Double advantage: To be effective, Indigenous peoples’ movement must give women a greater role

Rukka Sombolinggi

Even within Indigenous peoples’ movements, Indigenous women sometimes still struggle to make their voices heard.

When I got married my husband, Mansur Labada, forbade me to make money. I was pregnant with our third child in August 1998 when he was jailed for leading the resistance against the expulsion of the Moronene people - our people - from The Rawa Appa Watumohai National Park in Southeast Sulawesi, an Indonesian island east of Borneo.

Mursid Habu, a teacher planted nutmeg in their customary territory. Nutmeg is a symbol of resistance by Indigenous peoples in Banemo against oil palm plantations.

Once a week, I took my two small children to visit Mansur in jail. We brought him food and clean clothes. The prison was hundreds of kilometres from our home. The journey there would take a day and sometimes we had to stay overnight. Mansur had previously received a salary and rice allowance as a civil servant. When he was jailed, this was stopped by the government . My extended family was harassed by government officials and told not to help us. Heavily pregnant and helpless, I had to be the mother and father of my young children. I knew I had to do something to earn money, so, one evening, I decided to make bread and ice cream. The next morning I looked for milk fish seeds, and made a hut of twigs and coconut leaves for my children to shelter while I sold my produce. More than a year later, Mansur was released from prison, but we remained entirely reliant on my earnings. Even when he eventually returned to work, I chose to continue contributing to our family income. I am currently working with other Indigenous women. We started a small business and share the profit equally, with an agreed part donated to our community, so that other families will not find themselves helpless in an already vulnerable situation.

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