Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation
Today’s post will feature the first part of a two-part post, containing words from participants of the WELDD programme under IWE and Solidaritas Perempuan (Aceh Women Solidarity), designed to introduce the concept of pluralism as stated in the Quran to those in Aceh. The second part will feature voices from those in collaboration with IWE and RAHIMA and West Jawa—stay tuned for those as well.
In the context of Aceh and West Java, there is a need for the community to establish harmony and practice pluralism in daily life. Pluralism is a framework where interaction within and among community groups is based on inclusiveness, an acceptance of differences, and mutual respect. Pluralism is essential for modern communities and one of the most important foundations of advancement in knowledge, progress in the community and achievement of economic welfare.
Unfortunately, Aceh and West Java are still practicing discrimination in customary traditions and law enforcement at the local level. For instance, local regulation issued by the Governor still discriminates against women and treats them like objects. Violence and discrimination are manifestations of patriarchy in authoritarian societies. Power lies only in a handful of patriarchal and fundamentalist leaders, and political decisions are only made by this group. This is quite unfortunate in a situation where justice and pluralism can only be achieved through even distribution of power and proportional sharing of power between men and women.
Considering the will of the communities for a life of peace free of conflict, and full of mutual respect, IWE, together with Solidaritas Perempuan Aceh (Aceh Women Solidarity) as well as Rahima and Fahmina in West Java, have worked hand in hand through the WELDD programme to disseminate the concept of pluralism using the language of the people and quoting the rulings from the Qur’an and the Hadith (Words of Prophet Muhammad PBUH) as well as promoting positive values such as justice, gender equality, compassion, mutual respect and enforcement of the rights of women. This collaboration was able to produce active participation and commitment from the community to reduce and minimize conflict and to withdraw local regulations that is discriminative against women or against SARA (Ethnicity, Religion, Race, and Community Groups).
“The most interesting materials are on the self-concept from which we could identify existing potentials in ourselves. Besides this, learning about self-concept enabled us to assess others from our own point of view. Both of these things are useful to train us in assessing people while always considering our own experiences. I symbolise myself as a coco-tree; most of the parts are useful, the wood, the tree and the fruit. My favourite method was discussion, during which participants could have dialogue and discuss. Apart from discussion I also liked the game and presentation method. These methods were not boring--they helped participants to be active during the learning process. For example games make participants understand the materials more easily and keep their mind ‘fresh’ and not sleepy. Relating to timing, two hours I think was sufficient. After learning about self-concept I gained more self-confidence and feel more responsibility to take care of myself.” (Aprillia, Gampong Lambaro Seubun - Aceh)
“The most impressive materials are “diversity” and “tolerance”. These materials are like a tree consisting of wood, branches, leaves, flowers and fruits. I found out that diversity is very broad, not only limited to difference of religion but includes diversity in race, culture, way of thinking, interests and sexual orientation, and we should tolerate these differences. The method used in learning about diversity was group discussion and panel which motivated us to think and express our minds. I used to be very resistant to accepting difference but now I try to respect and tolerate. I no longer judge those who are different”. (Eka, Gampong Lambadeuk)
“My favourite material is on human rights and women’s rights. I happened to learn about the two topics so this was a refreshing course for me and strengthened my understanding. Knowledge on human rights and women’s rights reminds me of actions that violate rights that we should avoid. Besides this, the knowledge also strengthens our perspective and solidarity with the marginalised groups. Understanding rights also makes me think more critically particularly to identify violations of human rights conducted by individuals, groups or by the state. I linked the materials with my experiences in Aceh several years ago, I realised that women in Aceh are victims of human rights abuses perpetuated by the state, particularly the military. People’s security is not guaranteed by the government, people were frightened by conflict and the military, and after the tsunami people have been threatened with discriminative by-laws (qanun). Women became target in these conditions. The by-laws imposed in Aceh treat women as criminals, for example through regulating their clothing as if women do not have freedom. The Acehnese government imposes this on the citizens, ignoring other needs for example security, freedom of thought and expression, affordable education and political participation. The lesson that I learnt motivated me to do something in my village. I will try to gather young people and establish a discussion forum there. I have many friends who are actually concerned about the issues we face in Aceh.” (Nurlida, Gampong Moncut)
“The most interesting material for me was on “self-concept”. Through this topic I could appreciate my self and others so I do not judge people easily. The method used is a game which is really interesting because it helps participants to understand things more easily. This was followed with discussion and questions and answers. The discussion method motivates me to think hard and express opinions. Now, I am more confident to speak in public to express my mind although I still need to practice more. Besides this, I did not know about the past culture and customs of the Acehnese. During the self-concept session these were discussed, I found out that Acehnese culture is actually very supportive for women. In response to the situation in Aceh that has been disadvantageous for women, I plan to share this knowledge with the younger generation. I hope this small movement will lead to greater movement to change the conditions for women, particularly in my village.” (Sri Wahyuni, Gampong Seubun Ayon)