My Story Visiting Kampongs In Jakarta: Masculine Development Makes Women Poor

In the middle of the massive development in Jakarta, women’s situation is manly neglected. Salsabila, as reporter will tell us about her experience visiting kampongs in Jakarta.

The large-scale development creates the paradox of capital. It means socioeconomic segregation in Jakarta is increasing the separation between poor and rich. The talk of skyscraper buildings and malls in Jakarta is only a way to hide a fact about the poor.

This is my story when I visited fishery kampong, congested kampong, and flyover kampong in Jakarta.  

In August, 2023 I visited congested kampong in Rawa Terate, Cakung, East Jakarta. The residents were celebrating 78 years of Indonesian independence.  It located in Jalan Dr. KRT Radjiman Widyodiningrat, Rawa Terate, Cakung, East Jakarta. The parade was crowded and rousing. 

Picture 1 Parade of RW 4’s residents in Rawa Terate, Cakung, East Jakarta to celebrate 78 years of Indonesian independence, Sunday (20/8/2023) (dok. Salsabila Putri Pertiwi). 

“Ladies and gentlemen, now is post-pandemic era” shouted by man who became parade’s leader through loudspeaker. This enthusiasm made other residents welcome it with cheering.  

During my visit, I met Mastuti, a teacher and resident of Rawa Terate and head of Forum Masyarakat Kota Jakarta (FMKJ) – Jakarta residents forum. She led 16 neighborhoods with 150 – 200 households in total. 

“My place is the largest compared with another neighborhood that is crowded and stuffy” Tuti said. 

Picture 2 Tuti, head of FMKJ and resident of Rawa Terate, Cakung, East Jakarta (dok. Salsabila Putri Pertiwi)

Most women in Tuti’s area are housewives, and some have online businesses. COVID-19 became a turning point for Indonesian, especially urban poor. They stayed at home and jobless while the price of basic need was increasing. 

Tuti told me about her neighborhood condition during pandemic. For her, it looked sad, and they belong to low-income groups. So, the pandemic hit them badly.

“Everything becomes difficult and bankrupt. For me, the situation became dreadful” Tuti said. “It was depressing because most of us only stayed home and lost our jobs, but school needed running.” And she also added “rental house was empty; the husband didn’t work. In the end, most of them decided to return to their hometown” 

Mastuti’s husband worked as a factory worker near their home, especially because their area, Rawa Terate known as labor market area. There are many manufacturers, such as steel, television, motorbikes, sulfur and iron factories.

Tuti felt grateful because her husband kept his work during the pandemic and survived. In addition, some organizations also gave them some aid. During the pandemic, Tuti was busy to make mask and sell it with other women in her area. It was a way to help women to continue getting income.  

In a post-pandemic era, a new problem arose for Jakarta: pollution. Rawa Terate residents are worried that they must stay home again because of this situation, mainly because some manufacturers are already concerned about the pollution.

“We heard from people who work at the factory “that if this pollution continues, we need to run a stay-at-home policy again” but is it true?”

I visited Fisherman’s Kampong 

The north coast area of Jakarta is the poorest place. Most of the residents work as fishermen or shell peelers. 

Residents in Cilincing, one of the fishermen’s kampongs in North Jakarta, must sail to collect fish, shrimp, crab, green mussels, etc, every day. They should sail until Cirebon and Banten to get sufficient income. 

For women, most of them work as shell peelers and shell cleaners. The center of shell peelers is located near coastal areas and distributed to other areas, such as Muara Baru and Muara Angke. 

“We got paid around 50000 to 60000 rupiahs (3 to 4 USD) per day to peel the shell” said woman who worked as shell peeler. 

According to Secretary General of the Indonesian Women’s Coalition (KPI), Mike Verawati, poverty was not only because of basic needs but also because of cleanliness and hygiene. 

“We should admit that urban planning in Jakarta, especially related with cleanliness and hygiene is far from ideal. It shows in some area, such as under flyover or under overpass” said Mike to In fact, many Jakarta people still stay around seasonal disaster areas. 

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Local governments frequently claim that they have already done many programs to solve it, but they usually ignore a program using a gender perspective.

“They were also hiding behind a reason for the inhabitant’s mentality and unwillingness to change. But where was their effort? How was, for example, their attempt to create proper life, health, and hygiene?” Mike said. In addition, they never considered women participation in urban planning. 

“The function of women in urban planning only as gender quota but never as a contributor” 

The economic disparities were also shown from massive development in some areas of Jakarta compared with poverty in Fisherman’s Kampong, such as northern areas of Jakarta.

“Some of them stay at shell peel’s areas. The condition is far from the word “clean”. In addition, some of them also stay at waste disposal area in Penjaringan or northern area. On the contrary, we can see luxurious development in Pantai Indak Kapuk complex” Mike added. 

Seribu island is another example. They still experience a challenge to access electricity. Poverty forces them to use generators to live their daily lives.

Admittedly, government did some programs to solve problems in seedy Kampung. Some of the programs were residence relocation into flat houses, such as in Kampung Akuarium; terrace kampung’s program and building revitalization. Cilincing kampung was one of the examples where it was semi-permanent housing area transformed to terrace house. 

However, government forgot that infrastructure development came with consequences. The development could not solve poverty directly, especially for marginal groups such as women.

“Maybe they experienced eviction so many times because they didn’t have land certificate whereas it already promised by government of Special Capital Region of Jakarta. It is their right to have that certificate. Next, we must query whether Rusunawa (flat rent) gives permanent rent. Or is it only rented with a specific period, then they need to return it, or how is their system?” said Mike

Women are the most affected group

The risk of women is not only in poverty but also in multi-layered poverty. 

“They are unable to access health services, such as health insurance – jamkesmas or BPJS because they don’t have identity cards. Or the children cannot go to school because they don’t have birth certificates.” Mike said. 

These conditions emerged before pandemic and COVID-19 made it worse. Fisherman on coast of Jakarta were unable to earn income if they didn’t head seaward. In addition, urban poor were more vulnerable to exposed diseases than other groups. Furthermore, they were also vulnerable to massive work termination, mainly for women. 

Meanwhile, women still need to ensure that their household needs are met even though they have stopped working and have to stay at home. It increased the case of domestic violence. 

“There is no guarantee for women who need to stay at home or terminate from work. They don’t get assurance that they can work again. It pictured the condition of urban poor women” Mike said. 

We are in the post-pandemic era, but it doesn’t mean the situation will return to the case before the pandemic, mainly for women. Some of them often work without legal contract. It prevented them from fighting for their rights during unfavorable situations like the pandemic. 

A hope for city development with a perspective of needs  

According to Mike, KPI indicated that development in Jakarta only concentrate in infrastructure areas. It made Jakarta show a good image of accessible public transport and new highways. On the contrary, inclusivity access still becomes a problem, such as accessibly for children, disability, and older people. 

“We can say that Jakarta’s development is only for Jakarta as a metropolitan city image. But, it never pay attention into accessibly to all people or slum areas in Jakarta. For example, in Penjaringan area, the pollution is getting worse nowadays. How we said it as equitable development?” said Mike.

Women and other vulnerable groups should be involved in development planning. They should have space to give aspiration. The inclusivity development is a key to break masculine development in Jakarta. 

 “The development only focuses on physical development, such as buildings or highways. But, who are impacted receivers? All people? I don’t think so.”

“If the development only uses neutral gender thinking, then women, marginal groups, and those with a disability will be more oppressed.” 

(Translated by Theresia) 

Salsabila Putri Pertiwi

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