Tourism, Water, Gender and Injustice in Indonesia

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Stroma COLE, University of the West of England, United Kingdom
The interconnect between environmental injustice and gender have been highlighted with reference to tourism (Cole 2016). Inequalities in terms of access to resources, greater vulnerabilities and the disproportionate negative impacts women suffer are all too common consequences of tourism developments. Bearing the burden of tourism’s negative impacts, those in marginal communities at the fringes of social power, with little bargaining strength at the market and little force in the political process, are most affected.

Based on intensive fieldwork in Labuan Bajo, Flores, Indonesia including over 100 interviews in April and July 2015 this paper explores how the development of tourism far from being sustainable and empowering, delivers the reverse for many of the women in Labuan Bajo. Environmental injustice compounded by patriarchy results in powerlessness, shame and disempowerment for many of Labuan’s women.

Tourism development is competing for water supplies with the local residents. Water is diverted away from local domestic needs and agriculture to hotels who can afford to pay far higher rates. The cost of living has increased dramatically and the cost of water in particular. The wages from tourism jobs do not cover the cost of living when water has to be purchased. For some women, water procurement prevents them for participating in work outside the home reinforcing gendered divisions. Other women are driven into exploitative paid work while they remain responsible for all domestic and water work, thus doubling their burdens.

Labuan Bajo is not an exceptional example of where tourism has been promoted as a growth strategy, without consideration of local livelihoods or environments, or as in this and other cases, the availability of water. This study highlights how global tourism, based on capitalist relations, and putting profit before natural resource conservation, coupled with neoliberal water policies, increases injustice for the women of Labuan Bajo.