Sixteen years ago, I joined Greenpeace Indonesia as a street fundraiser. Now, my job is to create a safe space for everyone who works here.

I come from the Batak tribe, an ethnic group from the north of Sumatra. Even though the social structure of the tribe is patriarchal, my mother always insisted on me becoming a strong, independent woman and having a good education. After graduating from high school, when I was looking for a temporary job before going to university, I came across a Greenpeace Indonesia job advertisement for a Direct Dialogue Campaigner. The office had just opened, and I wasn’t familiar with Greenpeace’s work. During my onboarding training, I learned that resistance against environmental destruction is at the core of its mission. I realized that by fundraising and talking to people about Greenpeace Indonesia campaigns, I could also be part of the planet-saving community.

As a campaigning organization, our role is to bear witness and expose practices that are harmful to the environment. Over the last 40 years, nearly one-third of Borneo’s tropical forest, once famous for its biodiversity, has been destroyed because of logging, mining, and plantation development. The increase in heavy flooding is directly related to the loss of forest cover, and the Indonesian government could prevent further damage by taking measures to stop deforestation. Destructive human action endangers Mother Earth, and I’m proud to be part of an organization that works relentlessly to protect it.

During my career at Greenpeace Indonesia, one of the moments that deeply touched my heart was when we supported communities from Central Java affected by the coal mining industry. Coal-fired plants fill the air with toxic pollutants, and living next to them harms people’s health. Each new large power plant can result in the death of 600 Indonesians every year. Our team advocated for local citizens and grassroots organizations as they called for investigations into alleged corruption in the coal sector. After a tiring 10-hour bus journey from Central Java to Jakarta, when we helped them to express their opinion in front of the Corruption Eradication Commission Building, some activists took a moment to rest at our office. I noticed a mixture of bravery and exhaustion on their faces. Those people were fighting for survival and their children’s right to live in an environment that didn’t make them sick. I struggle to hold my tears back every time I remember that injustice.

Ocean Festival 2019 in Jakarta. © Bismo Agung / Greenpeace
Yuningsih Feronika (4th from the left) with the Greenpeace Indonesia Fundraising Team at the 2019 Ocean Festival in Jakarta.

My role at Greenpeace Indonesia has changed since I joined 16 years ago. I now share my time as HR Officer and Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Greenpeace Southeast Asia. Even though my job is not at the frontline of our campaigns and often involves paperwork at my desk, I contribute to our mission in my own way. From hiring freelancers and consultants to drafting contract agreements serves one overarching goal – protecting the planet.

My current role also involves creating a safe space for my colleagues and ensuring we create an equitable, inclusive, and diverse workplace. Sometimes it involves sensitive issues, for example, those related to LGBTQ+ rights. LGBTQ+ people in Indonesia face prejudices, and there are no laws that protect the community against discrimination and hate crimes. With my work, I want to ensure the working environment is safe for LGBTQ+ colleagues and that they can express themselves and contribute to the organization to their fullest potential. I apply these values in my personal life as well. As I promote equality in conversations with my mother, I speak in words her generation can understand. I want to raise my future children in a world where gender inequality and oppressive structures are a thing of the past.

I could say that I grew up with Greenpeace Indonesia. When I finally decided to pursue a university degree, combining full-time work and intensive studying would have been much more challenging without the support of my line manager and amazing colleagues. I am grateful to be surrounded by this caring community and empowered to continue promoting equity, inclusion, and diversity at Greenpeace.