Episode 26: Kartini Kendeng: Indonesia’s Own Water Protectors

In this episode, we unpack the very recent (and still ongoing) Kendeng cement protest (whose female protestors were dubbed the ‘Kartini Kendeng’ by the media) that’s happening in Jakarta at the moment. Farmers from the mountainous region of Kendeng in Central Java have descended upon the nation’s capital in order to meet President Jokowi and ask him to stop cement companies — in particular the state-owned enterprise PT. Semen Indonesia — from continuing mining activities and building new factories in Kendeng. This case has been ongoing since as far back as 2014, when local authorities such as Ganjar Pranowo, the governor of Central Java, allowed PT. Semen Indonesia to start their cement activities in spite of farmer protests against the company’s presence. We discuss the intricate details of the protest, including how the feet-cement protest is done (encasing one’s feet inside a block of pure cement for days on end) and what these brave farmers are fighting for.

We share some soundbites from when both Stephanie and a regular of the podcast, Kate Walton, were at the protest site, talking with organizers and protestors. In discussing this topic, we also found out about a not-very-well-known section of Indonesian activist history, which is that of the Samin community & movement — an environmentally conscious, anti-colonialist, and anti-capitalist movement started during Dutch colonial rule but continues to find resonance in today’s modern age. Finally, we reflect on how important it is that we, as citizens of this beautiful and diverse land called Indonesia, do not forget our responsibilities to the earth and the environment; for once we gamble the health of our mountains, jungles, forests, lakes, and everything in between — all in the name of economic growth — then we will not only lose the very essence of what makes us Indonesian, but also lose our homeland for many generations to come.

Thanks for listening!
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For those interested in learning more about the topic, we’ve provided links to resources as well as other recommended readings.
Choosing Cement over Citizens — an editorial courtesy of the Jakarta Post about the Kendeng protest
Coverage of the First Cement Protest — the Kartini Kendeng makes their first appearance to much media attention
The Death of Ibu Patmi — the unfortunate passing of one of the protestors, Ibu Patmi of the village Pati
Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia — the latest news on the protest via the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation’s Facebook page
The Kartinis of Kendeng: using motherhood as a form of resistance — courtesy of the University of Melbourne
“Dirty Cement: The Case of Indonesia” — investigating the struggle of farmers against the cement industry
Samin vs. Semen — a documentary about the Samin community’s fight against cement companies
Auriga — an Indonesian NGO committed conserving Indonesian natural resources & the environment