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Preparing for a new reality – Indonesian fisherwomen adapt to the effects of climate change

Local fisherwomen in East Java sell fishery products at their new cooperative.

Ambassador of Canada to Indonesia, Peter MacArthur, meets with local fisherwomen in East Java.

Ambassador MacArthur witnesses the WALHI project in action.

In East Java, a region bursting with fishing communities due its vast and vibrant coastline, fisherwomen face adversity. Javanese communities in Indonesia remain highly patriarchal, with entrenched gender norms.

These gender norms are present at the family level and institutional level with local governments refusing to recognize the profession of fisherwomen.

Despite this, fisherwomen continue to practice their vocation and thrive in their communities. Today, these women face yet another challenge, one that could threaten their livelihoods and possibly their lives – climate change.

Natural disasters and rising sea levels pose a continuous threat to the over 250 million people who call Indonesia home.

Preparing for climate change

With an aim to help communities adapt to the effects of climate change, the Embassy of Canada in Indonesia partnered with the State Islamic University of Surabaya and WALHI, Indonesia’s largest and oldest environmental advocacy non-governmental organization (NGO) on a project to benefit Indonesian fishing communities.

The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) project provided training to 76 fisherwomen and 64 fishermen with workshops on disaster risk reduction and climate change, cooperatives, and alternative income sources.

Ensuring that the needs and views of fishing communities are considered and improving communication between local communities and their government agencies was also addressed.

Discussions with local government representatives provided the communities with meaningful opportunities to flag some of their issues and concerns, such as marine waste and the inability of fisherwomen to get fishing identification cards like their male counterparts. 

Over 600 community participants attended community consultations, needs assessments, and action planning meetings.

Discussion at the public forums prompted the community members’ decision to form a new fishers’ cooperative. The new KSU Bahari 64 Cooperative will focus on savings and loans, the sale of fishing equipment and marine products, and sea-based tourism.

Engaging fisherwomen

While the WALHI project includes fishermen more broadly into activities, it retains a clear focus on the economic empowerment of women.

Gender equality and the inclusion of women in local decision making processes require ongoing persistence. The focus group discussions examined local policies for coastal areas and gender issues.

Canada has adopted a Feminist International Assistance Policy to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.  This CFLI project has benefitted over 500 community members including 150 women and girls. 

The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) provides funding for small projects developed and implemented primarily by local organizations in developing countries around the world. Projects focus on: gender equality; the empowerment of women and girls; democratic governance; climate change and environmental sustainability, and security and stability. By responding directly to local needs, these modest contributions create a big impact in communities abroad.

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