Outcomes & Village Law

In this section we link together our model to map out how, in different types of contexts, different forms of grassroots collective action by village women, often, at least initially, with varied degrees and types of on-the-ground support from CSOs, and more structured organisational CSO advocacy and collective action, has influenced the implementation of the Village Law. The key forms of women’s influence on the implementation of the Village Law analysed include village governance (regulations, programs, fund allocation), social norms and effects on the district institutional environment. We disaggregate our analysis by the degree of conduciveness of district/village contexts: highly difficult, moderately difficult, and moderately conducive.

district context village context collectivities collectivities pathways 1 pathways 2 pathways 3 outcomes

In this section we link together our model to map out how, in different types of contexts, different forms of grassroots collective action by village women, often, at least initially, with varied degrees and types of on-the-ground support from CSOs, and more structured organisational CSO advocacy and collective action, has influenced the implementation of the Village Law. The key forms of women’s influence on the implementation of the Village Law analysed include village governance (regulations, programs, fund allocation), social norms and effects on the district institutional environment. We disaggregate our analysis by the degree of conduciveness of district/village contexts: highly difficult, moderately difficult, and moderately conducive.

We use each dimension of the framework developed in the four preceding chapters to identify patterns and plot the causal pathways. In the analysis we show that these pathways have produced changes over time to a point at which there were, to varying degrees:

  • Impacts from women’s grassroots collective action and CSOs strategies on norms or rules and policies at the village level, and the Village Fund.
  • Observable changes in the contexts where MAMPU partners provided support for village women and conducted other activities.
  • Wider gender inclusion and empowerment effects for women.

In the following sections we first briefly revisit the initiatives of CSOs and identify their empowerment effects. We then comparatively identify the impacts and changes in all of the research sites on gender inclusion, empowerment and the implementation of the Village Law. We then illustrate the key pathways relevant in different contexts in how such influence on the Village Law took place. Finally, we consider changes over time in the contexts themselves from interventions, the temporal dimensions of interventions, and critical junctures which might regress or advance the influence of such interventions. The content of this section is laid out in Figure 31.

Figure 31: Structure and Key Content of Section 8

Revisiting Empowerment

MAMPU began its program of support for Partner CSOs in 2013 and CSO support was fully operational by 2014. However, MAMPU’s support for CSOs scaled up in the ensuing years, particularly to directly work with village women rather than to primarily undertake advocacy and provide policy and institutional support at district, provincial and national levels, although this continued. Through working at both levels, the impacts from MAMPU CSOs increased over time as by conducting activities with village women, they were able to embed broader advocacy in concrete activities on the ground that had both immediate benefits for women. These women were then not only able to improve their own wellbeing, but also increasingly exercise voice and influence in structures of power and decision making while becoming increasingly involved in the broader networks and advancement of gender inclusion and women’s empowerment in districts and beyond. Indeed, throughout the analysis presented in this report and in the case studies of Stories of Change, we have seen many examples of such empowerment effects for rural village women that go beyond accessing services or improving economic wellbeing. Their influence on the implementation of Village Law is one dimension of such effects.

This involved multiple pathways. First, as was described in Sections 4 and 6, we detailed many varied examples of women’s experiences in growing their social capital, including knowledge, skills, networks and access to different kinds of resources, but also their confidence, solidarity, mutual support, and individual and collective agency to navigate and overcome challenges and to influence change through different forms of collective action. The CSOs examined in this study helped bolster their individual and collective agency via support provided to women through grassroots groups and in informal spaces. These women undertook a variety of forms of collective action with the support of these groups.

For many women in rural areas it is unsurprising that forms of collective action tended to be more informal, particularly in difficult contexts, as such forms of action were less confrontational for other community members and the leadership, which was important given women were deeply integrated in village life and depended on their social connections for many aspects of their wellbeing. The forms of collective action took a variety of both formal and informal forms including, negotiation, building ties with leaders, leveraging these ties, navigating restrictive social networks and building new networks, collaborating with champions, participating in influential decision-making forums and so on. In some places, CSOs, with MAMPU support, were starting from scratch in building initiatives to bolster grassroots women’s influence, wider gender inclusion and women’s empowerment, while in others MAMPU support helped CSOs strengthen their internal structures, knowledge, staff capacity and materials and scale up and scale out their gender-focused programs and activities to more people and regions. In all places, we found empowering effects from CSO interventions to support village women, in the sense that there were not only increased skills, capacities, networks and knowledge among women, but also increased numbers of female leaders, and increased participation in decision-making forums at village and district levels. This ultimately had implications for women’s influence on the implementation of the Village Law and more widely in villages.

