Yosepha Alomang – Papua, Indonesia

Linked with A Papuan woman fighting for human and environmental rights, and with Working toward sustainable Development.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Yosepha Alomang (born 1950) is a true human rights defender who fights for the right of indigenous peoples to reclaim the titles of their land in Timika from Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., a multinational mining company. Human rights violations are rampant in Timika and Yosepha has been detained several times for protesting either against the mining company or the military that backs it up. She chairs the Mama Yosepha Center, which provides counseling to women and empowers women’s groups … (1000peacewomen 1/2).

Yosepha Alomang (Mama Yosepha) is from the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya (West Papua), one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. She was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2001, for her efforts on organizing her community to resist the mining company Freeport-McMoRan’s mining practices over three decades that have destroyed rainforests, polluted rivers, and displaced communities. (on wikipedia).

More Bios on SourceWatch; on Political Heroes.

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Yosepha Alomang – Papua, Indonesia

She works for Yahamak (named on Mines and Communities).

She says: “Many people speak of freedom. But what is freedom for Papuans? Freedom is when people are educated, when people are free from poverty and sufferings. That is freedom in our language” … and: “They took our land. They didn’t even ask our permission. I was just a young girl. I remember my father gave them the land” … and: “One day, a group of men came to our house. They talked with my parents. I hardly remember their conversation. They were warning my father to follow the company’s request. They said if we wanted to eat well, we had to make sure that they could eat well also” … (1000peacewomen).

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, Washington, D.C. 20549, FORM 8-K, CURRENT REPORT, Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

The book: Yosepha Alomang: Pergulatan Seorang Perempuan, Papua Melawan Penindasan, by Benny Giay and Yafet Kambai, ISBN: 9789799744029.

Find her and her publications on ; on the Austin Chronicle; on pipl; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search.

Yosepha Alomang, pergulatan seorang perempuan Papua melawan penindasan.

Yosepha Alomang – yang lebih banyak dikenal melalui panggilan kesayangannya Mama Yosepha – adalah seorang perempuan tokoh Amungme, Papua. Ia terkenal kaerna perjuangannya membela hak-hak asasi manusia, khususnya masyarakat di sekitar PT Freeport Indonesia … (full text).

… Mama Yosepha has now focused her passion for promoting human rights on an organization she manages in Timika named YAHAMAK, an Indonesian abbreviation for the “Foundation for Human Rights and Anti-Violence.” YAHAMAK focuses on improving the human rights conditions for Papuan women and their children. In Timika, YAHAMAK’s work complements that of Thom Beanal’s LEMASA (Amungme foundation), which is establishing the LEMASA HAM (human rights) Center. Thom Beanal is the key local Amungme tribal leader. In concurrence with our company’s commitment to human rights, PT Freeport Indonesia has been fully supporting the establishment of both human rights centers … (full text).

… Mama Yosepha really opposed the attitude of glorifying men, while women were held in a lower position. So her emancipation was very evident. She challenged cultural currents that demeaned the dignity and position of women. Maybe this wouldn’t be a problem in another tribe, but here this was not allowed at all. And Yosepha challenged all this openly – she is a very strong woman. (p.xv). (full text).

Ternyata, dia perempuan yang sederhana berusia setengah baya, dengan postur mungil yang sekilas nampak lemah, tapi dengan garis wajah yang tegas. Perempuan mungil tapi perkasa itu adalah Yosepha Alomang, perempuan suku Amungme yang berasal dari lembah Tsinga, yang mendapatkan Yap Thiam Hien Award dan Goldman Environment Award karena perjuangannya untuk hak-hak asasi masyarakat asli Papua yang terampas oleh Freeport dan aktif melakukan advokasi issu-issu lingkungan terkait kegiatan penambangan yang dilakukan Freeport … (full text).

… In 2002, we helped establish and provided support to a Center for Women and Children in Papua, operated by an indigenous Papuan organization, to meet the special human rights needs of women and children. The center now has 28 programs for women and children. (See insert, “Local Human Rights Centers Thrive,” p. 6-7) Also, human rights training, which began with our security and social development departments, continued throughout our operations in 2002 … (full text).

