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01 Mar 2024

Githa Anathasia Gives Local Women a Role in Protecting Raja Ampat’s Marine Wonderland

From her dive shop in the world-famous Raja Ampat archipelago, Githa Anathasia is creating space for local women in marine conservation.

Renowned for its marine biodiversity and crystal blue ocean, Raja Ampat in West Papua has been named 'The Last Paradise on Earth'. But the reality is not always as perfect as the nickname suggests.

Githa, who has lived in Raja Ampat for 12 years, often sees talented local women who have great potential but are unable to do much due to the patriarchal culture.

In 2015, she started a small diving business called Arborek Dive Shop. With a background in fighting for gender equality and women’s rights while working in NGOs, she brought the same mindset to her business.

Githa implements the concept of sociopreneurship at Arborek Dive Shop, where giving back to the community is part of her operations.

Driven by her concern for the local community and women in Raja Ampat, Githa decided to apply for the Australia Awards Short Course on Sustainable Tourism Management run by Griffith University in 2022.

"There is great potential for women to play a role in conservation, but they have not been given many opportunities," she said.

Sharing the Wonder

Originally from West Java, Githa noticed how most of the women in Arborek never had the chance to experience the beauty of their ocean, which domestic and foreign tourists had travelled to the region to see.

“All of the women here have lived their lives in coastal areas; however, they only know about fishing, and they have never had the luxury of witnessing everything they should,” said Githa.

She had already been working to make the local dive scene more inclusive, but her participation in the Short Course encouraged her to do more.

"In Australia, I learned that if you want to develop an area, you start with developing the human resources first, not importing them from outside the region," she said.

Githa decided to introduce the joy of scuba diving to 10 young women from Arborek and a group of local women from Sawandarek. It was an extraordinary experience for the participants, who were able to swim with the manta rays.

“The point was for the women here to have the experience of seeing the true value of the ocean surrounding them,” Githa said.

“They were so happy because they finally got the opportunity to witness the manta rays in their natural habitat, which made them treasure the species even more and be willing to protect them.”

Githa captures a selfie amid an ocean dive, surrounded by a school of fish.

Growing Local Knowledge

With Githa’s support, five local women have been employed as rangers.

In a program called Citizen Science that began in October 2022, Githa’s was the only dive business in Raja Ampat trusted by the West Papua Provincial Government to train the five women, who were later employed by the Raja Ampat Marine Park Authority as rangers to study the habitat and population of manta rays.

There were challenges, such as postponing the training because one of her students was pregnant. Githa continues to dive with them to this day.

"We must ensure they are well trained. If they accidentally hit the coral, it wouldn't be funny," joked Githa, whose video of an underwater flag-raising ceremony commemorating Indonesian Independence Day went viral in 2020.

Githa also regularly gives lectures on marine life and manta behaviour to locals in Raja Ampat. Collaborating with Molobin Raja Ampat, a women’s diving community, and Women in Ocean Science, Githa reached six villages and up to 350 villagers in the span of three months, from October 2022 to January 2023.

Intensely engaged with the local community, Githa says it was helpful learning about women’s empowerment in the tourism sector during the Short Course.

“There were three womenpreneurs in the Short Course who shared ways to resolve challenges and problems that we might encounter while empowering women,” Githa recalled.

She has also been reflecting on the words of Professor of Tourism at Griffth University, Noel Scott. He advised sociopreneurs to ensure their businesses remained profitable, so they could continue to give back to their communities.

"Noel said you have to think about money, money, and money,” she said. “Even if you're doing community service, you still need to generate an income in order to keep the business running."

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