When Women are in Charge: Building More Resilient Communities Two Steps at a Time

Most of the members of the CCA DRR Forum in Gajahrejo Village are housewives. The community has a traditional well in the backyard of their home to collect water.

About two hours from Malang City in Gajahrejo Village, Malang District, East Java; women who are members of the Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Forum are constantly striving for better lives despite facing the impact of climate change close to their homes. In 2015 an unusually long dry season which lasted for seven months made their lives far from easy with many wells drying up. “We had to queue to get water from the local ‘mata air’ spring. For those who can afford it, they buy water from water traders and it costs IDR 50,000 for water that only last for three days. I even sold my cow in order to cover the cost”, said Suyati, a housewife who is also a member of the village CCA DRR Forum.

Moreover, the drought also made it more difficult for pregnant women. The Head of CCA DRR Forum in Gajahrejo Village who also serves as the village midwife, Ning Risa Novelani said, “Even for pregnant women, when there was drought and lack of water at home, they had to queue to get water from the source. It was very long queue, sometimes people have to wait in line until 2 or 3 AM in the morning.” She also added lack of water may cause an issue for pregnant women during labor.

One time, there was no more water at my house. I was worried what would happen if a woman went into labor that day. Fortunately, the Indonesian Red Cross came at the right time to distribute water and my gut feeling was right… At night, there was a woman who gave birth. Can you imagine if at that time I did not have enough water?

Through the Resilience Fund scheme, USAID Adaptasi Perubahan Iklim dan Ketangguhan (APIK) partners with PATTIRO to increase the capacity of people in rural communities to able to integrate CCA DRR into their village development plan and government work plan. Working in six villages across Malang District, one of the strategies is to establish a forum in each village. It is critical to involve women in the process of establishing the CCA DRR forum. When women have access to decision-making processes at the village level, it really helps to empower them and provide the most effective and best solution to the problems that they face.

Novelani stated that being a Head of CCA DRR forum in her village is really useful and also helps her work as a midwife, “As a midwife, I have to observe and know what happens in the village. Through this forum, it is very helpful so I can be the first to know if there is any disaster happening and then I can locate and inform pregnant women in the area as soon as possible.” Furthermore, being the head of the forum also enables her to submit initiatives related to women for inclusion in the village work plan and budget. She said that, “Previously I only know a little about extreme weather from what I heard and read in the news, but now I learned a lot and understand more through this forum.”

In January 2017, PATTIRO will organize training on rainwater harvesting in several villages to prepare village communities when they have to face another long dry season. Novelani is more than excited to learn and practice her new knowledge firsthand. “I did not know that we can actually harvest rainwater, and then if treated properly use it as drinking water”, she mentioned. USAID APIK believes that women are the key to build more resilient communities. Novelani along with other women who also members of CCA DRR forum in six villages in Malang District are the living proof that saving lives two steps at a time is not impossible.