Within today’s era of political openness, women’s movement is spreading wider in all contexts: area of focus, geographic range, variety of issues, and even the definitions of gender issues. Such variety and magnitude of scope demand for the capability and commitment of women’s organizations to build and develop working networks to overcome numerous shortcomings, from the understanding of women’s issues, understanding of power relations, ability in develop working strategies, funding, to the regeneration of leadership.
The view on leadership is greatly varied and such variety is influenced by the subjective experiences of each individuals, such as the social process that shaped their lives. This shows that leadership is a social process which is rooted in one’s organizational experiences. Organization is a key platform for women to construct themselves through learning processes in becoming a leader. The involvement of women in organizations does not only afford them organizing skills, but also ideal values on leadership and leading.
Essentially, women’s leadership cannot be viewed in a narrow context. Although women’s structural leadership in the public sector has yet to be achieved widely, we can see that the social transformation process has enabled the leadership of women in women’s movements at the grass-root level. Women’s leadership can influence and push for a real change in society, despite the lack of publicity or exposure.
The role of women is growing by the day, although gender equality has yet to be substantially achieved due to the numerous challenges faced by women, both at the public and private spheres. The influence and effort of leadership to present a more equal relation at the private sphere still needs a tremendous work to make its impact as seen as women’s empowerment at the public sphere. Therefore the role of women’s leadership needs to be understood in a wider context. In order to enable the agendas and forms of power to be understood contextually, an involvement of various parties in the process of transformation is urgently needed.
The rise of women leaders in many regions is a success of women’s organizations that continue to encourage women to participate in fighting for justice in her environment. For example, the Women Farmer Group of Kendeng Mountains who resisted against establishment of a cement factory in Rembang. This women group demands for justice regarding the loss of water sources which will directly threat the local community as a result of the mining and setting up of the factory.
The consolidation of women’s organizations is also visible in Riau Province, where women are involved as initiators in solving forest concession-related issues. For instance, in Sungai Berbari Village, Siak Regency, women initiated a demonstration by blocking the roads because companies did not perform their obligation to water the dusty roads damaged by the heavy vehicles passing through daily. This condition is damaging for the local people’s health, causing illnesses such as acute respiratory infections (ARI). There are still many other efforts deployed by women in Riau Province to fight against forest fires and the haze it causes, which is highly dangerous for the health.
Other women leaders from various areas include:
- Yosepha Alomang from Papua who fought to defend the locals living around the foreign mining companies in her area;
- Sisilia Mbimbus, a housewife from East Nusa Tenggara, who empowered the people of her village by creating clean water installations, enabling children to continue their education, and breaking the tradition which forbids women to participate in village matters;
- Asnaini from Aceh, the first female Village Head in Gayo Land, who was relatively successful in fighting for her people’s rights, especially women’s. She was awarded the Aceh Women Award in 2012;
- Aleta Baun, the mastermind behind the local movement in Molo Mountains, East Nusa Tenggara, who also resisted against the mining companies in her area.
Apart from those women, there are also a number of women’s organisations in Central Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, i.e. Female Heads of Families (PEKKA), Women’s Small Business Network (JARPUK), and Women Development Association of Mataram (Perkumpulan Panca Karsa Mataram), which offers an integrated service of marriage legalization (isbat nikah) through mentorship until the issuance of the marriage certificate. The marriage legalization is particularly important for women as it provides them with a legal certainty regarding marriage status, children status, and marital property. In the economy sector, the Independent Women Union (Serikat Perempuan Independen) in Deli Serdang, Serdang Bedagai, and Labuhan Batu which is part of HAPSARI (the Associations of Indonesian Women Unions) carried out women empowerment programs through cooperation and Credit Union. They also developed production of handicrafts sourced from local raw materials such as dishwashing soaps which are then sold as additional sources of income.
Ironically, the rise of women leaders is not equipped with more gender-sensitive public policies, as proven by the numerous regional policies which are disadvantageous for women. Based on the 2015 data from National Commission on Women (Komnas Perempuan), a number of 365 local regulations are discriminative for women.
On the other hand, the advocacy carried out by women’s organizations to protect women by increasing the minimum age of marriage of women through the amendment of Article 7 paragraph (1) Law No. 1/1974 on Marriage was turned down by the Constitutional Court. The Indonesian House of Representatives, as a legislative institution with the discretion to issue policies, do not prioritize policies related to women’s protection. In addition, the hard work of women’s groups to propose the Gender Equality and Justice Bill (RUU KKG) into the National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) has yet to lead make it prioritized by the House of Representatives.
It is exactly here that women’s struggle is put to test. The support from policies and funding to enhance justice and gender equality, as well develop women’s development and organizations, is urgently needed. How can women’s leadership be realized when a data from Perludem (Association for Election and Democracy) shows that the number of female candidates in the 2015 Regional Election is still far from ideal? There was only 116 female candidates electing for regional leaders or deputies, or 7.32% from the total number of 1,584 candidates in the Regional Election. This fact shows that the goal to strengthen women’s leadership is still a very challenging one.
Various efforts to support women’s roles and representatives by implementing a minimum of 30% for women in the parliament also proved unsuccessful in the 2014 Election. There was not a single political party that managed to fulfill the minimum quota for women’s representation in the parliament. The data from the General Election Commission shows that the number of elected female MPs in the 2014-2018 period fell from 18.2% or 103 seats in 2009 to 17.3% or 97 seats in 2014. This is ironic considering that the number of female candidates increased from 33.6% in 2009 to 37% in 2014. Furthermore, as much as 7 provinces do not have a single female representative in the parliament, namely Aceh, West Papua, Bali, East Nusa Tenggara, South Kalimantan, and Bangka Belitung.
The low rate of women’s participation in the parliament may be a result of the equally small number of women entering politics. This is caused by a number of factors, such as culture and the lack of social, political, and financial capital for women, ultimately limiting and hindering women’s participation in the formal political sphere. Women’s representation in formal politics is needed to strengthen the struggle for a policy which places a greater focus on women’s needs and interests, and women’s political presence in the parliament is expected to effect a more meaningful impact in women’s lives.
In order to enhance women’s leadership experiences in facing the dynamics and challenges of this era of political openness, on 17th September 2015, Women Research Institute, supported by Hivos, will hold a Public Seminar entitled “A Stronger Women’s Leadership in the Era of Political Openness” and a launching of the “Women’s Leadership” Training Manual.
Jakarta, 17 September 2015
Women Research Institute