About: Gender, collective action and governance in rural Indonesia

Lead researchers

Dr Rachael Diprose – School of Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of
Arts, University of Melbourne, Australia – Project lead and contact

Dr Ken Setiawan, Asia Institute, Faculty of Arts, University of

Dr Amalinda Savirani – Politics and Governance Department (PolGov),
University of Gadjah Mada) – Faculty of Social and Political Sciences
(FISIPOL), Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia

About this research program

In 2014, Indonesia embarked on an ambitious agenda to devolve some authority for local development to village authorities through the Village Law, with budgets directly channelled to nearly 75,000 villages across the archipelago to implement local-level initiatives. The new Law emphasises the importance of participatory community decision making, poverty reduction and, importantly, gender equity. The changes introduced under the Village Law provide a significant opportunity for women to increasingly influence village governance and development decisions so as to improve their wellbeing.

Covering a range of sectors, places and contexts throughout Indonesia, this research explores if and how women’s collective action in different forms—both at the grassroots level and in more structured advocacy and support for village women from civil society organisations concerned with gender equity—has facilitated changes in the ways power is exercised and decision making operates in rural villages and districts to be more inclusive of women. These are types of change that can have profound impacts on the everyday lives of rural
women in Indonesia.

The research draws from collaborative, in-depth research by the University of Melbourne and Universitas Gadjah Mada across a diverse range of regions from Sumatra, to Java, to Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and East and West Nusa Tenggara in nine provinces, 12 districts and 14 villages. We also collaborate with 15 civil society organisation partners in Indonesia focused on gender inclusion and women’s empowerment nationally and subnationally. In collaborating with such organisations, the research has tended to capture in ethnographic detail and comparatively the voices and experiences of more vulnerable rural village women, women who have often experienced multiple- dimensions of poverty.

Through the research we ask:
• In what contexts, to what extent and through what mechanisms local collective action by women has influenced the implementation of the Village Law.

We also aim to:
• Understand how such influence varies across Indonesia,
• Identify what has constrained or enabled such influence, and
• Determine what has been the role for civil society organisations in this process.


This research helpful for different international and domestic audiences, including both general audiences and academics, civil society organisations, policy makers, international development agencies and practitioners concerned with tackling gender inequality and understanding:

• The constraints and opportunities for, and mechanisms by which, women are able to overcome barriers, improve their everyday lives, and exercise voice and influence on decisions which affect them.
• Understanding variation in these constraints and opportunities in different social fields, policy settings, and geographic and other contexts.
• How grassroots women’s collective action might be supported by group structures of different kinds that involve women, and how, or via what mechanisms, external actors (not just civil society organisations) might help bolster women’s influence in villages and beyond.

From women’s own experiences, audiences also gain insights into how policy, program development and delivery, and social and political structures might be improved to be more gender inclusive, especially in rural areas.

Supporting funding organisations

Various components of this research project have been supported by agencies of the Governments of Australia and Indonesia, the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality (MAMPU), The University of Melbourne, Universitas Gadjah Mada, and other organisations. The research was also conducted in consultation with and supported by the civil society organisations involved.

The views expressed in this digital platform, various publications and the analysis are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the supporting institutions and organisations. We would like to thank these organisations and institutions for their support, as well as the many participants in the research, in particular the countless village women who shared their experiences and views with us. We would also like to thank the peer reviewers of multiple publications and content as well as the many people throughout the world who provided feedback through workshops, seminars, webinars, and other discussions.

Research Partners

Dr Naomi Francis, Monash University

National organisation partners in Indonesia include:

  • The Institute for Women’s Alternative Education (Institute KAPAL Perempuan),
  • The Female Headed Families Empowerment Foundation (PEKKA),
  • ‘Aisyiyah
  • The Forum for Service Providers (FPL),
  • Migrant CARE,
  • The Eastern Indonesia Knowledge Exchange Foundation (BaKTI),
  • The Consortium of Women’s Organisations in Sumatra (PERMAMPU),
  • The Indonesian Foundation for Rural Capacity Building (BITRA), and
  • The Annisa Swasti Foundation (Yasanti).

It also includes the subnational partners of these organisations and the research include:

  • The Community Empowerment Assessment Foundation (YKPM, a partner of KAPAL Perempuan in the Pangkajene and Islands District, South Sulawesi),
  • The Village Women’s Care Foundation (YABIKU, a partner of FPL in East Nusa Tenggara),
  • The DAMAR Women’s Advocacy Institute (DAMAR, a partner of PERMAMPU in Lampung on Sumatra),
  • The Independent Women’s Union (SPI, a partner of FPL in Labuhan Batu, North Sumatra),
  • The Panca Karsa Association (Perkumpulan Panca Karsa, a partner of Migrant CARE in Central Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara), and
  • The Women’s Groups and Sources of Life organisation (KPS2K, a partner of KAPAL Perempuan in East Java).

For more information about our research partners, see the Women’s Organisations in this Study page

Top row: Rachael Diprose, Ken Setiawan and Amalinda Savirani
Second Row: Azifah R. Astrina, Desi Rahmawati, Longgina Novadona, Mustaghfiroh Rahayu, Galih Prabaningrum, Indah Surya Wardhani, and Ulya Niami Efrina Jamson.
Third row: Devy Dhian Cahyati, Nadlirotul Ulfa, Wigke Capri, Smita Tanaya, Anastasia Imelda Cahyaningrum, Hening Wikan Sawiji, and Norin Mustika Rahadiri Abheseka.
Fourth row: Bellicia Angelica Tanvil, Naomi Francis, Phoebe Weston-Evans, Amanda Belton, Annisa Sabrina Hartoto, Bronwyn Anne Beech Jones, and Tamas Wells.