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Coral Catch Gili Air's all-women coral restoration team. Photo courtesy of Coral Catch, used with permission.

Indonesia - An all-women coral conservation team is helping to revive Indonesia's world-famous Gili reefs

The trainees are learning to graft, garden, and restore corals

There has been no shortage of alarming articles and videos in recent years about the imminent and inevitable destruction of the world's coral reefs — one of the key components to a healthy ocean and marine ecosystem. Heartbreaking images of bleached, broken corals have been the bellwether of the climate crisis for many coastal communities.

These images paired with messages of hopelessness have made many apathetic and fatalist about the plight of our coral reefs. Luckily, some grassroots environmental groups have looked past the despair to find solutions.

In Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, one such group, Coral Catch Gili Air, is working to regrow the island's coral reefs and launch a training program to teach other citizens to do the same.

The organization is based on Gili Air, part of the Gili island chain in central Indonesia. The group recently received a grant to fund an all-women conservation team to train women from all over Indonesia how to plant, breed, graft, and garden corals.

Though Gili still has a flourishing reef, some parts have been negatively affected by dynamite fishing, coral bleaching, coastal development, inefficient waste management, anchoring, boat traffic, and earthquakes.

For the group's founder Rose Huizenga, a long-time Indonesia resident from the Netherlands, the group offers an opportunity for both sustainable development and women's empowerment. She shared her vision in an interview with Global Voices.

I believe that empowering women and promoting gender equality is crucial to accelerating sustainable development. To truly learn to live in harmony with our environment, women need to be as much a part of shaping our collective destiny as men. For me, female empowerment is not about excluding men, but about raising the voices of women.

Rose noted that, like many scientific fields, the ocean research and conservation fields have historically been dominated by men, with gender imbalances that continue to this day. A recent study by Women in Ocean Science showed that 78 percent of the women respondents had experienced sexual harassment in marine science.

“Although we've made great strides in the gender representation in ocean research and conservation, we still have work to do,” said Rose.

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