The women of Sulaiman Bay Village are not shying away from showing their colors in creating and innovation. They drive the community dynamic, socially and leadership-wise. Not only are they active in various social activities, but these women are also very vocal in the community forum and involved in government institutions, Village-Owned Enterprises (Badan Usaha Milik Kampung or BUMKam), and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) (Usaha Mikro Kecil Menengah or UMKM). Their concerns are not limited to their social and community circles but also the surrounding nature. Their aspirations to conserve the environment are conveyed through the Forum Peduli Kelestarian Alam (Forlika).
Established on December 1, 2015, Forlika acts as a platform for youth to express and manifest their aspiration to protect the environment while advancing the community through sustainable natural resources management. This organization plays a massive role in managing and protecting nature in Sigending.
Sigending has become the magnet of Sulaiman Bay Village with its captivating natural beauty and high biodiversity. The government and community of Sulaiman Bay Village, with Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara (YKAN) and other partners, conducted a potential biodiversity survey in this area and facilitated a meeting with the government to petition for Sigending’s protection. This aspiration was answered by the release of the Decree of Berau Regent No.474 Year 2016 concerning the Establishment of Sigending Protected Mangrove Ecotourism Area that established this 1,500-hectares area as a Sigending Protected Mangrove Ecotourism Area.
Forlika was then appointed as Sigending’s manager based on the Decree of Head of Village No.1 Year 2019 concerning the Manager’s Appointment of Sigending Protected Mangrove Ecotourism Area at Sulaiman Bay Village. Forlika also managed the incentive from the social forestry scheme. This incentive funded eco-friendly activities, which are parts of ecotourism. These activities included fruit and forestry plant nurseries and camping ground construction at Sigending Lake, which YKAN supported.
In its operation, Forlika is led by its female members. Not only are they being active in the organization's leadership, but women of Forlika are also heavily involved in Forlika's field activities, such as mangrove planting and fruit and forest plants nurseries. Forlika also invited villagers who were not Forlika members to participate in these activities, and 70% of villagers who joined were women.
These women actively joined several of Forlika’s activities in protecting nature and supporting ecotourism. They did not see these activities as burdensome. Forlika’s activities that were majorly done in groups eventually became a platform for women to socialize while celebrating and conserving nature.
Not just nature restoration, these female warriors of Forlika are also involved in Sigending patrol. In this patrol, they discovered flora and fauna location points and caves across Sigending.
The Charm of Sigending
Sigending has a natural charisma that constantly steals the heart of visiting tourists. This area is the habitat of endemic wildlife such as hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), and proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus). Fish holes in this area are the home to fishes like snappers, groupers, baronang fishes, and other fishes.
The natural beauty of this exotic wildlife’s habitat is also very captivating. The combination of karsts and corals paints Sigending waters with Tosca green and blue tones. The bat cave that is directly connected to the ocean and Sigending Cave decorated by stalactites set ablaze the adventurous soul of visitors. The Dutch Wells of Sigending constantly quenches the thirst of the sightseers’ curiosity about its hidden history.
The combination of mangrove and tropical forests in this area does not only serve as an important habitat for marine and land biodiversity. Locals utilize wood and non-wood plants in this area as a source of livelihood. Sigending also does not only act as the habitat of seagrass and algae but also provides freshwater through its rivers. Also known as salo-salo in the local dialect, these rivers are utilized as drinking water sources by locals.
Unfortunately, Sigending’s natural wealth cannot escape anthropogenic hazards. Land opening for various interests, logging, unsustainable fishing, and karsts mining for cement raw materials threaten its conservation.
Vera Rosita Ekayanti, Head of Forlika, revealed that women of her community have their own motivation to be involved in conserving Sigending. Women are individuals who can contribute to nature conservation efforts. However, at the same time, women are also among those who are most impacted by environmental issues. "If nature is degraded, it will impact the water, food, and economy, which are sources managed by women in their respective households," explained Vera. "This is due to women's responsibilities to ensure that their family lives in a clean and safe environment and eat healthy foods," she continued.
Acknowledging the burdens and responsibilities of women to nature, Vera emphasized the importance of women being involved in nature conservation. “I hope that women will join the nature conservation efforts to protect the ecological balance.” Her wish has been actualized by the Srikandis of Sulaiman Bay Village in and outside of Forlika, and their fight would be succeeded by the future Srikandis.