Unmuting voices: Dayak women’s narratives on structural and gendered injustice in oil palm expansion in West Kalimantan, Indonesia

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Kim, Eunha
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Global Campus
This thesis explores how the oil palm expansion process, driven by the capitalisation of nature and labour, renders structural injustice to the Dayak indigenous people in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Using feminist political ecology as a conceptual framework, it examines gender as a critical variable in analysing structural injustice as well as gendered injustice in the palm oil sector by scrutinising women’s particular struggles and their gender-differentiated experiences. As palm oil production shares a huge portion of income in Indonesia, it has created an environment where efficiency outweighs workers’ rights in and around the plantations. Moreover, despite women labourers’ significant roles in the palm oil industry in Indonesia, their status has been undervalued and their rights have been ignored. The cash economy brought by the oil palm industry has disturbed subsistence farming community structures, with male labourers earning more and gaining a higher place in the social hierarchy than female labourers, who face increased social insecurity. This study finds that most women also have limited access to information and resources, leading to restricted choices and exclusion in decision-making processes. The lack of alternative livelihoods further informs women’s risky situations, as they are customarily responsible for food security and household management in the context of Kalimantan. Using a qualitative method and narrative approach, this thesis highlights women’s voices that have often been ‘muted’ in the palm oil sector. It argues that the patterns of structural injustice found in the oil palm industry are intertwined around the socially constructed idea of womanhood in Indonesia and fuelled by capitalistic ideals of economic growth and national development. KEY WORDS: GENDER, PALM OIL, LABOR, FEMINIST POLITICAL ECOLOGY, INDONESIA
APMA - Master’s Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Asia-Pacific, Mahidol University
Second semester University: Universitas Gadjah Mada
Global Campus - Asia-Pacific
gender, women, Indonesia, feminism, political participation, ecology, oil palm, environment, labour, indigenous people