The struggle of West Papuan women remains to be an interesting topic in Indonesia’s History. They have been fighting to defend the community’s dignity and the land from colonization. In addition, there have existed various records of Papuan women developing the community’s traditional agriculture, ethnic dresses and clothing, regional products, and roles of Papuan women in the family while managing the household.
We cannot move on to the next section without mentioning the Papuan Women’s Movement. This movement targets an equal opportunity for native women to contribute and participate in a male-dominated society. Similar to women’s struggle in general, on some occasions, Papuan women receive systematic oppression in workplaces. Their basic rights are being marginalized due to the unfair perception of women who do not have the right ability and capacity to earn and provide for their families.
Although their situation is getting better by the day, this concerning matter still needs immediate attention. Now, let us take a look at several narratives of West Papuan women from the past to the present time.
Narratives of the Struggle of West Papuan Women
Protecting the Customary Area
Native women from the Merdey District, Teluk Bintuni Regency, West Papua have been fighting to protect their customary forest area. There are 17 clans in the area in which the women are defending the forests from companies that received permits to cut and extract timber. The people are worried that the disturbance from this activity could become a potential natural disaster like floods and a loss of natural biodiversity.
Yustina Ogoney, as the Head of the Merdey District, has been facilitating the community to discuss the matter. They talked about the boundaries of customary territories and acknowledged each other’s territory and customary oaths. Also, she encourages women to take part in leadership. Together, they fight for the government’s recognition of their customary forest areas.
True Story of Perempuan Tanah
Perempuan Tanah is a short film that illustrates the struggle of West Papuan women in general. The film tells a story about a married woman who is willing to sacrifice her time for the sake of her children’s future. Despite the domestic violence happening in her household, she continued to earn money by making traditional food made of Sago.
There are a lot of short films or documentaries that depict the common Papuan Women’s struggle. They mainly represent the hardships faced by the native women because of the unfair treatment they received from their husbands and society. The film creators want the outside world to know and understand the true struggle of Papuan women through the deliverance of this marital and cultural issue.
Papuan Women in the Region Politics
Women’s participation is still minimal in West Papua. The issue of gender equality has been constructed by the region’s social, cultural, and political systems which clearly draw the line between men’s and women’s roles and positions in society, thus creating this inequality today.
To answer this issue, the government has made a policy to ease this matter. Women should take the 30% seat in parliament as the representative. Yet, the implementation still has not reached the required number. However, many political policies have provided more space for women to fight for the community’s interest. This is possible because society is changing over time. Many new values and movements have boosted this kind of change.
We cannot turn a blind eye to the struggle of West Papuan women. Since long ago, they have been fighting to defend their basic human rights and equal opportunity for jobs. Equality can only be achieved through a collaborative effort between the local people, local government, and national government.