GPOCP Goes to Germany

By Mariamah Achmad, GPOCP Environmental Education Manager
I just had the experience of a lifetime! For the past two decades I have been an activist on behalf of the environment and women’s rights and was thrilled to be invited to attend the People’s Climate Summit in Germany. FAMM Indonesia (the Young Indonesian Youth Activist Forum) and JASS Southeast Asia – organizations working to strengthen the capacity of and empower young women activists – were kind enough to financially support my eventful journey. The process started with an interview and a week later I found out I would soon be on my way to Frankfurt, Bonn, and Bruehl, Germany! It took a lot of coordination to obtain the visas and legal documents in such a short period of time, but I will be forever grateful for this opportunity.
Mariamah (right) participating in the Climate March in Bonn, Germany. Photo credit Survival Media.
These environmental events took place November 3-10, 2017. The first day started with the Pacific Climate Warriors, a Fiji based organization working to bring awareness about the effects of climate change. The Pacific Islands have been heavily impacted by rising sea levels and temperature changes. Thus, this organization had strong motivational words for the world to hear: We are not drowning, we are fighting! The second day was the 23rd Conference of Parties March (COP23) whose thematic focus was bringing awareness about coal mining and climate justice. Over 350 organizations from around the world were represented in the march! On the third day, we visited a fossil fuel mine that has dug up 4,000 hectares of land, 450 meters deep! It was as though the earth had been scraped clean for all she is worth. The expanse of this devastation was hard to look at, much less put into words.
Mariamah visiting one of the largest open pit mines in the world in Germany. Photo credit Zephanie Repollo.
The next few days, I attended a variety of workshops about climate, food, energy, justice, and women’s rights. Here I was able to speak about the challenges we face in Indonesia and how we can fight climate change as a world movement, as well as ensure women’s rights. I spoke about how traditionally women would forage for fruits and vegetables in the forest, fish the local rivers, and care for their families. Now, many of these forests have been replaced by oil palm plantations and mines, or have been illegally logged. These changes have altered the land and polluted the water, affecting both humans and animals. These women can no longer gather the food to feed their families. In order for Indonesian women to purchase produce and other goods, they must now work outside of the home, sometimes leaving their children with a neighbor or with little to no adult supervision. Because of the chemicals being used on these industrial plantations, the water is no longer clean enough to drink and causes severe skin reactions when used to bathe. These drastic land changes have strained families economically, socially, and culturally, and have compromised their health.
Mariamah giving a talk about the land changes throughout Indonesia and its impact on livelihoods. Photo credit Zephanie Repollo.
I was able to share GPOCP’s success stories, including our environmental education program, where we reach over 5,000 students per year teaching them the importance of a healthy environment. I also discussed our work with the local community to legally protect 7,500 hectares of forest, which prevents large scale agriculture firms from encroaching onto this land. These protected forests also serve to safeguard the community through natural environmental services, such as carbon sequestration and water filtration.
These ten days in Germany flew by, but it was such an honor to represent GPOCP, women of Indonesia and to march alongside climate activists from around the globe. I would sincerely like to thank FAMM Indonesia, JASS, and GPOCP for their motivation, support, and believing in me. I have made friends with like-minded people from around the globe and have a renewed sense of hope for the world in which we live.
Mariamah participating in the People’s Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany. Photo credit Survival Media.