November 30, 2023 — The New York Times highlighted The Asia Foundation’s local partner in Indonesia, HAkA, for their efforts to protect, conserve, and restore the Leuser Ecosystem using a women-led forest defender initiative. Through our environmental governance unit, the Foundation supports HAkA to empower women traditionally excluded from forest protection. This support equips them with essential tools to engage in conservation, restoration, and the community governance efforts necessary to uphold the initiative. Even though, most often, women are the ones who feel the direct impact from environmental loss and climate change, there was a lot of resistance when we brought up the idea of creating a women ranger team,” said Rubama, a community conservation officer for the Forest, Nature and Environment Aceh Foundation, which funds the ranger initiative. “Women are often left out and not allowed to do many roles in Aceh, especially at the village level.
A mountainous tropical forest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the Leuser Ecosystem is the last place on earth where the elephant, rhino, tiger, and orangutan still roam together in the wild. But the forest is under pressure from poachers, illegal loggers, and miners, who strip the land of resources, causing floods and destroying villages. Now, a band of forest defenders, organized and led by women, is demonstrating that social forestry can stop this destructive exploitation by engaging the communities whose lives are entwined with the health of the forest. Beginning with a handful of women in just one village, now, thanks to The Asia Foundation, there’s an Aceh Women Forest Defenders Movement in 15 villages patrolling and protecting the forest. Their remarkable success is due, in part, to our 2023 Lotus Leadership award honoree HAkA, an Indonesia-based organization that supported the women forest defenders’ efforts to petition the government for the right to protect and manage their forests.
“Our premise is really simple: when you change the lives of women, you can affect an entire society. That’s the power of the multiplier effect,” said Lotus Leadership Awards co-chairs Sydnie Kohara and Elizabeth Keatinge Scheideler. You can become a part of this transformative movement by joining the Lotus Circle. Your contribution supports innovative projects designed to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality in the region, including the Lotus Leadership Rapid Response Fund to address urgent needs.
On April 26, 2023, The Asia Foundation hosted the 2023 Lotus Leadership Awards in New York City. The eleventh Lotus Leadership Awards honored Gloria Steinem, Google.org, HAkA, and the Aceh Women Forest Defenders Movement from Indonesia. The gala featured special guest Seth Meyers, photographer Nigel Barker and singer-songwriter Katini Yamaoka.
The Asia Foundation will host the 2023 Lotus Leadership Awards on April 26 at the Mandarin Oriental in New York City. The eleventh Lotus Leadership Awards will honor Gloria Steinem, Google.org, HAkA, and the Aceh Women Forest Defenders Movement from Indonesia. The gala will feature special guest Seth Meyers, photographer Nigel Barker and singer-songwriter Katini Yamaoka.
The Lotus Circle is a vibrant community of committed individuals and organizations supporting The Asia Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality Program to strengthen economic, social, and political rights and opportunities for women and girls in Asia and the Pacific. The Asia Foundation launched the Lotus Circle in 2007 to engage a growing group of philanthropists committed to investing in women across Asia. Funds raised strengthen The Asia Foundation’s work in women’s empowerment and gender equality, and promote gender mainstreaming efforts. To date, more than $4.3 million in Lotus Circle Funds have been programmed through more than 100 grants and projects.
“You can’t protect what you don’t love, and you can’t love what you don’t know.” Indonesian women harness the local power of social forestry.