Mercury is a hazardous chemical which may cause serious health problems and environmental destruction. However, artisanal and small-scale gold miners (ASGM) use mercury to extract the gold, and this mining sector has become the largest global source of mercury pollution to the environment.
Miner families including women and children are the most vulnerable groups affected by mercury. A study showed that the practice of using mercury in ASGM has an impact on increasing the mercury content in the bodies of women who are involved in mining practices. The results of a sample of women who were directly involved in ASGM, or had family members who were involved in ASGM, showed high levels of methyl mercury in their hair. This demonstrates the need for awareness raising in ASGM communities about the dangers of mercury, including people living in active mining areas.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and The Government of Indonesia, with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), are in a five-year partnership to reduce and eliminate mercury in the ASGM sector in Indonesia through the implementation of Global Opportunities for Long-term Development of ASGM Sector Integrated Sound Management of Mercury in Indonesia’s ASGM—the planetGOLD project in Indonesia known locally as the “GOLD-ISMIA” project.
One of the project’s targets is to raise the awareness of 20,000 people including miner families, children and people living in ASGM areas. The project is involving teachers from primary schools located in surrounding gold mining areas as agents for a mercury campaign, because they can bring positive changes in the lives of people. Besides that, direct interaction between teachers with children could deliver good knowledge about the mercury impacts to their lives.
Mercury is a chemical which is not easy to understand for young kids, therefore GOLD-ISMIA holds storytelling workshop for teachers. When their teachers tell the story about mercury with character voices and expression, it will get the attention of the children. Storytelling helps them to imagine the messages which develops their empathy as they try to take actions. In order to support this campaign, the project has published comic books (found here and here) about mercury impacts on miners and the environment to support the storytelling workshop.
There are 260 teachers (60% are women) from primary schools located in small-scale gold mining areas from Kuantan Singingi District, Kulon Progo District, West Lombok District, Gorontalo Utara District, Minahasa Utara District and Halmahera Selatan who participated in the two-day storytelling workshops that were held from February 2020 to June 2021. In collaboration with the professional storytelling group Yayasan Kampung Dongeng Indonesia, GOLD-ISMIA invited Awam Prakoso and Syarif Ali to educate the teachers about basic techniques of storytelling and vocal techniques as the main subjects of this workshop.
The workshop received appreciation from the Education Office at the District level. The Head of Education Office of Kulonprogo District conveyed his acknowledgement to the GOLD-ISMIA project on facilitating this workshop. He mentioned that storytelling is an effective media campaign for children in age 5-10 years old and primary teachers will be responsible for spreading the campaign message to their students with interesting and memorable stories. The Head of Education Office of Kuantan Singingi District also appreciated this workshop and indicated that teachers in Teluk Kuantan will support the mercury campaign to save the children from mercury. He hopes that GOLD-ISMIA can facilitate the workshop for all primary schools in this district.
The implementation of the GOLD-ISMIA project is in line with Indonesia’s National Action Plan on reduction and elimination, which is targeting zero mercury from the ASGM sector in 2025. This collaboration with Education Offices including teachers will help children living in ASGM areas to avoid mercury.
From participating in the workshop, teachers have an understanding about the impact of mercury and have technical capacity to tell the story like a storyteller. They expressed that they are very happy to be able to participate in this storytelling workshop because these are new experiences and new knowledge for them. They also signed a confirmation letter which states that they are keen to support the mercury campaign through storytelling to their students. Adding to that, the teachers believe that their support will contribute to the national priority action plan on mercury reduction and elimination. So, let’s stop mercury to save our future generation.