Srikandi Lestari Foundation: Live, share and eat together to organise in communities; train the members on their rights

Sometimes, politicians only engage with communities when they are seeking their votes during an election year. Otherwise, local communities are often neglected and ignored by governments. That’s why Srikandi Lestari Foundation’s community organising is so important.

Srikandi, a revered heroine in Indonesia’s ancient Javanese mythology, is generally referred to as a female warrior fighting for justice. Srikandi has become a symbol of bravery and gender equality, thanks to her wisdom and nobility. Srikandi Lestari Indonesia is an environment care organisation that is managed by some women from various professions who care about environmental issues. Led by women with decades of experience in providing grassroots assistance and organising to marginalised women and children, they go into communities in Indonesia themselves. “We live with them. We talk with them, we listen to them, and we organise together. We live together, we cry together, we eat together: we share the burdens of life together to build relationships so we can advocate for their rights and share skills with them so they can become self-reliant.” The community organisers invest time, energy, and their emotions into being part of the community they want to help organise and advocate for.

“We live with them. We talk with them, we listen to them, and we organise together. We live together, we cry together, we eat together: we share the burdens of life together to build relationships so we can advocate for their rights and share skills with them so they can become self-reliant.” The community organisers invest time, energy, and their emotions into being part of the community they want to help organise and advocate for.

Dewi and Mimi will explore and give the critical ingredients for organising the Community. When communities work together, the possibilities for positive change are endless. When people are organised, communities get heard, and power begins to shift, creating real change for good.

“We live with them. We talk with them, we listen to them, and we organise together. We live together, we cry together, we eat together: we share the burdens of life together to build relationships so we can advocate for their rights and share skills with them so they can become self-reliant.” The community organisers invest time, energy, and their emotions into being part of the community they want to help organise and advocate for.

What makes a good community organiser?

Community organising is the work of bringing people together to take action around their common concerns and overcome social injustice. Community organisers reach out, listen, connect, and motivate people to build their collective power. Good advocates are the ones who can ensure that the people that they are supporting can be independent, and can have the ability and capacity to take care of their village or community and their area. Community organising isn’t meant to last forever, as the ultimate goal is for communities to become self-reliant.

This doesn’t mean that the relationships between the community and Srikandi Lestari end when the organisers leave the community, however.

“So even though they come self-reliant, they do not need us anymore, then we will be there to ensure that the rights are fulfilled. We will be there as their friends and we will try to find one or two people of the community who become something like ‘community champions’, champions who can share with other communities to ensure that learnings, knowledge and their self reliance can be replicated and can be used as examples in other communities. So this is what we do to strengthen the community members so they can also empower others to fulfil their rights.”

People learn from other people whenever they have similar issues, so Srikandi Lestari connects activists in different communities so they can learn from other people having similar issues and replicate what they have done.

Training on rights for the communities is essential

Srikandi’s main focus is engaging and empowering women to speak out and be at the forefront of change. Throughout the years, they have seen the village women getting involved and becoming more confident in expressing their views and community concerns

“Communities and their members are mostly only seen as objects when the government are seeking their support during the political year or the general election. But when it comes to the fulfilment of the rights of the community members that government is not there. That’s why we are there. We try to empower them to fulfil their rights by training the communities we work in on their rights. It’s astonishing how many citizens are unaware of their rights and the country’s constitutions. When most communities know what their rights are, they are willing to act and fight for their rights. We treat our communities like a subject instead of objects. We focus on people’s needs. If communities need training on natural resources on corruption, we make sure to get the right people to run the training.”

Summary: Srikandi Lestari Overall Toplist of learnings for community organising

  • Community organising isn’t meant to last forever, as the ultimate goal is for communities to become self-reliant
  • Create a safe learning space separate from all other spaces (with their established power dynamics)
  • Raise awareness for the importance among the families. To join community organising, family is very much needed to support you to take the opportunity.
  • Provide legal support, train them on their rights
  • Expand their network
  • Find and support community champions to take the knowledge forward

Deep Dive: Obtaining the social forestry licence to restore mangrove forest

This is an example of a village that we supported in terms of advocacy and assistance about the contraction of a number of areas. The mangrove areas were converted into palm oil plantation areas, there was a land conversion and coastal resources were greatly affected. Then we built a community to ensure that the group can manage the coastal area limb to ensure the sustainability and make it sustainable again. So we were working hard to ensure that the group received the social forestry licence. And, at the end the group obtained the social forestry licence and then they rehabilitated the damaged coastal forests in their area within the licence and they restored the mangrove forests in the coastal areas. The communities fishermen who previously left the area, could return to this village because now they have sufficient resources they can fish with sufficient supply of fish in their area due to the restoration of mangrove forests in that coastal area. And when these community members have self reliance, we reduce the intensity of our advocacy and assistance. So we reduced our intensity of our advocacy and assistance and we moved to another village which we considered requiring or needing our advocacy or assistance.

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