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Making Video for Change amidst Media Freedom attacks

Egbert Edited

Manila, Philippines: In 2010, the entire world was shaken by the gruesome massacre of 32 journalists and 26 civilians in Maguindanao by then-leading political clan Ampatuan. With 70 suspects still at-large, it is dubbed as the single deadliest event for journalists in history.

Under the current administration, journalists are continuously being harassed, assaulted and barred from coverage. The government has changed leadership since the Ampatuan Massacre, but the Philippines is still one of  the most dangerous countries for journalists and media workers in the world.

On May 3rd, 2019, in time for the World Press Freedom Day, EngageMedia and Active Vista International Human Rights Film Festival gathered filmmakers, media groups, and civil society organizations to underscore the importance of Video for Change locally and regionally.

Manila Launch

Video for Change refers to the use of video as an approach to support social movements, document rights violations, raise awareness and share new knowledge on social issues to contribute to social change

In the Philippines, alternative video groups like Kilab Multimedia & The Breakaway Media, continue to tell important and under-reported stories of the struggle of the lumads in Mindanao, despite the danger of militarization in the area. In July 2018, alternative media workers filming the violent dispersal of the picketline of striking contractual workers of the giant condiments factory NutriAsia in Marilao, Bulacan were arrested. Videos filmed during the violent dispersal were key to a national outrage against the plight of Nutri-Asia workers.

“Because of the increasing human rights violations and widespread media repression, not just in the Philippines, but in all over the Southeast Asian region, supporting the practice of Video for Change is more important now than ever,” shared King Catoy, EngageMedia’s Video Lead.

Video for Change Impact Toolkit

During the gathering, Egbert Wits, EngageMedia’s Project Manager, introduced the Video for Change Impact Toolkit. The Toolkit features the knowledge, expertise and best practices of seasoned Video for Change practitioners around the world. It emphasises the process of making a video as much as the product and explores the threats and opportunities facing social movements working in human and environmental rights.

Ilang Edited

“Video for Change practitioners, like all media workers, face security risks. We hope that this toolkit can help in mitigating these risks by providing frameworks in risk management.” added Wits.

The Impact Toolkit was earlier launched in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Jakarta, Indonesia.

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The Video for Change Impact Toolkit is here!

v4c Impact Toolkit - Filming

EngageMedia, in collaboration with the Video4Change network, announce the global launch of the Video for Change Impact Toolkit.

This ambitious project unites the knowledge, expertise and best practices of all the seasoned Video for Change practitioners in our network and beyond. The resulting Toolkit is something you can’t afford to miss — whether you are a practitioner wanting to create social issue videos, an experienced film-producer interested in different types of social change, or a human rights NGO looking to make impactful videos.

The Toolkit emphasises the process of making a video as much as the product and explores the threats and opportunities facing social movements working in human and environmental rights. This approach is different from the bulk of work in the impact field, which tends to focus on feature documentaries with large budgets, mostly operating in liberal democracies in the global north. While there is much to learn from this work, the political, cultural and economic contexts of many Video for Change projects, particularly those happening in the global South, mean that the underpinning theories and methodologies require significant adaptation and additions.

With the help of the Toolkit, you’ll learn how to safely and effectively make videos that engage and involve the videos’ subject(s) and affected communities. You’ll also learn strategies for maximising impacts during the outreach, engagement and distribution phase after your video is made. And, most importantly, you’ll learn how to evaluate the success, or otherwise, of your project.

The Impact Toolkit is designed to be modular, so you can start reading anywhere you feel is most relevant to you. You can also use the Toolkit as a reference guide, or put the methodologies into practice. It’s entirely up to you.

Either way, we are sure the ideas, references, resources and real-life examples shared throughout the Toolkit will strengthen the way you strategise, design and evaluate the impacts of your video initiative. Because that is what this Toolkit is all about: helping readers to safely and effectively use video to create more impact and garner greater social change, however big or small.

We look forward to hearing your stories and seeing your videos.

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AJAR’s Asian Video Stories

AJAR

How should societies in Asia respond to extrajudicial killings, military rule, violent extremism–among other mass atrocities–and the lack of accountability over these violations?

To guide responses across various contexts of mass violations, a group of civil society and transitional justice practitioners are building a larger and stronger of Asian experts through the Transitional Justice Asia Network (TJAN).