… Among Yosepha’s many protests against the company and the military security guards in its pay, was an attempt to bring some benefits to local people. Assisted by the church, Yosepha and several other women set up a cooperative, called Kulalok, to market their fruit and vegetables. Yosepha felt that Freeport should support the local people by buying from them, but the company imported these goods from outside Papua, flying them into Timika airport. So the women planned a way of drawing Freeport’s attention to their group by destroying the imported fruit and vegetables. With the money earned from the co-op, the women paid for homes built with batako (concrete bricks) and supplied with electricity … (full text).

(1000peacewomen 2/2): … Yosepha Alomang is a simple woman from the Mimika district in Papua, where her Amungme tribes people live. She is physically small, but she has bravely stood up to powerful interest groups in defense of her people’s right to their land. Yosepha lived with her family in Tsinga village, Tembagapura, Mimika, a hillside area, until the mid-1950s, when a local church that provided health and education in the remote areas of Papua encouraged them to move near the south coast.

As a little girl, Yosepha went to elementary school, but she dropped out in the fourth grade after the death of her parents. She recalls her first encounter with Freeport McMoran, the world’s biggest gold mine, located in Timika.

It was in 1967. She was 17, too young to understand what was going on. But when she thinks about it now, she says: “They took our land. They didn’t even ask our permission. I was just a young girl. I remember my father gave them the land.”

The naïve Amungme people did not know that that it would be the beginning of decades of suffering as their once pristine natural environment would slowly deteriorate. She vividly recalls the day Freeport came. “One day, a group of men came to our house. They talked with my parents. I hardly remember their conversation. They were warning my father to follow the company’s request. They said if we wanted to eat well, we had to make sure that they could eat well also.” About a dozen men and several tribal leaders agreed to deal with the company and left their land, but many refused. Those who refused faced arrest and torture by the state apparatus, but many were killed or chased away to live in the forests.

Yosepha says of the state and non-state actors: “They came and killed our people.” At that time nobody cared about the fate of the Amungmes. “I don’t understand why the Indonesian government could be so harsh,” she says.

The situation today is different. “Today, Papuans know about human rights. I even got an award for human rights (the Goldman Prize),” says Yosepha. But her work continues. “I still work to defend the indigenous people’s rights. I’ve seen many other organizations emerging here, but not a single person dares to go against the government like me.

But I am not going to be here forever. Somebody has to replace me later. We all have dreams to follow, but we have to be strong and stand up for our rights.”

Her resolve has been tested for decades. In the early 1970s, she was detained for organizing her tribe to protest against what the unfair occupation of their land. A part of the land mined by Freeport is a hill that the tribes’ ancestors consider to be sacred. Freeport cut into it to mine copper, causing irreparable damage and years of pain and suffering.

“Many women were raped and families lost their loved ones,” Yosepha reports. “I was protesting these crimes. I went to jail several times. Once I was detained for a month in a container van by the military. General Sutrisno released me when he visited Papua for a mission. I just can’t sit still seeing oppression against my people,” she declares.

Yosepha and her group kept up their protests and even sued the company in court for destroying their land. She believed that this way she could motivate many other people to act.

And she was vindicated. In 1976, a big riot occurred in a Freeport site in Tembagapura, a mining town. The protesters burned down a factory. The melee served as a wakeup call for the government, which finally began to realize that something was wrong.

At the time, Yosepha had already become “public enemy number one” to those who were disturbed by her activism.She recalls that one night, she and her husband were dragged out of bed by soldiers. “We were tortured like animals, beaten up and degraded with vile language,“ she was quoted as saying in a report on human rights violations in Timika prepared by Jayapura bishop Monsignior Herman, OFM. For two weeks, Yosefa and her husband, Markus Kwalik, were detained in a room fill with human feces.

Tortures and other degarding treatment failed to bring her down. She continued to organize women to protest against the large-scale mining that had ruined their culture, environment and health. She organized a group of mothers for human rights. These informal groups met regularly. Down the road, the groups organized into a network called Yahamak, an NGO.

