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Gender and Chemicals

As one of the most populated countries in Southeast Asia, Indonesia have growing economic activities using intensive resource including plantation, industrial agriculture, mining and other activities making many women and men leaving rural areas and coming to cities. Around the cities, they join large informal settlements where waste sector absorbs many newcomers in a polluted environment with unhealthy and poor working conditions.

 

Gender quality data shows that some 50% of women do not participate in the official workforce, however, very likely engaged in an informal economic activities. UNFPA studies shows that approximately 40% of women have suffered from some form of gender-based violence, limiting their chances to participate equally in social and economic activities. 

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Indonesia are mainly released from agricultural sector, such as endosulfan, paraquat and traces of DDT. Lindane is still widely used as head lice treatment registered as Gamaxene. For instance, in the last couple of years there were cases of pesticides and lindane poisoning among women and young girls. Preliminary survey on mothers also showed that 75% of breastfeeding mothers in urban areas were not aware that chemicals can affect their breastmilk quality. 

 

Latest study from IPEN and BRI among 1044 child-bearing age women living around ASGM area in 25 countries revealed that the highest mercury concentration is from Indonesia's ASGM hotspot. These indirect impact of pollution in women, especially mothers, increases the risk of children IQ decrease. Grandjean et al (2008) result of study showed that every 1 ppm mercury concentration increase in mother's hair is associated with her child's 1.8 point IQ drop. 

Lack of awareness, lack of law enforcement on the reduction and elimination of hazardous substances increased the population's risk to be exposed to bad chemicals and waste. Men and women as consumers and with different gender roles which often make them responsible for the care of other family members. Exposure of chemicals also play differently within each gender roles, creating different risks and impacts between men and women.