To guide responses in the many contexts of mass violations, a group of civil society and transitional justice practitioners are building a larger and stronger group of Asian experts from Transitional Justice Asia Network (TJAN). This regional hub aims to facilitate learning and knowledge-building on transitional justice and accountability initiatives across the region. TJAN member organisations include Asia Justice and Rights as network secretariat and KontraS Aceh (Indonesia), ND-Burma (Myanmar), Suriya Women’s Development Centre (Sri Lanka), Alternative Law Groups (Philippines) and the Cross Cultural Foundation (Thailand).

TJAN presents the “Transitional Justice in Asia Video Series”, consisting of six short videos on different aspects of transitional justice. Featuring and narrated by TJAN members who collectively have decades of experience as former commissioners and senior staff of Asian truth and reconciliation commissions, survivors, human rights defenders and academics, these videos can be used in training and advocacy.

Learn more about TJAN here.

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To learn more please click this link.

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In Focus: India’s techno-feminist collective

“Technology is the new frontier now. The Internet is the new battlefield, and so you’re not just merely a technologist now or a digital rights technologist. You are a human rights defender.”

These are the words of co-founder of The Bachchao Project: Chinmayi SK. The Bachchao Project is a techno-feminist collective based in India, following the principles of open source and open communities. They work with gender–women & LGBTQI–and tech groups to build bridges and build useful technology.

Chinmayi reiterates, “when we work with gender groups, we try to help build their knowledge to represent their needs and demands in different spaces.” They started doing digital rights work by looking at the needs of communities, as well as the tools and frameworks that exist. Slowly, they then provided members of these communities with materials and trainings relevant to their issues. She also shares, “we also helped make sure that spaces exist for conversations between gender rights advocates and techies (who built the technologies). Then we started seeing the need to work on policies. Although we don’t work heavily on policies, we do the research that is necessary to make informed consultations on policies.”

The Bachchao Project also writes frameworks that are necessary for technologists to support advocacy groups in building tools that are usable and useful in advancing human rights. Chinmayi added, “these groups also taught us a lot of things that helped us in our journey; and when we do our research, we always involve the communities we work with and work for.”

Recently, they conducted a study and looked at internet shutdowns from a gendered perspective, which they asserts should be considered in policy-making as women are proven to be affected differently.

“We don’t just look at technology in monochromatic lens where you just build apps and websites and just leave it there, we do want to do more work on questioning the technology and examine the reason why they were built. We want to explore alternative ways which actually work better than just building tech. We want to help shape tech and help shape the methodologies & the protocols,” Chinmayi concluded.

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The Making Of A Palm Oil Fiefdom

This expose on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis is the first instalment of Indonesia for Sale, an in-depth series on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis.

The series, a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, is the product of nine months’ reporting across Indonesia, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them.

We are featuring four interviews from the story “The making of a palm oil fiefdom”.

Darwan Ali

Beginning in 1999, Indonesia embarked on an ambitious programme of decentralisation, transferring a wide range of powers from Jakarta to local bureaucracies in the hope of both heading off separatist urges and making government more accountable. District heads, the bupatis, were granted the authority to enact their own regulations, provided they did not conflict with existing laws. They exercised this authority liberally.

During 2004-2005, the Seruyan district chief in Indonesian Borneo Darwan Ali issued 37 permits for large palm oil plantations, collectively covering an area of almost half-a-million hectares, more than 80 times the size of Manhattan.

Between December 2004 and May 2005, Darwan gave 16 of the companies permits for plantations. By the end of 2005, at least nine of them had been sold on to major palm oil firms for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It seems implausible that a series of interconnected people, in many cases family members, would concurrently form companies only to decide that they lacked the capacity to run them. The sole explanation is that they were set up to be sold, endowed with assets from Darwan.

Darwan Ali Companies

In 2006, Indonesia experienced one of the worst Forest burning seasons in memory, as smoke from fires across Sumatra and Kalimantan set off a carbon bomb and blanketed the region in haze visible from space. Deforestation and changes in land use — a euphemism for the advance of plantations — accounted for some 85 percent of Indonesia’s emissions.

In a 2007 documentary on the impact of palm oil in Seruyan, it was shown that how it adversely affected the local orang-utan population and their habitat making them almost extinct.

Here are interviews of some of the people who resisted this massive exploitation and corruption by Darwan Ali’s Family.

