SI President Mariet Verhof Cohen and SISWP President Anusha Santhirasthipam were in Indonesia recently from 3-8 February to visit victims of recent tsunami and earthquake affected areas, assess potential project sites for rehabilitation work and to rebuild lives in Palu, Sulawesi. This initiative is a collaboration between SI President's Appeal-Women, Water and Leadership and SISWP President's Special Appeal “Soroptimist Makmur Indonesia” Tsunami & Earthquake.

Palu Collage

In remote villages in hilly areas, we met groups of women who said they would go mad if they did not have anything productive to do! Their homes had been badly damaged, their equipment and materials gone so they can't make food items, clothing items or craft items for sale. They desperately want to earn income and support their poor families.

Water pipes to their villages are seriously damaged and the women are back to walking long distances several times a day to fetch water, bathing and defecating in rivers. Acute shortage of toilets and enclosed bathing facilities for women and girls! They also want education programmes on sanitation and hygiene, waste management and village clean-up.

We talked to women keen to take the lead in water and sanitation projects, village cleanliness and hygiene programmes and micro-enterprise development.

It was heart-breaking to visit desolate areas in Petobo and Balaroa, where a powerful vortex of liquefaction sucked into the ground thousands of people and several hundreds of homes during the earthquake. We met women survivors of the horrible liquefaction after the earthquake. They are in special temporary housing camps for women and girls provided by UNFPA. They have lost their husbands and families. They are kept separate to avoid rape, violence and exploitation. They told us they want economic empowerment so they can be independent and self-sustaining. They have major challenges with water and sanitation, security and crime prevention, pollution and environment management.

The Assistant Governor of Sulawesi, Hajjah Siti Norma Mardjanu who facilitated our visit and dialogue. We met her earlier in her office to discuss the situation, government plans and programmes.

We had coordination meetings to review the prospective project proposals and itemised budgets, discussed suitable local contractors and programme training partners, scheduling of work components and effective monitoring and measurement of results.

Both SI President Mariet and I feel satisfied that we had a fruitful mission and are working with a highly competent, experienced and passionate team in Indonesia.