Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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Feminist Transformative Leadership: Women’s Contribution in Developing Aceh for Change

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The world is changing rapidly. Likewise in development, it should fit the pattern of change, particularly in developing high quality human resources, superstructure and infrastructure. In the context of Aceh, development supporting peaceful, comfortable, and prosperous environment is an absolute necessity in Aceh’s post-conflict and disaster journey. Each step of the journey is critical because they were part of the development of Indonesia as a nation. Aceh’s women play a significant role with their priceless and irreplaceable contribution even if Aceh history has to be repeated all over again.


In this situation, transformative value is highly required, and women have played important role in transformative movements toward Aceh’s development. One of the most critical transformative value contributed by women in Aceh is development through leadership perspective, ideology, resources, approach, and social change strategies wherein women have to be on the front lines of delivering the noble course.  


Feminist Transformative Leadership


According to some literatures, transformative leadership is defined as a form of leadership where the leaders exert their charisma to transform and revitalize their organization. Transformative leadership prioritizes comprehensive revitalization of "subordinates" and organization, rather than administering top-down instructions. Transformative leaders view themselves as a mentor who are willing to accommodate their subordinates’ aspirations. In its broader application, transformative leadership is not an ansich leadership within a rigid structural hierarchy, but takes the values, strategies, approaches and network in their dynamic, flexible and robust nature to define transformative feminist leadership.


Feminism as a concept nowadays must be understood and differentiated from feminism of the past, when it was perceived solely as an ideology promoting women and men's equality. Diverging from this previous notion, feminism today should be understood as an ideology, framework of analysis, and as a strategy for social improvement which transforms society and people's well-being. Well-being can be achieved when equality, freedom, and social justice can exist without any religion, belief, ethnicity, race, group, class and gender prejudice.


As an ideology, feminism in modern the context goes beyond gender equality; it holds a critical position in transforming every type of social relation and liberating people from suppressing power, exploitation and marginalization which tend to perceive people based on gender, age, sexual orientation, race and religion.


Feminist leadership has different governance orientation (from mainstream value) which manifests itself in power redistribution (dismiss oppressive leadership, value empowerment) and redistributing responsibility (from particular group to community). Transformative feminist leadership is about struggle against a "social gap" (social inequality), changing the economic structure (from oppressive to welfare), and a transformation of psychological and physical structures in order to maintain sustainable, equitable welfare.


Leadership with a feminist perspective is a sensitive and responsive value toward the vision of social justice, individual and collective, that encourages citizens to transform themselves using inclusive structures and processes, and agendas of social improvement, cultural promotion, economic and political transformation, and every other noble values as part of a vision of equality and the actualization of human rights for all. 


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Speaking at the WELDD workshop where I was introduced to the transformative feminist leadership concept.


Development for Welfare: Aceh Women's Contribution


Set out from above reality, thus transformative feminist leadership become highly required value in Aceh, where the values of social justice and welfare that rarely. Development must be aimed for welfare. It is important that Aceh’s women ensure development for welfare is actually achieved through a transformative feminist leadership perspective. These values are mandatory to be owned, internalized and practiced by every leader as main value and fundamental in Aceh and Indonesia.  


This approach can play an important role in ‘deconstructing’ existing values that continue to link ‘development for welfare purpose’ with values of totalitarianism, nepotism, corruption,  and elitism. These underlying values can be demolished by transformative feminist leadership values.


I notice how women in Aceh have carried out all the values of feminist transformative leadership in the long journey of Aceh history; when Aceh was whirling around in cosmic chaos and uncertainties due to armed conflict, when Aceh was in grief after the Tsunami disaster, women managed to transform the value of those tragedies into new social strength that enabled Aceh to rise from adversity into new power. Likewise for Aceh's reconciliation and sustainable peace, Aceh women have positioned themselves as a main driving force in different civil society organisations (CSO), political party, government bureaucracy and other public leadership starting at the gampong (community), through district and municipalities, to provincial level.


All of those are the contributions of women in building Indonesia through developing Aceh. The contributions will continue to develop and grow better, through the dynamism of social movements.  Even within social movements, there is a possibility for that things will become statis when the power being practiced within movements is oppressive and overtakes the causes social welfare and justice.  This can be avoided through the implementation of the values of feminist transformative leadership.  Thus, these values should be supported by anyone who is aware of the massive changed needed for the nation's development.  We need to embody and promote these values until they become part so internalised as to be natural, and can become the inspiriaton for future policies that promote social justice and equality. I would go as far as to say that, beyond Aceh and Indonesia, even the universe needs to adopt transformative feminist leadership! Keep moving forward women of Indonesia and the world!


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