The Jakarta Post
Nine female protestors from Mount Kendeng in Rembang regency, Central Java, cemented their feet in the aim of not only to protest against cement plant developments in their hometown but also to remind younger generations to respect nature.
The women protested in front of the State Palace on Wednesday, following their first protest on Tuesday demanding to meet with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to voice their frustration against the development of cement plants by state-owned PT Semen Indonesia that would harm the environment and threaten their livelihood as farmers.
“We want to give a message for the younger generation, to show that nature is not only seen as a source of wealth, but also something that has to be preserved ,” said Sukinah, one of the protesters participating in Wednesday’s rally.
They had cemented their feet since Tuesday, where to move around they had the help of other residents.
The nine women came from Kendeng's mountainous area, including Rembang, Pati and Grobogan, where the plants would be built. Besides Sukinah, the protestors include Supini, Murtini, Surani, Kiyem, Ngadinah, Karsupi, Deni and Rimabarwati. The women are often dubbed the "Kartinis of Kendeng", referring to the national heroine praised for her fight for women's rights.
Mt. Kendeng Society Network (JMPPK) coordinator Joko Prianto said the idea of cementing the feet came from the women to represent how they had been "shackled" by cement.
The protest in Rembang began on June 16, 2014, when PT Semen Indonesia started the construction of its plant located on the Watuputih groundwater basin area.
Around 50 female farmers had protested against the firm demanding to halt the construction as it would impact water resources and, therefore directly impact their livelihoods. Local farmers, since, have staged a series of rallies, including camping in front of the said plant.
Potentially, 51 million liters of waters could be lost because of the plant's construction, according to data from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi). Moreover, a 2011 Rembang regional regulation on spatial planning also categorized the Watuputih groundwater basin as a geological area, which has to be preserved, Joko said.
"These women will keep fighting until they can bring justice for the people and the environment of their hometown," he said.
Meanwhile, other cement firms such as PT Sahabat Mulia Sakti, a subsidiary of the big cement company PT Indocement, PT Vanda Prima Listri and PT Imasco Tambang had also announced plans to build cement plants in Pati, Grobogan and Blora, according to Joko.
In November 2015, Semarang State Administrative Court (PTUN) had annulled the cement plant construction in Pati as it violated the regional regulation on spatial planning. However, other development plans are still in process.
The cement protest was not a reckless act by the women, explained Alexandra Herlina, a Surabaya-based doctor who accompanied the protestors.
The farmers had performed a simulation before going to Jakarta. The protestors also wore plastic casts on their feet to prevent irritation from the direct contact between the skin and cement. Alexandra had recommended the protestors only cement their feet for a maximum of three days or they would suffer lumps on their feet.
Presidential Chief of Staff Teten Masduki told the representatives of the protestors that President Jokowi had acknowledged the protest and wanted to meet with them.
However, because of the President's busy schedule, no date for the meeting has been set, Teten said on Wednesday. (vps/rin)
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