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LDPI Working Paper 49: Women, Gender and Protest Emergence - Contesting Oil Palm Plantation Expansion in Sambas District, Indonesia

by Miranda Morgan in 2013
LDPI Working Paper 49

In Indonesia large-scale land acquisitions, fuelled in particular by the desire for developing oil palm plantations, are leading to dispossession, particularly for vulnerable populations. But this is not without contention; as oil palm plantations have spread, so have instances of land-related resistance. Gender power relations influence not only the distribution of costs and benefits of largescale land tenure changes for men and women, but also condition the political opportunities that men and women have to influence such changes. Drawing from a case study in Sambas district, this study demonstrates that rural women can and indeed do participate in protest, even if their participation is rarely acknowledged, and it explores the conditions that lead to their unlikely participation. It finds that gender relations are integral to shaping the motivations and political opportunities that lead to women’s decisions to participate in protests around land. But it also reveals that gender relations are not fixed. Individual actors are able to play an influential role in opening up new political opportunities for otherwise apolitical women. Despite dominant gender relations that tend to exclude women from politics and even public spaces, then, the presence of women in protest indicates that these are being negotiated. This opens up the possibility that rural struggles around land and dispossession, though ostensibly free of explicit gender concerns, may simultaneously serve as sites ofstruggle over gender as well.