James Watt, Farmer

James Watt, a stoic farmer from the lakeside village of Bangkal, had bought into Darwan’s pledge to make the plantations work for the people before his land was taken by the Sinar Mas Group, an Indonesian conglomerate founded by the billionaire Widjaja family. “All we got was oppression,” James told us. “Clearing our land, dumping waste in our rivers. We never imagined it would be like this.” As the companies pushed forth, Darwan didn’t lift a finger. “It was always empty promises with him. I think he saw being bupati as his chance to make as much money as possible.”

Watch the interview of James Watt:

Budiardi

At the beginning of Darwan’s second term, a heavyset, outspoken man named Budiardi was elected to the district legislature with, as he described it, “a mandate to struggle for the people’s rights against the company.” Budiardi came from Hanau subdistrict, where the BEST Group had set up in the national park and in the villages around it. Yet he soon came to the view that it was futile to try to change the system from within. Darwan’s party dominated the parliament; the speaker was his nephew. “It was useless to oppose Darwan’s policies,” Budiardi told us. “The bupati controlled the parliament.”

Watch the interview of Budiardi:

Bambang Yantoko

Dragon Beard

Read the full story here.

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Women in Digital Rights Movements

Image Source: Body and Data

This year’s global theme, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change,” (promulgated by UN Women) calls for the involvement of the experiences and insights of women and girls in the development of technology. With the aim to close-in gender gaps, the campaign hopes to mobilise beyond initiatives that focus on women–it seeks to overturn institutions and narratives that dictate the status quo.

In the recent months, EngageMedia worked with women who are critical voices in the digital rights movement in Asia: Kyal Yi Lin Six, a documentary filmmaker who recently directed It’s Time to Talk; Shubha Kayastha of Body & Data, an organisation that focuses on intersection of gender, sexuality and digital technology in Nepal; and Chinmayi SK of The Bachchao Project, a community that tackles solutions to issues on gender and technology in India.

Watch It’s Time to Talk below:

Women’s Digital Rights in Nepal

“The Internet has become a big thing now in Nepal which wasn’t the case 3 years ago and so it’s important to look at these online issues from feminist & queer perspective, ” says Shubha, feminist activist in Nepal and co-founder of Body & Data.

According to Shubha, as internet penetration is increasing in Nepal, there’s a dire need to address issues that concern women, queer people, and marginalized people specially on access& freedom of expression online.

The Nepal government has been introducing new laws & policies around information & communications technologies which directly impacts Nepalis’ right to privacy & freedom of expression. As a feminist organisation, Body & Data focus on just access to technology and information, as well as control over resources. They also believe that individuals should have the autonomy to choose & decide what kind of information they want to access & what kind of medium they want to choose to express their opinion. Shubha reiterates, “while we’re talking about digital rights, we should not forget about individuals’ agency and autonomy over their own data, over their own body.”

Fighting for Women’s Digital Rights

In the absence of inclusive online infrastructure and policies for women and queer people, Kyal Yi, Shubha and Chinmayi have worked towards mobilising women and their communities to advocate for women’s rights online.

Envisioning a just and gender-equal society, EngageMedia reiterates its unwavering commitment in fighting for women’s rights online & offline.

Happy International Women’s Month!

Watch out for releases celebrating these women (among many others) in the coming days.

 

Read more: It’s Time to Talk

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Engaging South East Asian Film Festivals

From October to December of 2018, EngageMedia went to five Southeast Asian film festivals to share its learnings on social issue documentaries, impact distribution, digital security and Video for Change.

EngageMedia at FFFFilmmakers and activists who attended the Video for Change Discussion in the
2018 Freedom Film Festival Kuala Lumpur.

Freedom Film Festival – Mending the Gaps

First stop was the 2018 edition of Freedom Film Festival (FFF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last October. Now on its 15th year, FFF is the biggest human rights-oriented film festival in Southeast Asia. Highlighted this year were the Orang Asli or indigenous peoples of Malaysia; who in the past years have been battling the encroachment of big business in what remains of their ancestral domain. Film screenings, performances and various discussions depicting their situation were held throughout the film festival.

Melawan ArusMelawan Arus traces the undercurrents beneath the waves that swept
away the 61-year rule of the Barisan Nasional government in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, the closing film Melawan Arus by Arul Prakkash documented the power shift from The United Malays National Organisation to Parti Pribumi Bersatu as narrated by veteran Malaysian activists. The intense discussion during the open forum that followed after the screening reflected the overall feeling of Malaysians prevalent during the duration of the festival–that of desiring to push for as much change that is possible under the new political situation.

