Empowering Women in Indonesian Palm Oil Plantations through ICT

Empowering Women in Indonesian Palm Oil Plantations through ICT

Indonesia is a leading global oil palm producer, contributing over 58% of the supply. Despite its economic significance, the expansion of oil palm plantations faces challenges, particularly regarding gender issues. Women in this sector endure heavy workloads, health risks, gender-insensitive equipment, and potential violence. As violence against women remains prevalent in Indonesia, there is an urgent need to address these issues and promote gender equality in and around oil palm plantations.

To address the challenges faced by women in the industry, researchers at Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) developed the application, namely RUMAH SAWIT. It is an integrated platform for community engagement, communication, education, and health, supported by an information technology system. It serves as a digital-based information centre with consultation and reporting mechanisms for violence against women in palm oil plantations. Coupled with media literacy initiatives, RUMAH SAWIT aims to raise awareness among women about violence and harassment risks, empowering them to report incidents safely and access resources for help effectively.

I conducted a study on RUMAH SAWIT that identified different employment statuses among women in the palm oil sector, including daily casual labourers, company employees, family camp residents, and self-employed farmers. Educational attainment, age, and household characteristics varied among these women. 

Those with permanent employee status enjoyed more favourable conditions, such as benefits, equal wages, and protection against discrimination. In contrast, daily casual labourers and women in family camps face more significant vulnerabilities and discrimination, with limited access to protective equipment and lower wages.

Television remained the primary source of information for women in the plantations, while internet access varied among research locations. Smartphone ownership was prevalent among women in Central Kalimantan and North Sumatra, facilitating internet access. However, digital literacy levels among women was relatively low due to socioeconomic factors. 

RUMAH SAWIT aims to address this by providing digital literacy training and mentorship through local internet opinion leaders.

It acts as a collaborative hub, facilitating engagement between palm farmers and stakeholders to protect women’s rights. It fosters dialogue and social learning, raising critical awareness for women in the plantations. The application is a hub for reporting incidents, with the RUMAH SAWIT team coordinating follow-ups and communication with relevant parties to address reported issues.

The app also represents an innovative digital solution to address women’s violence and inequality in Indonesian palm oil plantations. By promoting gender equality, enhancing digital literacy, and providing a platform for reporting incidents, RUMAH SAWIT empowers women and contributes to a safer and more equitable society.

Article contributed by Asri Sulistiawati, Lecturer at Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia.

Cover photo from Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA).

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