INDONESIA: Women's Role Crucial In Times Of Conflict

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Jakarta Post
South Eastern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 

The resilience of women helps communities stay together in times of crisis because they shield their children and family from hardships and have the will to survive.

Former defense minister of Finland and peace activist Elizabeth Rehn said that women had a unique ability in post-conflict peace building because they would think not only about themselves but also their children and family.

“We need to be there not only because we have the expertise as men have, but we can also guarantee that women and children get more care, than men possibly can have because men have different wants,” she said.

With the start of the Reform Era in 1998, people came forward and challenged the central government over the equal distribution of politics and economics.

There have been several conflicts across the country in which women and children have been victims.

Irine Hiraswari Gayatri from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said that women were important in peace-building because women were able to create connections between conflicting groups.

“In Ambon, women sell food at the market. Since everyone needs food, the conflicting parties would have to get in touch with the women,” she said.

Unfortunately, many of the women's voices are muted by the patriarchal culture and traditions.

For example, in Aceh, although women are invited to participate in the political arena, women's voices are not heard because women have to follow commands and control.

But in other provinces like Papua, Poso and Maluku, traditional law allows women a major role in solving conflicts.

“The national plan should be taken into consideration during the drafting of the laws. The government should translate political action into regulations and local regulations, and see which regulations a region can apply,” Irine said.

To protect women, the government adopted United Nation resolution 1325 on women, security and peace and has been drafting a National Action Plan to implement the resolution.

Some of the plans include a gender-sensitive budget and laws supporting women's rights.

“We are drafting the national plan. We hope we can complete the plan this year,” Women's Empowerment Minister Linda Gumelar said.

She said that the plan would include introducing a mechanism for local administrations to report on women's rights issues to the central government.

To improve the implementation of the resolution, she said, the government and administrations needed to involve women's groups and organizations.

Rehn said that Finland had produced implementation plans for several phases of the resolution because they knew that it would be impossible to produce a plan that would be relevant for all ages.

“We now have a 2008-2011 plan. After 2011, there must be an assessment on what has been done and what still needs to be done,” she said.

Rehn suggested Indonesia make a regional plan that involved women in the Asia Pacific region.

She cited the case of a lobby group consisting of women from South East European countries.

During a discussion on Kosovo, Serbian women sent a telegram to Kosovo's women, saying that although they did not agree with Kosovo's decision to declare independence, they respected it and wanted to congratulate Kosovo for making the decision.

“I think it's fantastic that women are able to do that,” she said.