The local girls of the villages Buho Buho to Tawakali in Morotai will be learning to surf thanks to funding from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. Amazing news!
To the non-surfer the direct benefits of such a programme may not be readily apparent. So here are some reasons explaining why;
1. More women and children die in tsunamis in Indonesia than men because they are physically weaker, often are at home, and don’t have any understanding or experience of the ocean. Teaching surfing and swimming is a SKILL THAT CAN SAVE THEIR LIFE.
2. Health benefits of practising a sport both physical and mental – discipline, self belief, confidence, independence, trust in themselves and their judgement.
3. Brings groups of girls together to create of a new and collective identity of what it is to be a girl, the security and support of being a member of a group, a forum to discuss and take action on issues girls face, and gain respect from the boys/men who see them in a new light.
4. Develops a relationship with the ocean and a love of it. It teaches about the ocean environment and how to preserve and be a caretaker of it. Girls are natural caretakers and connecting them with the ocean environment has proven results of protecting and benefiting women too with opportunities within the environmental field.
5. Brings local girls into contact with visiting surfers/tourists in the water and the chance to interact, learn, speak English.
6. Skills to be employed within the tourism industry as surf guides, instructors for visiting female surfers which is a huge attraction to bring foreign girl surfer tourists to the area if they know there are local girls there too. It enables local girls to interact with girls from other countries and get different insights as to what is it to be a girl. Gender empowerment is critical to the development of sustainable tourism.
7. Offers the opportunity to become a professional athlete and compete on the Indonesian and Asian surfing championship. Local girls from Bali, Java, Nias already do so.
8. It creates an understanding and positive relationship with the ocean not one of fear. . Women pass on skills to their children, a mother who can swim and or surf will pass that skill onto her children.
9. Empowering teenage girls through sport according UN statistics is the best investment in bringing sustainable change to developing countries.
10. A creative sport with no rules or boundaries and therefore allows freedom of expression and self discovery. The belief to go after their dreams.
Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, is opening up its thousands of islands to tourism (much of which will be ocean related), is based on one of the most unstable tectonic areas of the world and is one of the worst ocean polluters in the world. It is hard to think of a more useful or pertinent skill to empower girls in coastal communities than an ability to swim/surf and understand and know the value of their ocean environment on their doorstep. Many islands in Indonesia are sinking at an alarming rate and the once abundant resources of the ocean are running out. An understanding and ability to adapt to new realities, such as how to source food will need to be addressed. Women will play an important role in this.