Women : the agent of resilience
On that very sweltering day, Tumirah and the other women were busily cooking at their store-combined production kitchen at the temporarily shelter compound of Jumoyo, Magelang, Central Java. Contrast to the heat and sweat, their faces were smiling happily. Some people came affront buying some plastic-packed sweet potatoes chips produced by Tumirah and her friends. Every day they process 50-70 kgs sweet potatoes into different types of chips, pack and sell them to passing by buyers or at market stores.
The women productive groups established in Jumoyo were named after Berkah Merapi and “Lahar” or Lava, thing which changed not only their village but also their lives. When Merapi volcano erupted in October 2010, most of people in Gempol, Jumoyo did not think that its lava would reach their village which was more than 20 km from the volcano. But it did brought hundreds millions of volcano’s material consist of giant stones and thick sand sitting up in the upstream of several rivers from Merapi. When the rainy season continued to January 2011, the volcano materials came down with the torrential rain water which turned this cold lahar into a disastrous flood. The fast running lahar with tons of giant stones was hitting traditional market of Jumoyo, crossing over the asphalt main road connecting Yogyakarta and Central Java Provinces and destroying Gempol village inhabited by around 118 families. According to Government report, the Merapi eruption and cold lahar flood impacted17.090 people in Central Java and Yogyakarta, brought economic loss of Rp 4,23 trillion
Tumirah, previously earned money by opening up small food stall in nearby gas station, did not witness how this cold lava flood destroyed her home. She was warned to be prepared yet she was not aware that the scale of flood could be very severe. So when she went to market in the evening , her home was swept by the lahar overflowing from the river Kali Putih, 300 meters from her home. Her small savings, kept in a bamboo stalk at home were also swept away. This was the entire proceeds of her food stall. The method was a typical way of saving for rural families for generations, as they are not used to or do not really trust banking system to keep their money. She was awake the whole night in the temporary shelter thinking about her swept house and her tiny saving. When dawn rises, she rushed to her origin village and looked for her former house. She was glad to see from distance that the bamboo stalk was not broken and in fact she found the money inside was not destroyed by water as she kept it in plastic. “It was not much, maybe Rp 750,000 (USD 75) but it meant a lot to me as I saved the small profit I gained from selling food on daily basis. I can help my husband with the income as I can give my kids money for their schools, buying books or pocket money for meals and transportation,” she explained.
What Tumirah does is actually a common picture how women functions in time of disasters as well as when there is no disaster. They are not seen as bread winner but actually their contribution is significant to their family and their society. Not only in term of micro economic activities, but women played significant roles in society as health cadres, members of disaster task forces and being involved in discussing the relocation plan. As like what Tumirah did the other day, sitting in the village discussion to decide what she wanted to do if they were asked to relocate their lives as their village is considered as hazardous area and needs to be emptied. “I am concerned to hear that Government was angry to hear our determination to remain in this Dusun. But I think we don’t do something bad. As you see we only want to recover our live and we know our live can be sustained here.” She affirmed that they still need to work further on having more resilient livelihood. “I realized that it was dangerous to keep the money in bamboo stalk. As advised by YEU, we also need to think on how we sustain our livelihood activities with Berkah Merapi as we want our business keeps going. We need to maintain the quality of our chips production whilst maintaining the prices reasonable, but you know the prices went up especially in this time of Ramadhan.”
Tumirah, Mimin, Uswatun are other examples in our history on how women should not be seen as vulnerable group in disaster affected areas. Their resilience contributes to the disaster recovery and needs to be endorsed and supported.
(Sunday, June 24, 2012/ARS)