Be Organized! A way to promote gender equality

APRIL 28,2021

To understand the situation related to gender equality from the perspective of oil palm smallholders, the Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with the Sustainable Palm Oil Initiative (SPOI) – UNDP Indonesia and FORTASBI (Indonesian Independent Smallholders Forum), celebrated Kartini Day 2021 by holding a webinar discussing Gender Equality in Sustainable Palm Oil on Wednesday, 21 April 2021.

Kartini Day is a national commemoration of Indonesian historical figurine who was known for advocating women emancipation and equal rights to education.

Smallholders have strategic role in determining the Indonesian palm oil development, given that 40% of all oil palm plantations in Indonesia are managed by independent or plasma smallholders.

Hence, promoting gender equality in sustainable palm oil sector is certainly inseparable from the significant role of smallholders. Besides, gender is also a contextual concept. It is possible that gender equality approach that are perceived and implemented by smallholders can be different according to their respective local contexts.

Therefore, understanding gender equality from the smallholder’s perspective is important to ensure that gender equality approach in sustainable palm oil is not only through top-down policy interventions, but is also community-based and bottom-up.

The webinar, attended by 91 female participants and 119 male participants, was opened by Ita Munardini, Coordinator of Quality Standardization and Sustainable Plantation Business Development, Ministry of Agriculture, who also acts as the 1st Secretary of the Secretariat of the NAP SPO Implementing Team, representing the Director of Processing and Marketing of Plantation Products, Ministry of Agriculture.

Then, it was followed with a presentation from the Assistant Deputy for the Protection of Women Workers' Rights and the Crime of Trafficking in Persons, the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection (KPPPA), as well as the Head of the Office of Women Empowerment and Child Protection of North Sumatra Province.

An all-female panelists session panel discussion followed by presenting smallholders representatives from the Independent Smallholders Association of Oil Palm Farmers (APKSM) Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan (a member of FORTASBI), the Sawitku Masa Depanku Association (SAMADE) Simalungun, North Sumatra, and the Palm Oil Farmers Union (SPKS) Seruyan, Central Kalimantan.

In this session there were quite a lot of real conditions in the field related to gender inequality that were conveyed by the panelists. For example, Mrs. Eny Kartika from SPKS was once refused to attend a working meeting between a cooperative and a partner company, simply because she is a woman.

Or Mrs. Erliani from SAMADE, who said that there are still many female farmers who, because of their status only ‘helping’ their husbands, considered to be non-existent and their rights are neglected.

However, there is also good news as conveyed by Mrs. Berlian Sinaga from APKSM, that in APKSM itself currently women have filled strategic positions, namely as Document Controllers, Chair of the Gender Committee, and Chair of the K3 Unit. This shows the importance of the role of groups in promoting gender equality at the site level.

The same thing was also mentioned by Mr. Narno, Chair of the FORTASBI, during the response session. He explained how FORTASBI always encourages its members to implement gender mainstreaming.

"Organizations such as FORTASBI, SPKS, and SAMADE have the power to propose strengthening ISPO standards to the ISPO Committee, as well as the National Action Plan for Sustainable Palm Oil at the national and regional levels, in order to strengthen women's voices," said Herryadi, Executive Director of the Indonesian Ecolabelling Institute, who emphasized the importance of the role of the organization in promoting gender equality.

This webinar is expected to be a starting point for opening up more spaces for interaction and discussion for the oil palm smallholders to express their aspirations. This includes those related to gender equality, in order to create more sustainable and inclusive palm oil sector—both for male and female smallholders.


Written by: Danang Nizar