Women have taken the lead in a grassroots campaign to save the Kendeng karst mountains in Central Java from environmental destruction brought upon by a new cement factory in Indonesia.
The Kendeng karst region is characterised by underground caves and springs. It is the main water source for farming communities living in the surrounding area.
A study from Centre for Disaster Management at private university UPN Veteran Yogyakarta found underground water sources in the area where the cement factory will mine. The local population received information of the construction of a new cement factory plant in Rembang, Central Java in Jun 2014, just before the event to place the first stone for the plant. After receiving this news, local people made plans to block the construction. Groups of community members arrived at the factory site with the idea of staging an action should the laying of the first stone actually take place. However, the army and police forcibly dispersed the action. During this incident four members of the protester were arrested by police. Also, two women were knocked unconscious because of being dragged and thrown about by police . Specifically, the women have been the protesting leaders against the cement plant since the groundbreaking ceremony on July 16, 2014. There are many examples of their pacific demostration. Woman have established a tent city to block the construction of the factory. In October 2016, 300 farmers did a long march to pressure the goverment to revoke the Supreme Court decision that has ordered a revocation of the old permit. In April of 2016, nine middle-aged women cast their legs in concrete during 36-hour protest aginst the cement plant outside the presidential palace in Jakarta . They are from Samin community in Rembang, Central Java. The goal of the Saminism movement centered around non-violent tactics. The Samin community, also known as Sedulur Sikep, is an Indonesian social movement founded by Surontiko Samin in Central Java in the late 19th century. Saminism started by rejecting the capitalist views of the colonial Dutch, who predominately forced taxes upon the people of Indonesia, including the poor and and monopolized the use of forest lands for trade. They would not pay taxes to the Dutch as they saw no reason to. Also, they would freely cut wood from the teak forests after informing the village head (as a common forests management) [5,6,7]. For decades, the people of Kendeng karst mountain (Central Java) have tried to live a life separate from modern Indonesia. Legend has it they didn't know the country was independent until 1970. They didn't have government identification until the early 2000s, and even then they fought to keep the religion line blank if the central government wouldn't recognize their faith . Currently, women of the Samin community declare themselves against the cement factory, and protest for the negative impacts the factory will cause. They argue that the plant activities would destroy the region's natural karst caves and its water reservoir. Also, they demonstrated to protect the environment, which is crucial for the livelihood of their children and community. Sukinah, one of the female leaders of the campaign said: "As a mother I give birth to children, but Mother Earth brings to life vegetation, rice and everything else that we eat. We need to take care of Mother Earth by sticking to a sustainable lifestyle."  "We won't be able to freely farm, because the mines will ruin our water source, the factory will pollute our village," . The media have dubbed the women "the Kartinis of Rembang", after Indonesia's first feminist Raden Adjeng Kartini , who was also born in Rembang. It is no accident that the protesters are all females. As this woman leader said, ""The reason us women fight in the front is not because the men were afraid," Sukinah says. "But we are more compassionate, we fight with love. If the men stayed in the front it might turn physical and we don't want casualties. Men are more emotional, they will turn physical when provoked."  In contrast the company of the cement factory, Semen Indonesia's, says "an independent environmental impact assessment gave the factory a pass". "Anyone is welcome to visit the factory and access its records of pollution levels" (corporate secretary, Agung Wiharto). The pro factory campaings says "the factory has given them benefits, like employment for 1,200 construction laborers". The protest lost their case in both the district and high courts. So they brought the case to the Supreme Court . In January 2017, Central Java Governor canceled the cement factory permits. Before that, the Supreme Court ruled the state-owned cement company began construction of its controversial plant without first conducting a thorough check of any potential impacts on the local environment .