Here is an interview of Anna Har and Brenda Danker of the Freedom Film Network we published last year where they talked in details about the 2018 festival “Mending The Gaps”.

King at FFF 2018During a session with the Freedom Film Network, EngageMedia featured its advocacy in using Video for Change; particularly in its initiatives in West Papua and Papua region in Indonesia and through the Video4Change Network.

After the screening of Black Code, a documentary on the global impact of the internet on free speech, privacy and activism, EngageMedia co-facilitated a Digital Activism Workshop with WITNESS Asia. It explored online privacy and the right to expression, and how to best utilise video, mobile phones and technology for digital advocacy.

13th Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival

The Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival was founded in Yogyakarta in 2007. It is one of the initiatives of the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC), a worldwide organisation founded in 1990 to promote greater understanding and appreciation for Asian films and filmmakers. It has presented the prestigious NETPAC Award for Best Asian Film at 30 film festivals in various countries throughout the world, such as Berlin, Rotterdam, Warsaw, Moscow, Jeonju, Busan and Hawaii.

Egbert and Pitra
Egbert Wits, editor of the VideoforChange Impact Toolkit (left) and
EngageMedia Coordinator Pitra Hutomo (right)

EngageMedia was invited to the 13th Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival with “Disruption” as its central theme. During the festival, several special screenings, discussions, public lectures and educational sessions took place in various venues across Yogyakarta. On the 30th November, EngageMedia’s Pitra Hutomo and Egbert Wits organised a community forum on social impact and video for change for an audience of about 40 film-makers, activists and students. Read more about it here.

Active Vista International Human Rights Film Festival

Amidst Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, misogyny and attacks against his critics, the sixth of the Active Vista International Human Rights Film Festival was launched in Manila last 26 November 2018. This year’s theme, “Imagination”, sheds light on the real stories of human rights struggles despite the dark cloud of disinformation and hate dividing many Filipinos.

We’re holding a session on #Video4Change for #ActiveVista Film Workshop in QC, Philippines as part of #AVHRF2018 #AVFest2018 pic.twitter.com/CUc7GwIqoN
— EngageMedia (@EngageMedia) December 2, 2018

EngageMedia facilitated a Video for Change session in the Active Vista Film Workshop, a workshop series that integrates human rights and art advocacy into filmmaking. Attended by young and vibrant filmmakers from various backgrounds, the session was culminated by the collective realisation on the need for more impact distribution efforts of filmmakers, film producers and civil society in the Philippines.

29th Singapore International Film Festival

Fourth stop is the longest-running and largest film event in the Little Red Dot, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF). The festival was widely attended by international film critics who are on the lookout for local and regional talent, as well as emerging trends in Asian cinema. Parallel events like masterclasses, fora and panel discussions hosted by the most prominent personalities of Asian cinema provided opportunities for emerging filmmakers to expand their horizons and to see what is in demand in the sphere of contemporary film festivals.

Andrew at SGIFF
EngageMedia’s Executive Director Andrew Lowenthal

EngageMedia led a session entitled “Social Issue Documentary and Impact” in SGIFF Connects, a networking session where organisations can hold talks and preview new works. It was attended by an audience of different backgrounds including students, filmmakers and civil society.

SGIFF
An audience member during the open forum that followed after the discussion

It highlighted the idea of Impact Pathway; and the Values and Methods of Video for Change, two key concepts in the Impact Handbook which will soon be released by EngageMedia and Video4Change Network.

Past SGIFF Connects collaborators include Netflix and the Motion Picture Association of America.

Press Pause Luang Prabang

The Luang Prabang International Film Festival is emerging as one of the most significant film festivals in Southeast Asian; but, the organisers were not able to secure a permit from the Lao government last December 2018.Nevertheless, we attended PAUSE, a festival with film screenings, cultural exchanges, and more, which were freely accessible to the public.

Luang Prabang Night Market
Night Market in Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts of its well-preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage. Image via Wkimedia Commons by Ekrem Canli. CC BY-SA 4.0

If public screening of films like Edmund Yeo’s We the Dead and and Anucha Boonyawatana’s Malila: The Farewell Flower had pushed through, the projection would have been a beautiful complement to the unique architecture of the UNESCO Heritage Site of Luang Prabang.

