INDONESIA: Women Must Have Greater Say in Administration

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
The Jakarta Post
South Eastern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Peace Processes
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

Women should have greater opportunities in decision-making processes to ensure the effectiveness of policy programs designed to help the poor — especially women and children — activists say.

Aceh Indonesian Women Coalition (KPI) representative Safwani said that pro-women policies could only be administered if relevant stakeholders participate with government initiatives at all levels, including the local ones.

Citing an example, Safwani said that many women in Aceh could not take advantage of huge budget allocations provided by the government because they had not taken part in the planning process.

“We still lack room for engagement in decision-making processes, which is desperately needed to make sure that decisions resulting from the process will take sides with our [women's] interests,” she told journalists in a discussion held by Oxfam.

Safwani is one of the women leaders who participated in “Raising Her Voice” — a five-year global program that has been carried out in 17 countries by Oxfam GB since August 2008 with support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

The Raising Her Voice program aims to strengthen women's capacity in influencing developmental planning at village levels. The program is implemented in two regencies in Indonesia — North Aceh regency in Aceh and Paniai regency in Papua.

Eight months after the tsunami disaster on Dec. 26, 2004, the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) signed a peace accord in Helsinki in August 2005, ending one of Asia's longest-running wars.

At least Rp 34 trillion (US$3.88 billion) in aid flew to Aceh, but led to no significant changes in local society, program activists said.

Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data from 2008 recorded that 959,700 people, or 23.05 percent of the total population of 4 million in Aceh, still live below the poverty line, making it among Indonesia's most impoverished provinces.

Studies in 23 regencies and municipalities in Aceh show that increased earnings do not always imply a decreasing number of poor families.

Aceh Development Fund (ADF) director Afrizal Tjoetra said that the overflow of money from budgetary allocations and donor agencies could not increase the people's prosperity because of an overall weak understanding in determining which resources would need to be allocated for poor people, women and children.

In spite of substantial budgetary increases, Afrizal said that many local administrations in Aceh fell short of their development goals because of insufficient participation from local people to help assist decision-making processes.

“They don't want to involve local people in deciding how best to use the funds,” he told The Jakarta Post.

He said many local administrations in Aceh had still shown strong resistance against engaging stakeholders in budget deliberations despite persistent efforts to socialize the importance of public involvement.