat very much, live with extravagance, spend more energy even waste much water. For the consequences, we as villagers and of course our forests have to bear it.

Life becomes so unfair after that, we who have bothered to guard our earth, guard our nature, keep our forests, water and our lands, have to sacrifice for people who can not hold their lust, we must willingly controlled by a small minority of people in this world who can enter and go into our forest without any respect.

Our struggle is not easy, we face many difficulties. As women of limited knowledge, some of us are not even in school. We must be able to defeat the dictatorship of pride and arrogance of extractive industries and large estates to leave our land. If forest is so horrible that we can not afford to go inside, moreover take too much from the forest. Then what is the most appropriate term for greedy humans who cut our forests without any left for the sake of the economy? It is still not able to describe the pain and suffering of our hearts. The surviving and dependent women, on the goodness of God and Nature, we have understood every blast of wind, the meaning of leaf friction at night, we know the meaning of being hurt, we deeply understand the meaning of love . We pray all day long for God to extend the sustainability of nature, so our descendants and descendants can go to school well, can eat and live happily. We never pray for destruction, let alone destroy the earth.

After many big corporates were coming, our daughters were missing one by one from school, not because they were stupid, but we could not afford to send them study at school anymore. We chose to marry them, we married off our daughters for being poor. It hurts when we are called as a poor, because we are not poor from the beginning, it is because the industries which entered the village are destroying our forest. We also have to let our sons and husbands go to town to survive, because our land is forcibly taken by the big plantation. We become the breadwinner, now all of our hopes become the burden and responsibility of women, we lose the joy of being women, as human.

What have we done to take back our dreams of the beauty of forest, river, village? We repeatedly suffering the pain of husbands and sons forcibly taken away and since then we have not met again, what we have to do for having a freedom to sit and sow the rice in our land? We fight with what we can, go to the plantation, go to the police, come to parliament, go to the presidential palace, but we still lose, we start to despair.

We began to get tired, some began to give up, went one by one leaving our beloved forests, choosing their own destiny, if any survive, it is because we still hold hope, until finally we recognized that struggle becomes hope, that is what finally makes we fight back.

In each of our prayers and struggles, we give the best prayers to our organization that always stand beside us to defend us. Will not the sadness be reduced if you have someone to lean your shoulders and hand your tears to the ground ? The organization becomes the most beautiful home for us, every pain will be accumulated in hope, even though we don not know either how long the suffering will be replaced happily.

In our organization, we learn to empathize with the suffering of our fellow women, we try to listen more wisely about the pain of them. We name each of our love to female friends, not many women who dare to be in the line of struggle, with all the minimum facilities they have right now. But that is love, the tragedy of losing the land has brought us love for others, we will fight for our children in the future. Indonesia Green Union teaches that we are not alone, we are in the shelter of hope, we are safe in the big home which is solidarity, compassion, and respect for others in it. We still have to fight, may still be long but this torture has taught us to keep working, hoping, praying and learning that life is not for ourselves, but life is for life.

(Collected on the experiences of Indonesia Green Union Women who advocate for natural resources in Indonesia)