Andrew at LLPF
EngageMedia’s Executive Director Andrew Lowenthal addressing the panel audience

EngageMedia’s Executive Director Andrew Lowenthal and Video4Change Coordinator King Catoy were two of the panel members of the Film and Social Change Discussion.

They had the opportunity to share their past learnings on the subject matter. King shared the experiences of alternative media groups in the Philippines in filming marginalised sectors; as well as these films’ impact on both online and offline discourses about the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines.

Andrew at LLPF
Audience members of the FIlm and Social Change Session

Andrew, for his part, reiterated the role of video in bringing positive change to affected communities facing discrimination, and other issues in the context of EngageMedia’s work.

Reflection

The last four film festivals written here took place within an exhilarating period of two weeks. We had the unique opportunity to see the most relevant films from the region, and even meet some of the filmmakers behind them. It was also an occasion to meet up and coming filmmakers looking for possible collaborators outside the commercial industry who are willing to share their cinematic vision.

King and Andrew with Southeast Asian film-makers in Luang Prabang

Lastly, it was a moment to meet the festival directors, visionaries who see films as not just another blockbuster hit or bust, but rather as artistic statements that reflect the good and the bad of contemporary Asian life and times. Tiring as the journey had been, EngageMedia would not miss a similar chance to do this again in the future.

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Yogyakarta’s documentary festival explores the experience of disability using VR

VR

On 9 December 2018, EngageMedia was invited to take part in “The Feelings of Reality”, an event organised by the Documentary Film Forum (FFD). FFD is a partner to the organisation’s Linking and Learning program, which aims to empower, influence and innovate through shared experiences, increased collaboration, exchange, innovation and creation and application of new knowledge.

During its annual Documentary Film Festival, FFD holds a screening session of films in Virtual Reality (VR). These films simulate daily environments from the perspective of people with disabilities, with the hope to increase awareness and attention to issues they face. Through the heightened experience provided by these VR documentaries, the project believes that for people outside the community, experiencing a different reality can be a starting point to provide insight in understanding their lives.

VR2

The session this year began with a film on children with disabilities who participated in the Special Olympics Indonesia (SOIna) in 2008. It was followed by a discussion facilitated by Rival Ahmad and Ardi Yunanto of ALTERAKSI. ALTERAKSI is a film screening program from BESIBERANI, an initiative that aims for social interference through film. FFD collaborates with ALTERAKSI to consolidate and enhance collaborations amongst observers, activists, journalists and organisations of people with disability.

The potential and achievements of people with disability were championed and acknowledged by the event and its audience. After the discussion, participants were invited to experience VR using a specialised googles, watching selected footage on access to people with disabilities’ access to public facilities in major cities in Indonesia.

VR3

“The Feelings of Reality” will proceed with research to map out problems on fighting for the rights of people with disability and eventually identify a path for advocacy. Subsequently, a film production, along with film-making workshops from mentors to teach how to produce VR documentary for selected young film-makers, will also take place.

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Accessible Ways to Measure Online Censorship

Measuring Online Censorship

Cases of Online Censorship in Southeast Asia

In 2017, a game called Fight of Gods was blocked by the Malaysian Communications Multimedia Commission (MCMC), as it is a “[t]hreat to the sanctity of religion and interracial harmony in the country”. Similarly, both Malaysian and Indonesian governments were found to be blocking FanFiction.Net, due to its contents’ homesexual and erotic nature.

Without announcements or justification from the government, it would be difficult to figure out if censorships are being done. We have seen numerous examples of governments’ campaigns against certain types of content that violate their laws and/or values. But how vulnerable is this power to censor content to abuse?

In 2017 as well, 161 websites was banned by the Indonesian government, which included sites that cater to the LGBT community, an independent news outlet based in the United States and a blog that features criticism for the current government. No news, no anything from the government. However, using one tool, Indonesians learned that their access is being controlled by the government.

While there are more sophisticated and time-consuming strategies to measure censorship, Tor Project, which is in the forefront of censorship circumvention and privacy-centric initiatives, developed a much simpler tool that can be used by anyone around the world: the Open Observance Network Interference (OONI) Probe. This very tool helped in realising and validating the censorship of 161 active websites in Indonesia.

