Grassroots Women’s Advocacy for the Fulfilment of Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

Azifah R. Astrina
Nadlirotul Ulfa

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This case study examines the advocacy efforts of village women for women’s sexual and reproductive health rights in the Tanggamus research village. These advocacy efforts were supported by the DAMAR Women’s Advocacy Institute and its local partner FAKTA-DAMAR. DAMAR is a part of the PERMAMPU consortium of eight CSOs in Sumatra which work on issues of sexual and reproductive health rights. DAMAR and FAKTA-DAMAR have sought to respond to high rates of violence against women in Lampung by prioritising women’s sexual and reproductive health rights. FAKTA-DAMAR have also aimed to fill institutional gaps by specifically dealing with issues of violence against women, and to address social norms which have made women reluctant to report violence.

In their advocacy efforts, DAMAR and FAKTA-DAMAR operated in a relatively conducive social and political environment in the Tanggamus research village, which was supportive of women’s influence and collective action. The village was characterised by active women’s social organisations, support from the Village Head and other leaders, and an allocation from the Village Fund for women’s empowerment activities.

Initially, women who held strategic positions in the village community and had experience in voicing their opinions in hamlet and village meetings were invited to participate in gender mainstreaming classes organised by FAKTA-DAMAR. These women then invited friends, family members and others in their networks to also learn about concepts of gender, gain more information about sexual and reproductive health, and to map women’s problems and decision-making processes. The knowledge and skills gained in this class then spread throughout the village as women were invited to attend through community and religious organisations. Separate gender mainstreaming classes were also held for community leaders, village men and youth to better understand gender dynamics.

Such gender awareness and growing collaborations between groups and networks produced a cross-group collective movement to handle cases of violence against women and children which was then formalised into a Taskforce for the Empowerment and Protection of Women, Children and Families, that runs a service post to support victims of domestic violence in the village. This Taskforce and the ‘Post’ have been run by village community leaders, especially women, who put into action the knowledge and skills they have gained from gender mainstreaming classes. The Taskforce has aimed to provide a safe space for women through the ‘Post’, and an avenue to report, handle, and collect data on acts of violence against women and children in the village.

The safe space created by the Taskforce through the ‘Post’ has succeeded in supporting women to feel comfortable in disclosing and reporting cases of violence and to receive medical treatment and social services. Through advocacy efforts by village women and village leaders together, with DAMAR and FAKTA-DAMAR support, this Taskforce was formalised through Village Head Decision No. 30, 2018, which has paved the way for budgeting an allocation from the Village Fund for the Taskforce, augmenting the sustainability of its activities. Women in the Tanggamus research village hope that this Taskforce is a starting point for future advocacy on issues of women’s sexual and reproductive health and will continue to provide support to victims of violence. In this village, such an approach raised women’s voices, which led to the prioritisation of women’s needs in village development planning and action. It is also hoped that this empowerment approach will improve women’s welfare in the long term by increasing access to social services.

Read more case studies in the same sectoral focus of health and nutrition.