Practice/Behaviors and Social Structures which Influence the Ability to Self-Organize

In this research, the ability to self-organize means the ability to organize oneself after a disaster to be able to return to normal activities without outside intervention. This research finds that the ability to self-organize is influenced by two main aspects of culture. First, it is affected by the existing practice or behavior consisting of mutual assistance, division of tasks between women and men and the capacity to organize a small group for a relief program. Second, if is influenced by the social structure, particularly networking, kinship and relationships. Networking, kinship and relationships among neighbors is originally built according to certain ethnic groups. The ethnic Bugisnese are a group with strong economic networking and relationships. Most Bugisnese in our case study are members of an association of Bugisnese.

During severe floods in 2007 and 2013, major damage and loss created an unstable situation in communities where many houses were broken (ILL-01;02-PJR). The 2007 flood was caused by coastal flooding and compounded by the collapse of a sea dyke in front of the housing community. Since the sea level is higher than the settlement area, water from the sea inundates all housing behind the sea dyke. A discussion from FGDs in RT 20 reveals that after the water receded, people spontaneously repaired the dyke voluntarily because they have a positive sense of belonging of their neighborhood. During the new construction of sea dyke by the government of Jakarta, community members also worked together to support the process. Not only men, but women also got involved and joined the construction process and provided food for the workers. Moreover, local leaders mainly gave instructions but how they organized themselves was spontaneous.

The self-organizing ability in the community exists already, particularly the distribution of tasks between women and men, not only in response to flood events. In the case of a fire, men are responsible for extinguishing the fire while women provide and serve food to the affected families. In the case study area, we find that women tend to have an equal role compared to men. The equal status between women and men gives several benefits for responding to disasters. A study conducted by Liu and Mishna (2014) aimed to understand why women that were acknowledged as a vulnerable group could survive a severe earthquake in 1999 in Taiwan. They found that a positive task division between women and men plays a key role. Since women are often saved first during an earthquake together with children and the elderly, they have similar opportunities to carry out economic activities to support families to return back to their normal condition. Our study shows that women also take responsibility for several organizational activities such as being appointed as local activists. There were two female respondents who were active in local community programs and helped to mobilize community members in community meetings. From the FGDs, we found that women also had ideas and the confidence to deliver the programs for community development. At the household level, decisions related to flood response also considered ideas from women.

The ability for people to manage themselves is evident from the relief distribution during the flood events. There were some local informal leaders that arranged the distribution of basic goods received from charity organizations and proved to be very useful due to the irregular structure of the informal settlement. Thus, despite the small size of the group handing out goods, more people could get aid. A religious leader in our case study also played a role in the distribution of aid. Each group finds aid resources from different sources such as charity organizations or individuals. An interview with an informal leader shows that he and others decided to manage the distribution by themselves by delivering basic needs door to door and preparing a sufficient number of packages. He stated that, when the number of people who needed aid exceeded that of aid availability, he reduced the amount of aid to be able to distribute to more families.

The other aspect of culture that supports self-organization following a disaster is kinship and networking. Under normal conditions, new migrants can get access for housing and a job through networking and kinship. In the case after the 2013 flood, networking and kinship were very helpful for all groups of people to organize themselves, as the government of Jakarta progressively implements evictions and only provides social housing for those who own a house in informal housing. Renters and inhabitants without Jakarta’s identity cards cannot receive social housing. However, through strong networking and kinship ties, some renters can get access to social housing. There is a strong bond of trust between owners and renters. During the census conducted by local government to identity who should have the right for social housing, the renters are registered as owners of the house. Interviews with local leaders of Bugisnese ethnicity show that they try to give access for their renters, whom they refer to as relatives. One respondent stated that he could get seven social housing plots and only use one for him and his family. They manage it informally and only based on trust with each other.

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