The above video shows nine women protesting the construction of a cement plant and mine in their community within the Kendeng Mountains of Central Java. Having already protested the plant’s construction for a long time without success, the women decided to take extreme measures and demonstrate in a way they knew would bring the attention of the media to their cause – by encasing their feet in blocks of cement in front of the State Palace.
The demonstration, which took place yesterday, did indeed bring them a great deal of attention, but the women have not yet achieved their goal of meeting with President Joko Widodo to plead their case as to why the Rembang cement plant, set to be built by PT Semen Indonesia, will wreak havoc on their community and its environment.
The women’s feet remain encased in cement today. They are currently staying at the office of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH). Friends are helping to take care of them while they remain immobilized.
Riem Ambarwati, a 32-year-old woman who is taking part in the demonstration, said she joined because she believes the cement plant will can damage to the ecosystem of Mount Kendeng. She described the cement encasing her feet as “dead earth” because no living thing can grow within it.
“We’re willing to encase our legs because cement is shackling Indonesia. Cement is like the Earth, so if you’ve already made it into cement, everything in it will die. That is why we reject this cement plant,” Riem said today as quoted by Merdeka.
While in front of the State Palace yesterday, Jokowi’s Chief of Staff Teten Masduki and Deputy Chief of Staff Jaleswari V Pramodhawardani met with the women to hear what they had to say.
But Riem said their demonstration would continue and they would be brought to the State Palace every day until President Joko Widodo finally agreed to meet with them and listen to their voice, and to all of the citizens of Mount Kendeng.
“To Pak Jokowi, we want you to meet with us. If we are not met by Pak Jokowi, we will keep this up. Hopefully, Pak Jokowi will listen to us,” she said.