News / 2 July 2019

Indonesia: Women’s Right to Water

The water quality of East Java's largest river, the Brantas River, is increasingly deteriorating due to a combination of industrial and household waste. This environmental pollution has a disproportionate impact on women. Yet, their participation in decision-making remains lacking. ECOTON is working to improve the situation.

"One side of the river is used as a dumping site for industrial waste, while the other is used as drinking water. So we must act." – Prigi Arisandi, ECOTON


Although the pollution is visible to the naked eye, it takes more for communities to make a strong claim to their right to clean water and a healthy environment. In addition to insufficient data on environmental damage, there is little trust in state institutions to conduct reliable environmental investigations.

Empowering women

For that reason, ECOTON builds on women's capacity to conduct environmental investigations, gather data on pollution, and build cases that demonstrate the violations to their human rights. Recognising that litigation may be a strategic or necessary step for women to safeguard their rights, ECOTON also trains women to initiate and lead litigation. In doing so, they seek to create a level playing field in which the government can be held accountable.

Improving water quality assessment

Measuring water pollution can be difficult, often requiring expert knowledge and specialist equipment. Both ENDS supports ECOTON to work with communities impacted by water pollution to understand their health issues, exchange about the health and environmental effects of pollutants, and train them to monitor and investigate the quality of their water and rivers themselves. ECOTON has shown that communities are strong advocates for a healthy ecosystem; just some knowledge exchanges, capacity building, and the right tools can do the trick in realising the potential of local communities to assert their rights to a healthy environment. In relation to that, Both ENDS also supports ECOTON in developing those tools, and by engaging professional expertise when needed.

At the same time, ECOTON works together with local universities and district authorities to improve water quality assessments and to embed these in district plans and policies. Through the combined effort of community empowerment and dialogue with government authorities, ECOTON endeavours to create a level playing field and enabling environment for negotiations.

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