Women Political Leaders Build Capacity through Compassion at WLP Indonesia's Training

TOT participants collaborate during a workshop
TOT participants collaborate during a workshop.

WLP’s partner organization in Indonesia, Women and Youth Development Institute of Indonesia (WYDII), hosted a training of trainers (TOT) from June 11 to 13, 2017 in Surabaya. Women from civil society, government, political parties, and universities attended to enhance their skills in participatory leadership and human rights advocacy.

As in previous TOTs, this training encouraged women to take leadership roles and run for office. Some former TOT participants who now hold appointed or elected positions in politics came to the training to help nurture the next generation of women leaders in Indonesia. 

Challenges and Opportunities for Indonesian Women in Politics

Indonesian women face structural and cultural barriers to running for office. Although a quota reserves a minimum of 30 percent of parliamentary seats for women, political-party culture tends to exclude women. Party meetings are often held at night when many women are expected to take care of their children. Women who do run for office often go into debt funding their own campaigns because political fundraising is not a common practice in Indonesia. Most candidates personally finance their campaigns, with the exception of the few candidates that political parties support with small sums of money. 

On the first day of the TOT, Nihayatul Wafiroh, a deputy of commissioner of elections, shared her experience overcoming some of these challenges en route to her previous position as a member of parliament. While women do not have an equitable path to political office, Wafiroh talked about some of the ways that politicians can solve problems facing Indonesian women once they are elected. 

In 2016, Wafiroh co-sponsored the Elimination of Sexual Violence Bill, a proposed law that Indonesia’s House of Representatives is set to deliberate in 2018. Indonesia’s domestic violence prevention law and its penal code provide some protections from sexual violence, but the Elimination of Sexual Violence Bill would bolster those protections. The proposed bill also puts a larger focus on the recovery of victims instead of concentrating solely on punishing perpetrators of violence.  

Hayu Dyah Patria is a food security activist who participated in the TOT. Like many Indonesians, the growing divisiveness of politics had caused Patria to lose faith in government. However, she was invigorated by Wafiroh’s altruistic stance. “Prior to this training, I was very pessimistic about the political will of Members of Parliament, both male and female,” said Patria. “But from this training, I have new hope that good women leaders can be good politicians and fight for the rights of marginal groups.”  

Achieving Peace through Security in the Family

In recent years, Indonesia has experienced an upsurge in sectarian violence. Using sessions in WLP manual Leading to Compassion, participants discussed the link between violence in society and violence in the home, and examined human rights through the lens of compassion. In the manual, women’s rights activist Charlotte Bunch writes that “for those who care about creating a non-violent society or want to end militarism and ethnic conflict, violence in the home undermines these goals.” 

Indonesia TOT 2017 Group PPT
PPT provides domestic violence prevention and rehabilitation services for women and children.

As part of this session, WYDII organized a visit to a public health center for women and children. These centers, which were established after the Elimination of Violence in the Household Law of 2004, promote the prevention of violence against women and children, provide health rehabilitation, and offer judicial protection, among other services. 

One third of Indonesian women aged 15 to 64 years old self-report to having experienced physical and/or sexual violence in her lifetime, according to a Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry survey. These public health centers give victims of domestic violence a safe space to recover and allow allies to help them get justice.

Their visit to the public health centers inspired TOT participants to collectively mobilize against gender-based violence, with one university student remarking that she would write her thesis on eliminating GBV.

Building Capacity of Women Candidates

WYDII’s TOT participants have an excellent track record of reaching public office. At this year’s training, three returning participants had recently been appointed to leadership positions in politics. Another, Siti Hairiyah Latifah, went on win the election for head of the village of Kampunganyar in Banyuwangi, East Java Province as a member of the PDIP Party. 

Latifah built her leadership capacity at the TOT and she credits WLP and WYDII’s grassroots approach to training for her successful campaign. “This TOT has sharpened my knowledge of and skills in politics, political parties, and the policy making process. Being in the TOT and being part of this wonderful group of women certainly has improved my confidence and performance in the party,” she said.    

Testaments from TOT participants show that WYDII’s engagement with youth will continue to build the capacities of Indonesia’s leaders of the future. One participant reflected on the training: “My political horizon has increased so greatly that I feel that I can make the decision to run.”     

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