OONI Raspberry Pi Probe

What is OONI

Formulated in 2012, OONI is a “free software [and] global observation network for detecting censorship, surveillance and traffic manipulation on the internet.” As freedom of speech and censorship on digital platforms are relatively new concepts, there are little to no tools that can measure blocking. Unlike traditional censorships in form of shutdowns, similar to the recently ended powering down of TV stations in Kenya, that can be immediately observed with the lack of aired shows and news on TV, journalists and advocates did not have any capacity or knowledge of a tool that would help in proving instances of online censorships in seemingly democratic countries. OONI ultimately aims to answer this.

What OONI Does

In order to do this, OONI runs the probe daily using a working test list of pertinent websites mainly identified by CitizenLab. Each country has its own working test list, which can be downloaded and updated by anyone who is interested. The probe tests censorship per internet subscription or network, as one website can be censored in one, and be completely accessible in another. This is extremely helpful in uncovering and analysing rationales behind every censorship, may it be to hinder the public to in receiving information or due to hidden corporate interests.

OONI Interface

OONI Probe Mobile App

In their desire to operate the probe holistically and involve a much wider set of stakeholders, OONI also developed a mobile app which is available both on Android and iOS devices, which is more accessible and easier to use for the common people. With the prominence of messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, the app can be easily used to see if a network blocks access to these apps. Moreover, like a bonus feature, the app also has the capacity to conduct a speedtest. These accessibility features resulted to more people using the app and contributing to the fight for freedom of speech and right to information.

EngageMedia and OONI

EngageMedia continues to explore how it can maximize existing initiatives like OONI to the strengthening of digital rights advocacy in the region. This year, EngageMedia sent a representative to attend a regional workshop on testing and collecting evidence of network interference organised by Sinar Project. This workshop participation led to a small-scale collaboration project of doing baseline probe testing & analysis in the Philippines. [Keep posted to the Link of the Report on the Testing].

Opportunities for Collaboration

OONI, as a platform, is a relatively young initiative and is not without faults. In fact, there were a few instances where evidences of censorship were false positives. It is still in continuous development and needs all the help it can get. Anyone who is willing to contribute to testing and/or finalising test lists can do so by contacting OONI directly at [email protected].

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Growing Ecological Perspective in Movements with WALHI Jatim

Gold mine

WALHI Jatim is the East Java regional executive of the biggest environmental movement in Indonesia. Founded in 1982, WALHI Jatim began as a pressure group fighting for rights of community groups and environmental awareness, consisting of non-government organisations and independent collectives within the province.

In July 2018, EngageMedia had the opportunity to join one of the movement’s initiative involving the residents of coastal village in Banyuwangi, a regency located at the easternmost tip of Java. Dubbed as “School of Ecology”, the initiative produces informal learning circles in villages and urban poor areas. These learning circles are also accessible in other pockets of settlements where there are environment and human rights crises; mostly due to development projects and pressure from the manufacture and extractive industry.

People who joined the School of Ecology at the time of EngageMedia’s involvement were villagers who rely mostly on the capacity of land and sea for farming, fisheries and beach tourism. There were also guest students from Laskar Hijau, a community-based organisation known for their resistance alongside farmers against destruction of forests by big companies. Laskar Hijau will host the next learning circles in their area, following the initial design of knowledge exchange among student-participants.

Moun T Pitu

Afandi, WALHI Jatim’s Head of Advocacy explained that the initiative stemmed from a criticism that the perspective of ecology is often overlooked in developing curriculum for victims of environment destruction and natural exploitation. Afandi said in front of the class:

We tend to focus on the anthropocentric impact which can mislead our movements to how much companies or government can compensate the victims. Enriching our perspective in ecology means that we as humans are part of the nature’s equilibrium. Even without companies and government destroying our natural surroundings, an individual already has the power to cause destruction with as simple as regular use of synthetic fertilizers.

The hosts for the current round of the learning circle are victims of a massive mineral exploitation in the coast of Banyuwangi, who were involved in the resistance of mining activities around Mount Tumpang Pitu. The mining company uses the Heap Leaching method to mine gold which poses a very high risk of damaging the environment, which includes the humans. The Heap Leaching method requires the use of cyanide.

The curriculum includes lessons and discussions on the residents’ previous practice in organising protests, training in statement writing, and identification of action steps when legal repercussions.

Previously student-participants were also introduced to basic skills especially for simple write-ups such as press release or protest statements.