Wetenschap - 18 juni 1998

International Page

International Page

International Page
Corruption Impedes Women's Access to Land in Indonesia
Women's access to land rights in Indonesia is impeded more by the state's so-called gender neutral laws, than by the traditional customary laws of the patrilineal society, whose authority has been steadily eroded over the last century. This is the conclusion drawn by Indira Simbolon, whose PhD research took a village-level look at the development of competing legal systems which have defined women's rights to using land in a region dominated by rice production and subsistence farming
Simbolon, who describes herself as a legal advocacy activist, conducted her PhD research at the WAU Department of Agrarian Law. This culminated in a thesis entitled Peasant Women and Access to Land: Customary Law, State Law and Gender-based Ideology - The Case of Toba-Batak (North Sumatra). Toba-Batak is a patrilineal society, which means that women's access to land is primarily defined by their relations to men, though customary law (adat) recognises and protects women's rights to communal lands. However, state interventions, whose main priority is economic development, regularly grant land titles to private investors for land which is traditionally reserved for communal purposes. One of many examples is a pulp mill which was awarded 20-year exploitation rights to a 150,000 hectare forest area without local consent. While women still look to adat rather than to the state legal system for their rights, the overriding authority of a corrupt state apparatus has meant that women regularly lose access to land
Simbolon, a Toba-Batak herself, became interested in the question of land rights while studying law in Jakarta for her first degree. Following her studies, she returned to her roots in North Sumatra to work as a barefoot lawyer in a non-governmental organisation (NGO) dealing with collective land use conflicts. The NGO helps people to understand their rights, to file legal complaints and to negotiate with local government and investors. This is not an easy task, as few people manage to win against a legal system which favours national economic priorities over local community interests; in 1990, a local NGO that Simbolon worked for was even banned by the military. Through her thesis, which she describes as a history book of the injustices that such a system of corruption has brought into existence, Simbolon hopes to uncover the extent of corruption and to articulate the often unheard voice of the victims of the violence of development. It is timely that this work was completed precisely when the same criticisms against Indonesian state control are being voiced by the general public
New Specialisation in Animal Health Economics
From September 1999, a new specialisation will be available within the Msc programme Agricultural Economics and Management. This decision was reached last week by the Education Institute of Social Sciences. The move is in response to a proposal made by the chair of Animal Health Economics, which has received many requests to set up such a course from other universities in Holland, Canada and elsewhere. The need to integrate the disciplines of Economics and Animal Health has become increasingly important as the overlap between the two increases, according to lecturer Susan Horst who will coordinate the new specialisation. Recent epidemics of animal diseases, such as last year's Swine Fever on Dutch farms, have drawn attention to this need. The course is intended for students with a background in veterinary sciences and zootechnology, and will build on a popular one-week postdoctoral course which the department already currently offers
Financial Help for Indonesian Students
Indonesian students in Wageningen with a scholarship from their country are being offered help from an emergency fund at the Dean's Office. Because of the monetary crisis in Indonesia, the exchange value of their grants has declined dramatically. Emergency funds and employment opportunities are also being set up elsewhere in the Netherlands to solve the problem
Wisp'r Survey: More News in English
One of the main conclusions from the recent survey sent to MSc students in Wageningen is that they feel that they do not have enough access to information and news in English. A small but vocal group of twenty-six international students replied to the 100 surveys sent out by the WUB, asking for comments on various aspects of its English-language page. Although trends were not clearly indicated for all the questions, the clearest message comes from the 80% who stated that they would read translated versions of Dutch articles published in the WUB if they were made available on the Internet. Many requested more pages in general, as this is one of the few places international students can get local news directly
Other opinions concerned the lay-out and content of the WISP'r. Sixty-five percent of responses called for a different lay-out: more, shorter articles, rather than the present standard formula of one long article, with a couple of shorter items. With regard to the content of the page, there was a wide range of opinion. Some asked for more information on WAU education policies, and specifically on the internal and external structural changes taking place within the University and other research and educational institutes in Wageningen. This topic has not been a great focus of the WISP'r, because these discussions do not necessarily directly influence international students at the time of writing. Present focuses on research in developing countries, students' own research, and special discussions were viewed positively, as well as tepid support for information on Dutch society. Least popular were stories on social issues concerning international students
The lack of information in English seems to be a constant theme for international students and staff of the university. The WAU is promoted as the most international university in the Netherlands, its programmes drawing 833 international students (MSc, Phd and various Exchange programmes) according to the Central Student Administration in 1997/98. The WISP'r was the first English-language page in a Dutch university newspaper. Only one other university (Maastricht) includes news in English in their weekly, as well as a four-page insert once a month
The WISP'r appeared for the first time in January 1995, after a decision to replace its forerunner, a separate English-language monthly called Wageningen On-Line. Some responses included a request for a separate English publication. Godelieve Nieuwendijk from the WAU Public Relations department responds that it was a good decision to integrate the English news within the Dutch newspaper for two reasons. It implies that international students are not seen as outsiders, and the news is also of interest to Dutch students, who gain more understanding of the issues relevant to international students in Wageningen by reading the page
The possibility of extending the current WISP'r site on the internet (http://www.wau.nl/wub/wsphome.html) with translated news still needs to be looked into. Many specific topics were suggested by responding students, and future WISP'rs will attempt to meet these requests. It's your page, so keep them coming!

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