Good morning my Greens colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.
It has been a great privilege for me to be with you here in the land of Africa.
Listening to your speech and sharing, such as from Dorothy Tekwie of Papua New Guinea and Ma of Nigeria, being women leaders in male-dominated environment, very much remind me of our struggle in Indonesia. We have come along way to assert equality.
Indonesia has seen women started taking public stage in organised manner almost a century ago, when my foremothers held the first Women’s Congress back in 1928. That event ever since has been commemorated as ‘Mother Day’ in Indonesia. The link itself – Mother Day to celebrate women’s emancipation in public sphere – is telling on how women see themselves: woman is an entity with multiple roles, inside and outside home. Those admirable women set up literacy courses for women workers, schooling for girls, etcetera. The colonial setting had been instrumental to give the push for emancipation, along with other movement to seek independence.
More than half century later after independence, however, our work has not become less demanding. With growing middle class and more women enjoying good education on the one hand, we are facing more challenges on the other hand. Systematic domestication of women by the New Order of Suharto, which ruled Indonesia for over three decades until the turning of 21st century, has been a significant challenge. The regime banned establishment of any member-based organisation as preventive action towards any communist resurgence. Government offices also provide ‘special’ place for women called ‘Dharma Wanita’, translated loosely as ‘the women who serve’. It is an attachment to any public office where women, especially the wives of male public servants in respective offices, should be part of, being the female face of the office. Apart from the intention to encourage women to take active role outside of home, this institution has been creating a stigma that women’s place is only to support the male. There is no equivalent of ‘Dharma Wanita’ for male spouses of the women in the office.
Affirmative action to encourage women to be active in public domain also presence in the allocation of 30% of seats for women in parliament. And yet, along with it, there is growing number of sexual discriminative or misogynist bylaws having been passed.
Where have we been with the quota for women?
First of all, the 30% quota for women in parliament, which was first stipulated in 2009, was not met. Women took only 17.7% seats and only 1 political party met the quota internally. Further than that, women’s presence in parliament does not correlate with their work to promote equality and the betterment of women’s condition. We haven’t seen many women Member of Parliaments speak up for women’s interest. We also had a female president who was during her term declared Aceh as the Area of Military Operation to clamp down the resurgence of separatist group. We believe militaristic approach would only put women as double victims.
Quantity Certainly does not Guarantee Quality.
On top of that, since decentralisation in 1999, we have seen 207 regulations with reference to certain religion and morality being passed, which are discriminatory in nature. In particular, 78 bylaws restrict women’s presence in public sphere. For example, there are bylaws in some Aceh districts that ban women to run as head of public office. Aceh is a province in Indonesia currently holding a special status and applying a Syariah law. In other provinces and districts of Indonesia, reference to Syariah law can be found in bylaws restricting women’s liberty, for example, the way women should wear covered clothing, women should be out of street after dark, and so on. There are many more bylaws in similar narrow-mindedness.
There are more urgent things, however, that make such misogynist norms all the more out of place. After the fall of Suharto, despite widening of democratic space, more than 30 million of the population is falling into deeper poverty. Millions of families do not have access to clean water, millions of children do not have access to education, 64% of 8.5 million people who cannot read and write are women.
Women are also marginalized in access to natural resources. Many rural women are not entitled to their family land, which make them vulnerable when they lost their male spouses. In agriculture, FAO noted that only 7% of women peasants are earning money from their labor, and 55% are paid less than men although they work longer hour.
Government policies on natural resources management even marginalized women further. Take a look on policies that support extractive industries such as laws on mining, or regulations to support the expansion of oil palm estates, as well as the law to provide land for development projects. All those regulations legitimize the government to grab people’s land in the name of development. In turn, it is the women who will be in worst off position.
Women often become the voiceless victims of natural resources exploitation.
Yet not all of them stay silence.
While women Member of Parliaments often have to back down to their party policies, which are not necessarily in favour of people’s interest, other women take the matters on their own hands. In various places women are resisting that their livelihoods are not to be compromised. Aleta Baun, a woman from Timor, mobilised her community to stop a mining company operating in her village. The move was crucial to protect an important watershed for the region. They won. Werima Mananta, an indigenous woman from Sulawesi, mobilised her community to reclaim back their land from Inco, a nickel mining company from Canada, and protect their land by revitalising indigenous knowledge. A group of fisherwomen in Central Java have organised themselves and held their Congress last year. They chose the way to secure recognition of their rights to livelihoods. These are only a few examples of how grassroots women assert themselves to fight for the future of their children.
Where are we going from here?
As much as we do not believe in token democracy, we do not believe in token presence of women in parliament either. The application of quota for the seats, is useful to promote women participation in parliamentary politics, and so long it does not stop on the number alone.
My illustrations highlight the facts that women should take up more proactive role at all levels in decision making including in defending our own livelihoods and future generation. Being active in politics should mean working towards change.
To increase the quality of women engagement in politics also means meaningful relationship between the representatives and the constituents.
Last but not least, increasing women’s participation does not mean excluding men from the process. Instead, it is important to continue raising awareness of women’s perspective by involving our male colleagues.
We can only make change if we work together.
Written by Khalisah Khalid and Adriana Sri Adhiati (the Green Indonesia Union)
04/20/2012 – 00:00