The institutional environments in districts vary in terms of their legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks and programs, functional capacity and resources (budgets, staff and skills) to deliver these programs, and opportunities to create revenues from taxes and levies on economic activities (known as Pendapatan Asli Daerah – PAD) to further fund these programs. Districts also vary in terms of their length of establishment—in some places, new districts have been carved out from larger jurisdictions under decentralisation and have more recently created their offices of government and policy frameworks. In each region too, there are scarcer or more abundant resources for livelihoods, wealth creation and business opportunities. These in turn have implications for employment and livelihood options in communities, as well as for PAD and other budget revenues that fund development initiatives in communities.
When MAMPU began its program, in some regions there was fertile ground for women’s collective action and new or scaled up CSO initiatives to take hold. Analysis found that when there were already some efforts to accommodate women’s self-determined priorities in district development, women’s influence on policy and rural development through collective action was likely to more quickly take hold and have significant impacts further down the track. Such efforts were also helped by emerging governance arrangements in districts (and provinces) that had already begun to support gender-inclusive decision making. This is because in these regions, there were already some opportunities for women to exercise their voices and for civil society organisations—and the smaller women’s groups they support—to advocate for the rights, needs and empowerment of women. This tended to be the case in places where regulations, policies and programs were already beginning to prioritise the needs of women. Indicators of emerging gender inclusiveness were (among others):
- District and provincial regulations (Perda, Peraturan Daerah) or Governor/District Head decisions that enacted policies concerned with women’s empowerment, women’s self-determined priorities, and/or gender representation in decision-making forums,
- Functioning and funded/staffed agencies and programs focused on women’s priorities and concerns, and/or
- Growing representation of women in district power structures such as the regional parliaments and in other leadership positions.
While many of the districts did not have fully developed institutional frameworks for ensuring women were included in decision-making forums, it was clear that in those places where women’s rights and priorities were already or beginning to be recognised by government and other stakeholders, there was already a conducive environment for (increasing) women’s influence on decision making and upscaling gender inclusion and empowerment programs to varying degrees. The institutional features of the districts ultimately had some influence on the implementation of the Village Law within these districts and helped reduce the barriers to women’s empowerment at the village level.
For example, in Lampung Province, in the first decade of Indonesia’s reform era, advocacy work for improving the position of women gained momentum through the work of the DAMAR Women’s Advocacy Institute (Lembaga Advokasi Perempuan DAMAR) and its network of partner organisations in the Lampung districts, which preceded the support provided by MAMPU for DAMAR and its partners. Between 2000-2010, DAMAR recorded 2326 cases of violence against women from local media reporting (DAMAR, 2019). Given the high rate of such violence in Lampung Province, DAMAR initially focused its advocacy on preventing violence against women. Their early advocacy resulted in the formation of an Integrated Service Unit for victims with the support of government, the local hospital and other institutions. Several provincial government regulations were enacted by government to support the Unit (see below). The charismatic Chair of DAMAR later became the Chair of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) from 2013-2014, and a member of Komnas HAM from 2012-2017. This helped provide strong links between DAMAR and other members of the consortium of women’s organisations in Sumatra of which it was one of the founding members—PERMAMPU—and national advocacy organisations and policy makers.
Box 5: The DAMAR Women’s Advocacy Institute
Following a phase of strategic planning, ELSAPA (Lembaga Studi Advokasi Perempuan dan Anak—Institute for Study and Advocacy for Women and Children) in Lampung re-structured to form the DAMAR Women’s Advocacy Institute with a network of partner organisations in the districts in Lampung Province. It was also a founding member of the wider consortium of women’s organisations in Sumatra called PERMAMPU in 2012. In its initial 10-year strategic plan, DAMAR focused on broader advocacy for women but also specifically on protecting victims of violence, especially domestic violence, and advocating for the prevention of violence against women. It established an MOU with the Lampung Provincial Government, the police, military and civil courts, and the regional hospital in 2002 to form an Integrated Service Unit (Unit Pelayanan Terpadu – UPT) located in the hospital to provide free services to women who were victims of violence. It also was able to sufficiently influence policy makers to establish several Provincial Regulations—such as No. 6/2006 on Services for Women and Child Victims of Domestic Violence, and No. 4/2006 on the Prevention of Trafficking of Women and Children. It not only works to help protect women and child victims of domestic violence, but also undertakes research and monitoring work.
Between 2000-2010, DAMAR was able to support 563 women both in litigation and through other services. While also monitoring trends, DAMAR extended its program to include helping women access sexual and reproductive services, counselling for male perpetrators of domestic violence, and more broadly on supporting the recognition and fulfilment of women’s rights, raising gender awareness among both men and women, and tackling gender-based violence.
In 2010, DAMAR extended its strategic plan to focus on championing women’s rights (including health, education, and legal rights) and the representation of women in politics (Interview, DAMAR leader, 18 July 2019). While continuing its advocacy on the prevention of violence against women, it extended its focus for a number of reasons: high maternal mortality rates, limited access to health services, limited knowledge among women of their own bodies and reproductive health, and the low representation of women in leadership and influential policy and decision-making forums.
