Women's Role in Disaster Information Management in West Sumatra’s Earthquake

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A powerful earthquake of 7.6 on the Richter scale shook West Sumatra on the afternoon of September 30, 2009. The earthquake caused major damage: 1,195 people died, 619 people seriously injured, 1,179 people slightly injured, 2 people missing, and 6,554 people had to evacuate. There were 119,005 houses severely damaged, 73,733 houses moderately damaged, and 78,802 lightly damaged. The disaster caused deep trauma to the entire population. More than ten thousand people required long-term assistance.

However, the earthquake created awareness of community radio activists in Padang Pariaman District for the need to develop a Disaster Information System Based Community (DIS-BC). The reason for the DIS-BC development was the government’s poor performance in the handling of victims and aid distribution. Because aid distribution went through a long bureaucratic chain, earthquake victims did not receive it quickly. The condition was aggravated due to inaccurate government data, such as the number of victims and their needs.

Data accuracy is very important in disaster management. If data is accurate, policy-makers will take quickly right policy. Disaster data management should be done before any disaster comes. Governments and citizens will then know the level of vulnerability of the area, the needs of victims, evacuation routes and safe locations to go to after evacuation. Unfortunately, when the earthquake happened in West Sumatra on September 30, 2009, this did not happen.

Padang Sago FM was established in response the problems above. Early on Padang Sago FM, emergency response radio, was established by the Combine Resource Institution, a non government organization in Jogjakarta. A week after the earthquake,and with simple equipment Padang Sago FM started broadcasting on 107 FM frequency. Local people were involved in radio activities, include women and children.

Padang Sago FM studio is located in Simpang Pelita, Korong Lapau Bayur, Nagari Koto Dalam, Padang Sago Subdistrict, Padang Pariaman Regency. Padang Sago Subdistrict consists of three villages, Nagari Koto Dalam, Nagari Koto Baru, and Nagari Batu Kalang. This area was very badly damaged although no residents died. Thousands of homes and government buildings were severely damaged. Broadcasts activities started from 08.00 a.m. and ran until 11:00 p.m. using both the Indonesian language and the Minang language.

The first aim was to make the listeners that live in disaster areas aware. To this end, Padang Sago FM made a Public Service Announcement (PSA). In addition, the daily broadcast Padang Sago FM consisted of how to access aid from various donor agencies, how to travel safely, how to build earthquake-resistant houses, how to overcome health problems that arise after earthquakes, and a general overview of the course of disaster management efforts. To get the valid data they applied the principles of journalism. Furthermore, the news was broadcast at 07.00-08.00 pm. It called Kabar Nagari.

Women Involvement in Radio

In the early establishment of the radio, the involvement of women was very limited. The lack of the women involvement in community radio caused women’s issues to be marginalized. For example, most women in West Sumatra adhere to both the Islamic religion and Minang tradition. When they are in the barracks, it is difficult to get privacy to change clothes and breastfeed.

Because of the impact of male domination, radio management is less sensitive to domestic roles that are still imposed on women. A simple example is the choosing of meeting time. As a result of their domestic roles, women cannot attend meetings from 4:30 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. or after 9:00 p.m. Between 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., most women cook and serve the household needs. In Padang Sago, people still consider women active outside the home after 9:00 p.m. to be unethical.

Although the number of women activists in Padang Sago FM are few, they can play a major role in the development of radio. Desmawati (22) is very good at program management. She develops broadcasting activities using Minang traditional communication principles (mandaki, mandatar, malereng, manurun) and it makes Padang Sago FM loved by her audience. Another female announcer, like Anisa, Rani, Rini, Mimi, and Devi has received a good response from the audience. Finally, citizens allow their daughters to participate in community radio activities.

To maintain the involvement of women in community radio, they implemented a "discrimination" policy wherein some of the management positions are fulfilled by women. Two of the four management position are women. Padang Sago FM considers the cultural roles that women in the region fulfill and therefore avoids meeting during the dinner hours or late evening.

The involvement of women in radio has led to women’s issues being disseminated via radio. For example, Padang Sago FM informs women of the evacuation place. A reporter interviewed women who were breastfeeding, pregnant, menstruating, and infirm, who all have special vulnerabilities during disasters. Breastfeeding mothers without good nutrition have decreased milk production which can result in infant malnourishment. Likewise, malnutrition in pregnant women can result in a miscarriage or other adverse outcomes. Problems also arise for menstruating women who need sanitary napkins.

Due to the interview, Padang Sago FM became aware of the different impact of disasters on women. Because of these differences, women require different assistance. Ironically, during the emergency response, assistance provided to victims was often only instant noodles, rice, and lots of canned food. These items are clearly important but not sufficient. Donors should not forget underwear, women dress in accordance with the local culture (long dress), children’s dietary needs, sanitary napkins, etc.

Besides women, Padang Sago FM involves children in broadcasting activities. The initiative to broadcast emerged from the children themselves. After school, children came to play in the studio. They practiced on the computer and watched the radio crew announcing activities. Then, they requested to be trained as broadcasters. Devi (11) is one of the child broadcasters who have has a 90-minute radio program. She hosts Sehat Bareng Komunitas (popular health tips) program which airs from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.. Today, Devi is a student of Padang Sago 07 Elementary School. The presence of child-announcers bring a different color to the radio programs. The teachers and parents strongly support these activities. During the children's broadcasts, most listeners are adults.