Our Story

Our story about a girl who made it her mission to create a network of local women who are restoring the reefs of Indonesia.

Coral Catch is developed by Gili Shark Conservation with the support of The International SeaKeepers Society and PADI. Coral Catch is registered as an official NGO organization in Indonesia under the name Gili Matra Bersama.

Our Story Of How It All Started...

Some choices change your life forever. For a Dutch girl called Rose, visiting a tiny island called Gili Air would change the trajectory of her life, the local community, and potentially the world.

It all started with a scuba dive. It doesn’t take a marine biologist to observe or appreciate what’s happening to life in the pristine waters around the Gili Islands in Indonesia. Shark populations are facing extinction and coral reefs once bursting with color are now grey, dead, or dying. The loss of sharks and reefs could lead to a domino effect of destruction for our planet. As a scuba instructor, it’s hard to take people on ‘fun dives’ while the precious life they’ve come to see is dying around them.

When I started Gili Shark Conservation with my friends, I didn’t have all the knowledge I thought I needed, or the years of experience. What I had was a powerful intention, a lot of energy and the desire to be part of the solution. I didn’t want to stand on the sidelines anymore and watch other people try to solve a problem for which we are all responsible.

Fast forward five years later, Gili Shark Conservation (GSC) has evolved into an award-winning program closely aligned with NGO Gili Matra Bersama. They share a headquarters on Gili Air, hosting researchers, scientists, and ocean enthusiasts from across the globe. Together, they focus on research, education, and  community engagement to protect and preserve marine ecosystems for future generations.

Picture by the talented Valerie Blanchard

How The Idea Of Coral Catch Was Born

Due to Covid-19 Gili Shark Conservation was struggling financially and they couldn’t cover the costs of their research and coral restoration program any longer.

"It wasn’t the first time we had to stop our work: in 2018 a 7.0 earthquake severely damaged our house, our small boutique hotel Villa Nangka and the headquarters of Gili Shark Conservation. But giving up is not in my dictionary. In one month, our research team was up and running again and in one year I rebuild our little paradise, and become a mother for the first time.

Becoming a mother made a big impact on my life and made my drive to protect the ocean even bigger. Although I still needs to wait a few years, taking my daughters diving and showing them the underwater world is my biggest dream. But I often wonder…. will there still be anything to see? "

At the beginning of 2021, the United Nations offered a small grant program for programs like Gili Shark Conservation. Rose knew she had to come up with something special to make a chance. After all, it seemed the whole world was doing coral restoration these days.

Women’s right is always been a topic close to Rose’s heart and while writing the application she suddenly had this ‘aha moment’; what if she would combine her two passions: female empowerment and conservation, and she would set up the first complete female, local coral restoration team in Indonesia?

women supporting women

Just Because They Say It's Impossible, Doesn't Mean You Can't Do It

Rose shared her idea with her husband, some close friends and some people in her network. Most of them started laughing. “Rose, that will never work!” “You will never find enough girls that are able to do the job.”, “Their families will never allow them to be away from home”, “This is the biggest Muslim country in the world, the girls would not feel comfortable wearing swimwear and you cannot go diving with a hijab”, “Indonesian people hate to be in the sun as it changes the color of the skin and having ‘dark skin’ is for the lower class.” and the list of reasons why it would never work went on and on. 

The more people told Rose that it wouldn’t be possible, the more motivated she got to go for it. Because in the end, the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. She shared her idea of offering local women a coral restoration scholarship on Facebook and Instagram and more than 150 women (!!)  applied.

“I was completely overwhelmed by the number of applications, and it was incredibly inspiring to see that there are so many women in Indonesia that have the passion and the drive to work in conservation. 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.”

Picture by the talented Nicolas Hahn

How The Story Ended

Rose didn’t secure the grant from the United Nations, but she found some amazing individuals who believed in her idea. From October 2021 to March 2022, she conducted a pilot project to test the feasibility of her goals. She offered eight Indonesian women a coral restoration scholarship and developed a program where a local female marine scientist trained them over nine weeks to set up and monitor a coral restoration project. The pilot was a resounding success!

After the Superwomen graduated from the scholarship program, each of them made significant strides in their marine conservation careers. They took on roles such as turtle project leader, conservation officer, and instructor. One of the Coral Catch Superwomen even received a full scholarship for a master’s and PhD program at the University of Queensland in Australia!

Rose’s dream has evolved into an award-winning scholarship program on a mission to build a robust network of 100 female leaders dedicated to protecting Indonesia’s coral reefs.

 

women in marine biology

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