INDONESIA: If you ask the Indonesian public who has made the biggest difference for Indonesian fishers, one name will keep coming up: Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s minister of fisheries and maritime affairs. A colourful self-made entrepreneur, Susi has gained a reputation as a maverick and a bold reformer through her policies, including cracking down on illegal foreign fishing.
But the focus on Susi neglects another group who have also made a lot of difference to the lives of Indonesian fishers: women in fishing and coastal communities. In my recent visits to fishing villages in Central Java and North Sumatra, I found that women in these communities have played a crucial role in advocating for fishers’ and women’s rights. They have improved the lives of many in their communities. This achievement is particularly commendable given the government’s lack of attention to issues affecting women in fishing communities and enduring patriarchal values in Indonesian society at large.
Indeed, women’s contributions to fishing communities often go unnoticed. According to a 2015 study conducted by Kiara, a fishers’ rights advocacy group, women contribute close to half (48 per cent) of income in fishing households across Indonesia. They also work long hours – 17 hours per day, both in fishing activities and at home. This was true for the women I interviewed – they had a major role in processing and selling fish products as well as in handling domestic chores. But as Kiara head Susan Herawati notes, “women’s work is often not recognised as real work”.
Despite facing a double burden of fishing and domestic work, women in fishing communities get involved in activism and policy advocacy in a variety of ways, including building community-led organisations and enterprises and promoting women’s rights.
Source: Indonesia at Melbourne/The University of Melbourne