Saving the environment, as they say, starts in the home, and for some women even a small contribution can make a difference. Ima, a 41-year-old working mother, for instance, has always taught her young children not to leave the faucet running or lights on around the house. “Most of the time, I am very, very strict with my kids about saving water and saving electricity — not only to control expenses, but I want them to be grateful and appreciate what they have and others don’t,” she said. “This is also my way of introducing lessons about nature and the environment to my kids, because you can’t really expect them to grasp the idea of saving the environment through sophisticated scientific jargon.” Simple things, Ima said, not only contributed to present conservation efforts but also to ensuring the planet’s preservation for future generations. “I believe that what we’re trying to do in our homes will eventually have an effect on saving the earth, no matter how little our actions are,” she said. This week, as the country marks Earth Day today and Kartini Day on Wednesday, in honor of Indonesia’s first women’s rights advocate, environmental activists have been highlighting the crucial role women play in protecting Mother Earth. Rotua Valentina Sagala, a campaigner for both women’s rights and the environment, said women were often undervalued when it came to environmental issues. “Women’s role in protecting the environment is very significant, for the fact that, in Indonesia, lots of women are still living in rural areas where they are more in touch with nature. They usually also have more enthusiasm for environment-related issues, such as reforestation,” she said. Women in rural areas, said Valentina, who is the founder of the Women’s Institute Foundation, were rich in local wisdom that placed women in the nurturing role of keeping the balance between human beings and nature. “One of women’s special abilities is to detect early problems. Women have more sense for prevention rather than cure,” she said. “ But this has never been noticed by the government, even on an international level.” Puspa Dewi, from the Women’s Solidarity organization, said women’s environmental roles had been marginalized in society, particularly in rural areas. “Women-specific roles have been disappearing with advances in technology, especially for rural women, where one of their specific tasks was to sort and choose seeds,” she said. “Their job was replaced by tools that are mostly operated by men, such as tractors.” Puspa said the government’s preoccupation with quantified data meant that it had failed to address the growing gender inequality in society. “For instance, the government only looks at how much land or agriculture has been changed into sites for mining, causing women to lose their jobs or, additionally, maybe leaving them to face abuse from their husbands because they are stressed from losing their jobs as farmers,” she said. “This is not to mention health issues because of these changes. These are the indicators and results of environmental destruction, but this is never taken into account,” she added, saying that many women still faced difficulties speaking up on these issues. Puspa said gender sensitivity was needed at the policy-making level. “It means that all of our policies should also need to measure how it impacts on women’s roles and their livelihood sources,” she said. “We are not talking about having a 50-50 share on places in government anymore.” Meanwhile, Valentina criticized the State Ministry for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection for failing to promote women’s interests in environmental issues. “There was a movement by Ani Yudhoyono to plant one million trees, but unfortunately it just turned out to be a ceremonial activity,” she said, referring to the first lady. “Women’s issues, instead, should have been integrated into strategic environmental planning, starting from the planning stage to implementation, until evaluation. Women should even be involved in discussions at the international level. “Through gender mainstreaming in this process, we will only then know where women stand in these areas.” Valentina said the government should be more proactive in recruiting women to help solve lingering development problems, including environmental issues. “On the domestic front, there was a presidential instruction in 2000 to promote gender mainstreaming in national development, which should be used to reinforce women’s involvement in environmental issues,” she said. But she added that women’s roles should not be differentiated between domestic and global interests. “What those women do in their homes, starting with saving electricity or water, is actually to save this planet. There’s a strong connection between so-called domestic chores and global interests,” she said. “But again, leaders and politicians fail to acknowledge these simple actions on climate change that are mostly done by women, while they continue to pronounce loudly that saving the earth should start in the home.” Source: Jakarta Globe
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