Yosepha is reluctant to talk about politics. She does not regard what she is doing for her tribe in Timika as political work. She would rather talk about freedom. “Many people speak of freedom. But what is freedom for Papuans?

Freedom is when people are educated, when people are free from poverty and sufferings. That’s freedom in our language.” Besides Yamahak, Yosepha also helped set up Lemasa (Amungme Tribal Council), an NGO working on human rights and indigenous issues.

Yosepha is the first and only woman to work with Lemasa. She received much media publicity in 1994 when she served as the spokesperson of the Amungme tribespeople in their first major negotiation with Freeport. On behalf of her people, she filed a lawsuit against the company in a US court damanding that Freeport close its operations in Timika. But her effort was unsuccessful. Yosepha couldn’t win, even in a provincial court.

Today, Yahamak is continuing the work of the women’s groups which Yosepha organized in Timika in the late 70’s. There are 28 groups and more than 600 women that have joined her network of local women’s organizations. They work to protect the environment and traditional culture, health, education and sustainable economic development projects. Yamahak has also opened a meeting place for indigenous people called the Mama Yosepha Center. The center was built from the compensation fund received by the community from Freeport’s stockholders, which was a result of Yosepha’s visit to the United States to meet with them.

Yosepha is a member of the Dewan Adat (Indigenous Council), a group of stakeholders working out issues arising from a move by Jakarta to give special autonomy to Papua. “I don’t really understand it. We don’t know how they are going to integrate this kind of autonomy into our development. We have to know for sure the benefits of this autonomy to the Papuan people,” she says to explain the relevance of the council.

She can be very critical and sharp tongued. Once, when she was negotiating with the local government, she threw a dustbin at a former Bupati (district head), and told him to clean it up. “I wanted the Bupati to come down to earth and understand the people. If they can’t clean their own house, how can they clean other people’s houses? If they can’t manage the district, they should go back and work as farmers in the field. Back to the ground.”

Yosepha has many dreams for Papuan women, and she knows that for these to become reality, the people must pull together.

“We have to gather our strength, work together. By working together we could face anything in our way. We also have to learn and understand and make peace with other people outside Papua. We don’t want Papuan women to be threatened, killed or excluded”. (1000peacewomen).

The Indonesian province of Irian Jaya, known locally as West Papua, is among the most biologically diverse places on the planet. It is home to severely at-risk virgin tropical rainforests and the world’s largest gold and copper mine owned by Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc., of Louisiana. For 30,000 years, West Papua’s indigenous peoples, including the Amungme, lived a sustainable existence, but three decades of mining practices permitted by the Indonesian government have destroyed rainforests, polluted rivers, and displaced communities. Freeport dumps at least 200,000 tons of tailings into local rivers every day, spreading deadly pollutants over vast areas. Meanwhile, Indonesian soldiers repeatedly, often brutally, suppress peaceful protests against the mine. In 1994, soldiers held the Amungme community leader Yosepha Alomang for a week in a room knee-deep with water and human waste, without food or drink. For six weeks she was tortured and interrogated for allegedly giving food to Papuan fighters resisting Indonesian sovereignty and Freeport’s land seizures. Because Mama Yosepha, as she is known, and other leaders continued to speak out fearlessly, these and many other abuses became more widely known. Last May, a rock pile at the mine collapsed into a lake sacred to the Amungme, killing four and flooding their villages with contaminated water. Due to this incident and continued community activism, Indonesia’s current government has begun examining Freeport’s practices. For over 20 years, Mama Yosepha has organized her community to resist Freeport’s destruction and the government’s complacency. Most recently, she created a women’s group, HAMAK, dedicated to human rights, environmentalism, and traditional culture. (on Indonesia Oil and Mining).

links:

Indonesian environmentalists;

Atas Desakan Pihak Internasional, Bucthar Tabuni dkk Dibebaskan, Oktober 21, 2008;

[kkn-watch] Kisah Amerika Kuasai Papua, 15 August 2008.

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