Monday, December 04, 2006

Indonesia Woman

Woman and Politics

Strategic Planning Workshop on Strengthening the Political Role of Woman in the Parliamentary Election 2004

During Indonesia's first democratic elections after the Suharto Era in 1999, woman made up 57% of the voters. However, women currently hold only 45 of the 500 seats in the national parliament. That's only about 9%. On the local level, the figure is between 0% to 2%. Indonesia's women are still heavily under-represented in political life.

With the next elections coming up in April 2004, efforts are being made to give women a bigger share of power. In February 2003, the national parliament (DPR) promulgated a new Election Law that is meant to give more space for female involvement in the political arena. Law No. 12/2003 Article 65 Paragraph (1) on general elections points out that each participating political party may nominate candidates for national and local parliament for each electoral district giving consideration to representation of woman of at least 30 percent. The new rule is not compulsory but many of the contesting political parties might give more of the posiotns on the lists to women. However what is found today is that women often lack the knowledge and experience of their male counterparts. There is not only an urgent need for capacity building but also the political structures and processes must be changed so that women get a fair chance for more participation.

In order to pave the way for this process, the Institute for Social Institutions Studies (ISIS) and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF), have conducted a strategic planning workshop on the political role of women in the 2004 parliamentary elections in Pasir, Situbondo, East Java from March 12 to 14, 2003. The local partner in Pasir was a Fatayat NU Situbondo, a women’s group of Nahdatul Ulama the largest Muslim organisation in Indonesia. The 35 participants of the workshop represented a wide range of different women’s organizations. Among others, the Fatayat NU (the womans' section of Nahdatul Ulama), Muslimat NU, Nasyatul Aisyah (The womans' section of Muhammadiyah), PMII (Indonesia Islamic Student Association), the womans' department of PDI-P, PGRI (Teachers Association), PKB (National Awakening Party) as well as some other NGOs and CSOs based in Situbondo.

Most of the participants were eager to join politics - either as members of the local parliament or even as district heads. Aspirations were high: Women should play a strategic role in political parties and, as a result of cultural changes, they should be ready to become equal to men in the political arena. Woman could even be the answer to Indonesia's corruption problem, that was what participants felt. After all, as quoted in Kompas Daily, 7 March 2003, the head of UNDP Indonesia, Bo Asplund, has said that the recent World Bank research proved that there is a correlation between an increase of woman representatives in parliament and a decrease of corruption. Many participants, however, believed that women are still trapped within a patriarchically structured society. Especially in Situbondo, which is dominated by a strong Madurese and Islamic culture. Within this culture, the Kiai, title for venerated Islamic leader or teacher, holds the key position. In order for women to take on a bigger political role, the require the endorsment by the local traditional islamic leaders (Kiai). Thus, the women in Situbondo still face many challenges: they need to increase their understanding of politics, their political skills, their human resources, their political capacity, and, above all, they need to make people aware that women in politics is not contradicting Islam.

Jakarta, April 2003

M. Husni Thamrin
Programme Assistant
Friedrich Naumann Stiftung

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