In the age of increased climate insecurity, we must listen to the voices of the marginalised

Grandma Ne

Grandma Ne, that’s what people call her.


Her real name is Kornelia, she is 68 years old and living by herself in Wae Codi Village, Manggarai district, Indonesia. Grandma Ne has a physical disability affecting one of her hands, but she doesn’t let this prevent her from doing her daily activities and weaving, she can’t.


Things are not easy for Grandma Ne, but she is determined and driven, and continues to thrive with the modest resources she has.


Widowed for decades, Grandma Ne produces woven mats that are sold to provide her with an income. One mat can take more than one month of her time. Time is a precious resource, it is time needed to live, cook, earn an income and be part of community life.


One of Grandma Ne’s biggest struggles is collecting water. During the dry season, she needs to make a minimum of two round trips each day to collect enough water to meet her daily needs. Each trip takes around an hour on a difficult and steep mountainside path. She must carry two jerry cans each trip and when full, they are heavy, which is hard for a slight, 68 year old with a hand disability to manage. In wet season, things are even more difficult.


A rising threat to Grandma Ne’s community is climate change and an increasing risk of drought, flood and landslides. Manggarai District regularly experiences such hazards.


Manggarai is one of the areas being reached by Yayasan Plan International Indonesia (YPII), with support from Plan International Australia (PIA), under Australia’s Water for Women (WfW) Fund. A strong focus of the project is gender equality and social inclusion to ensure that we ‘leave no one behind.’


If the diverse needs of marginalised members of the community are not being met through our WASH projects then we are failing to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) – Water for all.


That is why Grandma Ne’s story is important.


To understand how climate change affects people differently and how this project can better support them, Plan is partnering with research organisation, the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) as part of a WfW Fund research grant to explore this  – specifically, how climate change impacts improved water and sanitation services with a focus on gender and social inclusion outcomes.


As part of the research, Grandma Ne has participated in a safety audit activity to explore the accessibility of WASH services, especially within the context of climate change impacts.


“I am really pleased with the activity conducted, they asked me about my difficulties for fetching water and going to the toilet especially during heavy rain or droughts, no one really ever included me in this kind of activity before and asked about my problems,” Grandma Ne reflected.


Through a deeper understanding of the challenges, we can build more effective and sustainable outcomes in WASH. This WASH project is working to improve the health, well-being and equality of 450,000 people in Eastern Indonesia especially the most marginalised, including children, women, and people with disability and this work will be supported and enhanced through the research being conducted.


So our aim is to improve the situation for Grandma Ne and others living with a disability. But understanding the real issues they are facing and supporting their need for more accessible, clean water facilities and toilets.


Importantly, Water for Women recognises that the voices of the marginalised need to be centered in WASH programs to ensure they are not left behind, as they are often the ones that facing the greatest set of challenges. Rising climate change hazards will only increase these challenges.


This story was authored by Agus Haru and Silvia Anastasia Landa, this version has been edited by Water for Women.

Photo by Plan Indonesia/Agus Har

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