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Women and Politics in Indonesia

Presented in Greens WA Conference, 28 September 2014
by: Khalisah Khalid
WALHI – Indonesian for the Environment Forum
Member of SHI – Indonesian Green Union
Founder of Indonesian Green Party



A brief history of Green Indonesia: a personal account

  • In 2003, WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia), the largest environmental group in Indonesia set up a political wing to prepare the way for green political organisation. The movement gave birth to SHI – the Green Indonesia Union in 2007, which since early days have joined the global green political activists and later become a full member of APGF in 2014.

  • SHI’s first Congress in 2011 came up with a resolution to stay as a mass political organisation and will support the establishment of Green Party Indonesia.

  • In 5th June 2012 the birth of Partai Hijau Indonesia (PHI) is declared by more than 100 environmental and social movement activists including SHI and Walhi activists.

  • The trajectory of my involvement in environmental movement has seen me from being a student activist through to being active member and executive of SHI and one of green party declarator/founder.

  • Since returning to Walhi as staff member in 2012, I have been mostly in charge of running the campaign to call for clean and good government. As part of the work, we run political awareness building to call people to vote for candidates of legislative and presidential elections with green record.

  • My main focus and concern of work, however, is to encourage more women to be active in politics and joining green party.


Why women’s participation in democracy and politics in Indonesia is important

  • Women’s access to natural resources are marginalised. Rural women mostly hold no access neither title to land that makes them vulnerable to lose their male partners/husbands. In agricultural sector, only 7% of women peasants earn money from their work and 55% are paid lower than men although they work longer hour.

  • Since decentralisation of power in 1999, there have been 207 regulations and bylaws being passed which are based on certain religion and morality hence  discriminatory at large. In particular, 78 bylaws restrict women’s presence in public.

  • Women who fight for sustainability of their environment , livelihoods and natural resources are criminalised and faced human rights abuses. One example is Eva Bande, SHI’s woman leader in Central Sulawesi, who has been imprisoned for leading resistance movement to corrupt plantation expansion.


  • On paper, Indonesia has laws and regulations regarding women participation in politics. For examples, women representation in political party executive and 30% minimum quota for legislative candidate are regulated by laws. In reality, it has been an uphill struggle to meet the expectation. The latest election even show a drop in number.

  • Despite increasing number of women running for parliament – 33.6% in 2009 to 37 % in 2014 -, the figure drops of the actual taking seats from 18.2% in 2009 to 17,3% in 2014

  • Many factors behind lack of women  participation in democracy and politics including: misconception of politics as men’s game; stereotype that politics is dirty and scary; systematic domestication of women by Suharto’s Orde Baru (example of Dharma Wanita as “women’s club” to support husbands’ career); predominant misogynistic ‘real politik’.

  • In general, very little capacity building is available to enable women to take part in politics amids multiple obstacles mentioned above. This makes ‘kaderisasi’ (regeneration) even more difficult.

  • Lack of representation is not only restricted to quantity, but only a few women MPs and senator who have good understanding of complex problems faced by women outside their office zone such as those of rural women’s and natural resources. The overall picture of political representation is, however, elitist, regardless of gender.

What we (will) do:

  • Gender equity and equality have to be promoted through various strategy including political education for women. Women and politics should go beyond 30% quota, that it is not only about quantity, but more importantly it is about quality.

  • Promoting and popular campaign about substantial democracy within procedural system.

  • Intervention to women in national and regional parliament by, for example, examining party’s commitment to increase women’s participation both in quality and quantity.

  • Empowering women to participate in politics through engagement in green political party programmes.

  • Political education and leadership training for woman leaders at all level, covering myriad issues environment, human rights, social and economic justice.


10/09/2014 – 00:00


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