As is clear, Lampung CSOs had long lobbied the provincial government and worked with provincial and district decision makers to improve attention to women’s needs and issues in the region. Over time, they were able to institutionalise some of their initiatives, building on earlier groundwork and the networks established throughout districts. This meant that when MAMPU provided support to DAMAR to scale up its work in 2013, there were already indicators of a supportive institutional environment in the region and it was not commencing from scratch. In other cases, the institutional environment and nature of influential actors in a particular sector also had some bearing on the operational environment of a MAMPU-supported partner at the onset. For example, in North Sumatra, the long history of an active labour movement and advocacy, albeit not explicitly focused on strengthening policy attention to gender issues across the board, provided fertile ground for building support for minimum wage advocacy in the informal sector and to improve the work conditions of homeworkers.
In other cases, institutional support and political openness to establishing more gender-inclusive institutional settings and policies grew alongside, often interacting with, the MAMPU Partner initiatives. This certainly occurred in the Pangkajene and Islands (Pangkep) District, in which leaders in the District Development Planning Agency (Bappeda) were undertaking a number of steps to strengthen gender-inclusiveness in district agencies, policies and programs.
If we compare the situation in Tanggamus District in Lampung, with that in Bangkalan District in East Java Province, the situation is very different. Prior to MAMPU Partner PEKKA (Pemberdayaan Perempuan Kepala Keluarga—the Female-Headed Families Empowerment Foundation) beginning its advocacy and grassroots support for women in the region, there were few women’s groups outside of religious institutions or active CSOs. There were also no government regulations concerned with gender inclusion or women’s empowerment and child protection, no integrated services for supporting victims of domestic violence, and certainly no champions for empowerment associated with Komnas HAM. As is outlined below, poverty levels are at 21% for Bangkalan, compared with 13.5% in Tanggamus District (BPS Tanggamus, 2019). It is within this environment that PEKKA sought to support women through what are known as Pekka groups and unions (community-based village women’s groups that are distinct from the PEKKA Foundation and program itself), which are explored later in this report.
Box 6: Bangkalan district
Bangkalan District is located on Madura island off the north-east coast of Java. The population is 98% Muslim and predominantly made up of Madurese people (BPS Kabupaten Bangkalan, 2019). Most of the population have strong Islamic values and follow Madurese traditional norms, in which men tend to occupy leadership roles and dominate public life. Political structures are intertwined with the strong network of pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) in the region— there are some 220 pesantren across the district alone.
Interviewees detailed how local leadership positions in the executive and legislature are secured through having strong religious knowledge and religious institutional ties, rather than secured through strong ties with political parties, although to run candidates must have party support. Every district head in the region during the past two decades has been a male descendent from Syaikhona Kholil (1820-1925)—a charismatic leader who spread Islam to the region and educated the founder of Indonesia’s largest mass organisation Nahdlatul Ulama—indicating both familial and religious networks shape social and political structures. In the district legislature for 2014-2019, there were only two women among 50 members and both were temporary members of the Gerindra party.
People from Bangkalan tend to prioritise sending children to pesantren, rather than state schools due to strong religious and traditional norms. In the Long-Term Bangkalan District Development Plan from (2005–2025), the regional government emphasises education through pesantren and madrasah (institutions of Islamic instruction) that tend to be administered individually and by foundations, rather than state schools (Kabupaten Bangkalan Government, 2019). There are very few CSOs in the district beyond religious institutions and foundations with religious affiliations. Most livelihoods are dependent on agriculture or small businesses. People live in small clusters of houses near their fields that they cultivate and tend to have close familial relationships.
Some 21.3% of the people also live below the poverty line (BPS Kabupaten Bangkalan, 2019). Prior to PEKKA undertaking advocacy in the district with MAMPU support, there were no distinct regulations focused on gender inclusion, women’s empowerment or protection. The district government did have some programs related to women in rural areas, primarily giving a small amount of support to the long-established state corporatist organisation, the Family Welfare and Empowerment organisation (PKK—See Section 5), and a small degree of support to village maternal and child health groups (Posyandu), similar to the support found in many districts. The wife of the District Head was given the authority to develop programs associated with these organisations with minimal budget allocations. The government office responsible for the protection of women and children is allocated less than one percent of the district budget.
Ultimately, in regions where the institutional environment was more conducive to supporting gender inclusion in decision making and women’s empowerment initiatives (either at the onset, or through changes over time that largely resulted from advocacy efforts), there was a greater likelihood that women were able to collectively act to influence the policy environment and implementation of the Village Law. Key indicators of what this research identified and frames as conduciveness included:
- Developing and implementing gender inclusion regulations,
- Clearly designated programs for gender inclusion and women’s empowerment with appropriate budgets,
- Efforts to include women in decision making (see further discussion below), and in policy and program design processes,
- Providing spaces for women to voice their needs in forums of influence, and
- Giving attention to women’s self-identified needs in policy priorities.
In other words, key indicators included both ‘processes’, such as women’s participation in decision making, and enabling frameworks such as policies that may shape inclusive outcomes for women or support women’s empowerment initiatives. It is important to note that the depth of women’s influence reflected the extent to which women self-identified their needs through participating in decision-making forums and were able to voice these needs and exercise influence on policy and program design and implementation. In some cases, women were more the passive recipients of policies that others determined had ‘met’ their needs. For example, in some places, there was a tendency to label attention to health or children in policies and budget allocations as having ‘met’ women’s needs, even when this was not as a result of including women in processes where they could determine priorities for women.