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In the Wehea Dayak community, the important roles played in traditional events and rituals do not solely belong to men; it is the Wehea Dayak women who conduct some of the most intricate tasks. So, what do their roles involve?

The Wehea Dayak is a traditional community group that has lived for generations in the East Kutai area of East Kalimantan. Through its Orangutan Habitat Restoration (RHO) program, the BOS Foundation helps the Wehea Dayak community in Muara Wahau preserve their customs and traditions in a collaborative project with Save the Orangutan (StO), funded by CISU (Civilsamfund i Udvikling/Civil Society in Development).

The BOS Foundation and its partners help preserve these customs and traditions by supporting the organisation of various traditional Wehea Dayak rituals. In assisting with such events, we have noticed that many special tasks are carried out by the women in the community. The following is an explanation from Wehea Dayak women, regarding their roles in various traditional events.

In preparation for the rice harvest festival, or mbob jengea, women are tasked with cooking, dancing tumbam bataq, and cleaning the village. “For other ceremonies, like the erau anak (child initiation) party, women are responsible for the feeding ritual, or the preparation of offerings for the ancestors. This is also the same for traditional weddings," explained Yulita Leang Long, a resident of Diaq Lay village.

In order to keep their traditions and culture alive for the younger generation, Yulita tries to teach her children as much as she can. “This includes how to sew traditional Wehea Dayak clothing and learning all the customary dances,” Yulita added.

Mariana Ying Tuq, a local community member from Bea Nehas village, says she participates in various eraus, or traditional parties, as well as makes traditional Wehea Dayak handicrafts like tepa (traditional skirts), sekduq (hats), braided machete cords, and woven mats.

The biggest challenge in preserving these traditions and customs is finding the best way to pass them on to the younger generation. Modern life and the influence of gadgets and technology on the younger generation can often eclipse the traditional values inherent in Wehea Dayak rituals. Another challenge is funding: This is where support from the BOS Foundation and its partners comes into play.  

Refusing to give in to these obstacles, Wehea Dayak women strive to provide insight for the youth in their communities, whilst preserving traditional rituals. "We keep growing rice, making mats, cooking together for traditional events, dancing during eraus - anything we can do, we do it," said Diana Lehong, a resident of Diaq Lay village.

Diana Lehong and some of her friends formed a craft community. “We make handicrafts such as mats, for both personal use and for traditional events.”

They also try to utilise technology, their ‘adversary’, to their advantage. “We promote Wehea Dayak culture through Facebook. We get inspiration from other accounts, then produce our own Wehea Dayak videos. I also wrote a song related to nature and posted it on social media. We support everyone who posts videos related to Wehea Dayak customs and traditions on social media, as long as it has a positive message," said Yulita Leang Long.

These three women proudly work to preserve their culture and customs, and hope their efforts will continue to receive positive responses from other residents across all age groups, especially young people. According to these women, Wehea Dayak culture teaches and promotes respect for nature, the importance of working together in teams, paying respect to elders, and accepting differences, in addition to so much more. They wish for nothing more than to maintain these values within their society.

Let’s continue to help promote Wehea Dayak customs and traditions!

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