Strengthening Political Participation of Women in Indonesia: Challenges and Opportunities
The political participation of women has become a popular topic of discussion in Indonesia as opportunities for women increase since the end of the Soeharto regime. Before the 1999 reformation in Indonesia, the Soeharto regime had discriminated against women by closing down their space for political participation. The regime used social and cultural justifications to deem politics as an arena for men. These conditions led to women feeling aloof from politics and resulted in low political participation by Indonesian women at that time.
A patriarchic ideology was therefore adopted by Indonesian family culture. This led to an assumption that women could only be active in the household sector, such as becoming a wife and doing domestic works; this was deemed to be a special thing to do as a woman instead of working in the public sector. Moreover, if women decided to work in the public sector, they could only work in certain jobs such as secretary, teacher, and fashion designer. This perspective created a belief that men should lead are more competent in political area. Politics is deemed as an arena too tough for women.
Women have abandoned political space especially in disadvantaged regions, making it a male dominated space. This should be a concern since there will be a tendency to neglect women as a part in that space. Unfortunately, women sometimes do not want to be out of their comfort zone. As a consequence, they tend not to be involved in the political space. It was also supported by the political budget, which should be spent by political candidates. Women who have a lack of funding source will be out of the arena, leading to the lower number of women representatives in parliament.
We need to address issues related to the number and quality of women representatives. Women need to access power to adress several problems such as domestic violence towards women, child and human trafficking, domestic workers, migrant workers, indigenous women groups, and so on. Women can empathise and understand other women’s problems. Although, there are also other politicians who understand about women rights, women representatives are suitable to fight for women’s needs.
Unfortunately, the political situation in Indonesia has still not fully enabled women to be active in political participation. Women have a lot of limited access due to culture, society and religion. It has made women’s struggle in political arena still a long way to go. The Indonesia Green Union is working to raise awareness across society on the challenges and opportunities to women’s political participation. The Indonesia Green Union has initiated work with women groups in district, town and province levels by conducting a leadership education programs for women as well as promoting them to become local leaders. Indonesia Green Union has also supported more women figures to be involved in the legislative elections. Indonesia Green Union conducts green political schools to educate women at the village, district, town and province levels so that they will be ready to participate in Indonesia’s legislative elections in 2019.
Supporting women’s political participation is not an easy thing to do. There are still more obstacles that hamper women to be involved in the decision-making such as sectorial and group interests. For women who are not educated in organization or political parties, politics is a fierce arena for women to become a commodity and used by several interests. Therefore, it is a common thing to hear of a women politician being used by other politicians to cover their corrupt manner.
Indonesia Green Union believes women have responsibility and a role within political life. They have opportunity and ability to change the condition to be better, but the opportunity indeed should be taken. There will be more obstacles for women to be involved in politics. One of the solutions is by educating them within the organization that will make them understand theories in politics. Therefore, they will be ready and not influenced by other political interests.
This struggle is not an easy thing to do, there will be a lot of obstacles to create women leaders in all levels to fight for justice and equality. Indonesia Green Union must continue this work in order to make a change. We believe and we understand what we fight for.