The Power of Mama

Text by YIARI ... Edited by Orangutan Outreach August 8, 2023

The Power of Mama is a community-led initiative supported by the International Animal Rescue Indonesia Foundation (YIARI). This effort is inspiring local women to play an active role in forest protection and fire prevention. Fires are one of the biggest risks to the rainforest and to the survival of the critically endangered orangutan. The Power of Mama is the first-ever group of female firefighters in Borneo and they are making a tremendous impact. They are championing wildlife conservation, changing attitudes towards women in society, and building a better world for future generations.

In Indonesia, women traditionally act solely as wives and mothers. The women who comprise the Power of Mama have taken on roles traditionally held by men, revolutionizing attitudes towards the role of women in their societies. The 50-strong team (and counting!) of women who make up the fire prevention and firefighting force are between the ages of 25 and 50 and many are mothers, even grandmothers. What they are achieving goes far beyond simply putting out fires.

Through the Power of Mama, local women are able to find their voices, take control and take action. Together with government firefighters and other community members, this amazing group of women work to protect their native wildlife, their homes and families, and the air they breathe. Every day the Mamas patrol their respective forested areas and the land around their local villages on motorbikes and on foot. Their work includes identifying fire hotspots, putting out fires, and talking to farmers about land clearing methods that don’t involve ‘slash and burn’ activity. During the rainy season, the Mamas also support communities impacted by flooding and provide education and resources to improve sanitation and quality of life.

Every year wildfires destroy thousands of acres of Indonesia’s tropical rainforests, causing countless human and wildlife casualties and releasing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. The predicted return of the El Nino climate phenomenon in the latter half of 2023 threatens to send global temperatures soaring higher than ever in 2024, increasing the risk of severe heat waves, droughts and fires. The need for the Power of Mama has never been greater as fire prevention and suppression are vital to ensure these wildfires don’t negatively affect humans or animals. YIARI’s aim is to support this front-line team across four fire-prone forested areas in West Borneo, namely Pematang Gadung, Sungai Besar, Sungai Awan Kiri and Sukamaju. YIARI’s long-term goal is to provide these inspirational women with support and tools to build long-lasting, meaningful careers in conservation.

Orangutan Outreach is inspired by the Power of Mama, and we are thankful for the incredible work being done by these wonderful women. Please join us in supporting these vitally important fire-fighting and prevention activities.

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