Papuan women talk about Papuan women at the West Papua Feminist Forum

Papuan Women
Participants in the West Papua Feminist Forum (WPFF) discussion while attending the Seminar and Launching of the West Papua Feminist Forum in Jayapura, which was held at a Hotel in Jayapura City Monday (28/11/2022) - Jubi/Hengky Yeimo

Jayapura, Jubi – West Papua Feminist Forum (WPFF) coordinator Ester Haluk said the existence of WPFF to discuss issues faced by Papuan women and transwomen, ranging from basic rights to refugee issues, is part of the spirit of the rise of the global women’s movement.

“Indeed, this movement has not yet occurred massively in Papua but it is gradually happening because of the increasing awareness of the reality of women. We hope that this organization can become a transformative organization in Papua to deal with Papuan problems,” she told Jubi when met at the launch event of the West Papua Feminist Forum in Jayapura on Monday, November 28, 2022.

Haluk said that women and transwomen around the world experience discrimination as well as in Papua. “Papua nation experience structural violence, massive exploitation of natural resources, destruction of nature, and marginalization of indigenous Papuans. This ignores basic rights and greatly impacts Papuan women,” she said.

Haluk said that even though the struggle for women had started in the 19th century, up until now, women’s rights issues had not received serious attention.

“Women’s realities are interrelated but chaotic like tangled threads. It needs patience and good intentions to start reflecting critically by looking at women’s realities more carefully,” she said.

In the process of change that occurs in society in Papua today, Papuan women are required to be responsive and quickly adapt to the pace of change.

“Papuan women today are required to be responsive and quickly adapt to the change but on the other hand, must maintain their identity as Papuan women. For this reason, a special space is needed for all Papuan women to meet together and share experiences, concerns, and dreams together,” she said.

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Meanwhile, secretary of the West Papua Feminist Forum Elvira Rumkabu said that as part of the community in the Pacific region, the flourishing women’s movement in the Pacific has a big impact on women in Papua.

“In order to build a collective feminist movement in the Pacific and in Papua in particular, we organize the West Papua Feminist Forum (WPFF). This forum is part of the 3rd Pacific Feminist Forum held in several Pacific countries with the support of the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the We Rise Coalition and the European Union in the Pacific-UN Spotlight Programme,” she said.

Rumbaku said that through the forum, it was hoped that women in Papua could map their problems and connect with the wider community, especially in the Pacific, to stand together to advocate for common issues in the Pacific region and strengthen the global network.

“We hope that we will produce critical and important thoughts to advocate for various issues and problems in Papua today,” he said.

Rumkabu said the West Papua Feminist Forum carries the theme of building a collective movement of Papuan feminism for decolonization.

“We conduct among others the following discussions: What is Feminism: Connecting the Disconnect in Global Feminism by Elvira Rumkabu; the Challenges of Women in the Environmental Movement by Rosita Tecuari from ORPA; Women and Politics (Access and Participation) by Frida Kelasin; Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights by Dessy Manggaprouw; Conditions and Challenges of Freedom of Expression of Papuan Women by Frederika Korain from Veritas Law Firm; Praxis of the Decolonization Movement: Searching for Papuan Feminist Social Movements” by I Ngurah Suryawan; as well as a friendship night titled “Celebrating Us”, which is a dinner with Papuan dress code and accessories,” she said.

Rumkabu said the purpose of the forum was to open a space for women in Papua to recognize their reality.

“To reflect, imagine, share and unite thoughts among Papuan women who come from various communities with different issues and ways of advocacy. To discuss what we can do together to overcome these problems,” she said.

Rumkabu said another goal was to unite women from various communities in Papua, talk about their rights, and dismantle the wrong mindset that has been holding women back.

“We hope that this forum will bring Papuan women to their realities and build a common understanding from various perspectives. It is a place for learning and sharing experiences and knowledge among Papuan women in all lines of society,” said Rumkabu.

She was optimistic that a network of cooperation with the feminism movement in the Pacific region and globally could be built so that the issue of Papua would not only become a local issue but could be advocated together at the regional level.

“From there, hopefully, we can produce recommendations in determining work programs for the future, build a common understanding of the role and rights of Papuan women, and consolidate individuals and groups that work on women’s issues in Papua,” he said.

Rumkabu added that speakers in the forum had been engaged in advocating various problems concerning women’s issues in their communities. ” Such as women and environmental issues, women in politics, sexual health and reproductive issues, freedom of expression, and decolonization,” she said. (*)

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