Maurits Pardosi, Parapat – The Women 20 (W20) Summit held at Toba Lake in North Sumatra on July 20 has been greeted by demonstrations and sharp criticisms from rural women activists.
During the action, a number of women activists unfurled a huge banner in the middle of Lake Toba with the message, "North Sumatra Women Against Deforestation".
While the action was taking place, the women activists also criticised the presence of the companies PT Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL) and PT Dairi Prima Mineral (DPM) which they say have damaged the environment and brought suffering to local communities.
From the boat on Lake Toba, the women activists displayed a number of bright-yellow banners criticising the summit.
“This action is a way to convey our aspirations that the W20 Summit meeting which prioritises issues of gender equality and discrimination, economic inclusiveness, marginal women and healthcare, should also reflect what is happening in the forests of North Sumatra and its vicinity", said Greenpeace Indonesia forestry spokesperson Sekar Banjaran Aji on Wednesday July 20.
Aji said that many customary and rural women have lost their livelihoods because of the destruction of forests and the environment by groups of people or companies.
"Customary women in the land of North Sumatra and almost all regions in Indonesia have long been the victims of structural inequality and exploitative development which does not pay attention to the aspect of gender", said Aji.
"A number of development programs have given rise to social conflicts and the destruction of the environment which then disregards, and even violates women's rights", said Aji.
Aji said that customary and rural women's groups, particularly in North Sumatra, are most vulnerable to the loss of their livelihoods as a consequence of the destruction of forests and land theft. "They also suffer violence in agrarian conflict areas", said Aji.
A similar view was conveyed by Social Initiatives Development and Study Group (KSPPM) advocacy study division coordinator Rocky Pasaribu.
Pasaribu said that the handover of a forestry title by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to the traditional communities in the Lake Toba area in early February has yet to address to the social problems in the area.
"There are still many agrarian conflicts which are yet to be resolved seriously. In the name of development, land theft continues to occur", asserted Pasaribu.
He said that the presence of PT Toba Pulp Lestari has had had a big influence on the lives of local Lake Toba communities.
"Aside from stealing customary land, the damage to forests and environment has not been dealt with seriously. The land theft carried out as a consequence of PT TPL's presence is creating structural poverty which has been happening for more than three decades and has made a huge contribution to worsening women's quality of life", he added.
Pasaribu asserted that the presence of two big companies like PT Toba Pulp Lestari and PT Dairi Prima Mineral has long deprived rural women in the Lake Toba area of their rights and destroyed the forests they use to make incense.
"The environmental destruction which has occurred has caused a climate crisis which makes it difficult for farmers to determine the planting seasons. The farmers also often suffer from failed harvests as a consequence of bad weather which can't be predicted", he said.
"In mid-2020 a new threat arrived in concert with the start of a large-scale food project or food estate. The project, which is touted as a food resilience program to deal with a food crisis in the future, has instead wiped out women's culture, experience and knowledge of local agricultural methods", he said.
Pasaribu said they must now base themselves on a market system which is determined by the government and big corporations.
"This project is the same thing as earlier agricultural projects, it will only give rise to new conflicts, the industrialisation of food which marginalises communities, and the monopolisation of agricultural land by schemes which only appear good on the surface", he said.
Pasaribu emphasised that member countries of the G20, which represents the main world economic forum, and collectively represents three quarters or around 65 percent of the world's population, 79 percent of global trade, and at least 85 percent of the world's economy, are in a strategic position to ensure environmental sustainability and to deal with the climate crisis.
"Indonesia as the holder of the G20 presidency must ensure that there is a more ambitious agreement that must be reached to prioritise a model of economic development which is sustainable, by shifting to renewable energy which is equitable, and ending economic policies and development based on land which promotes deforestation, taking away the rights of traditional communities and farmers, and only benefiting a handful of the elite", he said in conclusion. (cr3/tribun-medan.com)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Spanduk Raksasa Dibentang di Danau Toba saat W20, Aktivis Perempuan Kritisi Deforestasi Hutan".]