To fill distinct gaps in existing studies identified further in Section 2, this study aims to answer the overarching research questions: in what contexts, to what extent and through what mechanisms has local collective action by women influenced the implementation of the Village Law, and what is the role for CSOs in this process? Answering these questions includes analysis of:
- The ways village women have sought to exercise voice and take action (and changes over time) through collectivities, groups and networks among themselves and with others, and their experiences of change over time,
- The role of and strategies used by CSOs in supporting these women, and undertaking inter-related advocacy at village and district levels,
- How these dynamics have varied in different contexts, including constraints and opportunities, and
- Ultimately, the pathways (varied) by which such action have influenced the implementation of the Village Law.
The study uses multi-level comparative case analysis drawing from extensive qualitative data collected for this study involving more than 600 people, especially more vulnerable rural women. We support this mixed-methods qualitative research with additional analysis of quantitative monitoring data from 27 provinces. Through analysis of in-depth and life history interviews with more than 450 people, more than thirty focus group discussions with another 150 people, process tracing of changes over time in villages and districts (case studies of village Stories of Change), village social network analysis, village and district context analysis, and CSO organisational analysis, we identify the pathways through which women have sought to exercise voice, take action to influence the implementation of the Village Law. We also reflect on if and how CSO support has bolstered women’s empowerment in different contexts.
From Sumatra to Java, to Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and East and West Nusa Tenggara, data was collected throughout 2019 in nine provinces and 12 districts where there are different livelihood options, levels of poverty, geography and infrastructure, services and programs, resource endowments, population densities, religious affiliations and social and customary norms. Given the study has a specific focus on village-level dynamics, we not only conducted district (and some provincial) research, but also extensive research through long stays in 14 villages; one in each of these districts where CSOs have introduced or strengthened support for village women, and in two villages where there were no known CSO interventions (one on Java and one off Java).
This research was supported by the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (MAMPU) program, although the analysis presented is that of the authors. As a collaboration between the Indonesian and Australian Governments, the MAMPU program aimed to support women’s empowerment and improve gender equality in Indonesia in partnership with Indonesian women’s organisations. Through its partnership approach, MAMPU supported 13 large national or regional women’s organisations and consortium networks that focus on different sectoral issues of concern for women while seeking to support village women and strengthen women’s skills, capacity and opportunities to exercise voice and influence in Indonesian society. Many of these large-scale national organisations and consortiums have provincial and district organisational CSO partners as well. By the end of 2019, MAMPU had directly and indirectly supported 122 partners at national and subnational levels in 147 districts and municipalities and 1,137 villages across 27 of Indonesia’s 34 provinces.
To undertake this study and to initially connect with village women, nine of MAMPU’s 13 national partners and a further six subnational partners of these organisations collaborated with the researchers, supporting and providing iterative feedback on the design and analysis, and facilitating (one channel among several) access to research sites. Each of the 15 CSO and mass women’s organisations included in the study (herein collectively referred to as CSOs) are outlined in Section 2 (in the sampling frame) and more information on the scope and scale of their work beyond the research sites is outlined in Annex 3.
The targeted support for women and advocacy undertaken by those CSOs involved in the study has focused on five key issues for women—social protection, reproductive health and nutrition, protection for migrant workers, better work conditions and reduced discrimination against women in the informal sector (in particular for homeworkers) and reducing violence against women, in particular domestic violence. These issues were also the five focus areas of the MAMPU program. This study also captures Village Law implementation dynamics in relation to all of these five focus issues through research in 12 ‘intervention’ districts/villages. For comparison, we also investigate the dynamics of gender inclusion and women’s possible influence on the implementation of the Village Law in the two ‘control’ sites, one village in the Pangkajene and Islands District (South Sulawesi Province, Sulawesi Island) and a second village in Gresik District (East Java Province, Java Island). As mentioned, there were no known interventions or support for village women undertaken by CSOs in these two places. Research from these ‘control’ sites is used for comparative analysis with ‘intervention sites’ to better highlight if dynamics varied in terms of:
- Grassroots expressions of agency and collective action,
- If, and which dimensions of CSO support for village women may have facilitated or bolstered women’s agency, collective action and influence on the implementation of the Village Law and wider gender inclusion, and by which pathways, and
- Which dimensions of change might be more endogenous to the processes underway in Indonesian villages with the implementation of the Village Law.
While the CSOs involved in the study are many and varied (as are all of MAMPU’s other partners), they have one aspect of their approach in common—working with and through grassroots groups alongside broader advocacy. These organisations have supported village women to establish new groups (often but not always exclusively for women) or they have supported and collaborated with existing village women’s groups and organisations in villages, with aim of supporting village women take a more socially transformative role through collective action. In many cases these organisations also undertake advocacy and other structured forms of collective action to reduce the impediments to women’s influence with the broader structures of power, both within and outside Indonesia’s formal systems of governance.
Given that the research draws from a sample of sites where MAMPU CSO Partners have sought to support village women by working with and through grassroots groups, the study thus captures dynamics pertaining to this particular type of CSO intervention focused on gender inclusion. Although, it also captures many wider experiences of collective action over time in an extensive array of regions in Indonesia beyond this intervention. Even so, other CSOs, organisations, agencies and programs may use a different approach, which may have implications for women’s collective action and influence on governance and structures of power that are not explored here.
Nonetheless, the findings remain helpful for a range of audiences in understanding 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 CSOs) might help bolster women’s influence in villages and beyond. That is, even if not working with or through CSOs as partners in initiatives to bolster gender-inclusion and women’s influence in governance and other power structures, some of the features of the ways CSOs have supported women in the research sites to facilitate or augment their agency certainly constitute important learning for other settings, actors and agencies concerned with gender-inclusive governance, structures of power, and socio-economic development.