In summary, MAMPU CSO Partners and women’s groups have, to varying degrees, influenced gender inclusion and women’s empowerment more broadly and the implementation of the Village Law through:

  • Working through different types of village groups and providing different types of resources and support to these groups to exercise voice and improve women’s well-being (Section 6).
  • Improving skills, capacity, networks and confidence of women to exercise voice (Section 6).
  • Supporting women to undertake different forms of grassroots formal and informal collective action (Section 5).
  • Strategically navigating contexts, undertaking advocacy and direct action at the district and village levels (Section 7).
  • Slowly and incrementally influencing changes on the ground and in policy frameworks that advance women’s power, as well as contribute to poverty reduction and wellbeing.

CSO efforts to harness opportunities, overcome barriers and influence authoritative actors required different strategies and investments in highly difficult contexts, particularly those where CSOs had not worked before. This is in contrast to the efforts needed in moderately conducive contexts that already displayed some openness to the women’s empowerment agenda, or highly conducive contexts where CSOs already had established empowerment programs and relationships with both villagers and influential policy and social actors and had begun to shift the institutional environment to be more inclusive of women.

Ultimately CSO program empowerment impacts for women—with implications for women’s influence on the implementation of the Village Law (Sections 4 and here in Section 8)—related to the ways CSOs were able to build trust with and support village women through activities with women’s groups (Section 6), and how well CSOs were able to adapt to and strategically navigate variable context constraints and opportunities while also supporting village women in such navigation, both at the onset and over time (Section 7). More direct approaches were able to be used for engaging women and the leadership in more conducive contexts, and more indirect approaches, through careful sequencing, were more appropriate in more difficult contexts. Early partnerships with government for programs and activities was helpful for shared use of resources, but often only feasible in more conducive contexts where there resistance from government actors to gender inclusion and empowerment initiatives was less likely. Successful influence of CSOs in challenging contexts was often associated with:

  • Carefully developed approaches to engage with leaders (particularly government leaders) and build support for gender inclusion and women’s empowerment at district and village levels.
  • Policy advocacy and strengthening the institutional and regulatory environment to support gender inclusion and women’s empowerment, always demonstrating the benefits for districts, villages and communities.
  • Using discourse and sequencing of advocacy efforts so as to shape or align with and accommodate village needs and priorities (often not targeting the Village Fund at the onset).
  • Supplementary support to fill capacity/knowledge gaps of government in policy design or service delivery.
  • Social and political mapping so as to identify needs and strategically leverage village social networks to bolster support for their initiatives.
  • Building trust with both villagers and the district and village leadership.
  • Planning the degree to which CSO staff or community organisers were embedded in village contexts to support women vis-à-vis the requirements of the context itself.
  • Embedding advocacy work in concrete, on-the-ground initiatives to establish or support women’s groups in rural villages in ways that women could experience the direct benefits of their changing agency and influence, and ultimately expand the capacity and number of women able to undertake collective action to influence change and bring about positive benefits for women’s wellbeing.
Key impacts of women’s collective action and empowerment initiatives

As we can see in Figure 32 below, the results of women’s collective action, bolstered by CSO empowerment approaches, produced significant change in village environments and the implementation of the Village Law. Collective action has produced either changes to Village Regulations to prioritise issues of key concern to women, or have funds allocated from the Village Fund (at scales of varying degrees) to these priority issues. Many have achieved both, even though empowerment initiatives did not necessarily start out to directly influence Village Law implementation. Impacts were evident across all the ‘intervention’ villages where this research was undertaken and across all five sectoral issues: social protection, women’s health and nutrition, support for migrant workers, improved work conditions for homeworkers, and efforts to reduce violence against women. Two ticks in the table indicate that this was a particularly strong type of impact on the implementation of the Village Law for the village in question.

We also see that in all regions and across all sectoral focus issues, women’s participation has increased and in some there have been improvements in the number of women occupying influential leadership positions. Even in the homeworkers sector, which doesn’t always have a specific village level focus, there have been improvements.

As we saw in Section 4 too, and in the case study excerpts throughout this report, women’s influence on the implementation of the Village Law has also produced significant diversity in the kinds of village development initiatives implemented that include but have gone beyond infrastructure and economic development. Initiatives cover village economic and social policies and projects, support for training, skills development and information dissemination, service delivery and a range of other initiatives.

Figure 32: Women’s Collective Action and Impacts on the Implementation of the Village Law

Figure 32 also illustrates that in every research site where CSOs supported village women, with the exception of Bangkalan and Labuhan Batu, collective efforts produced district-level institutional change and, in many cases, fund allocations for programs. Annex 5 also provides a summary of all new regulations. Indeed, we can see how village-level initiatives connected to district policies to improve gender mainstreaming through, for example, replicating Women’s Schools and providing funding for this in Gresik District (see the Story of Change case excerpt in Box 32).

Key features of empowerment approaches: Influencing norms, rules and the allocation of the Village Fund

In the discussion below we identify the key features of the interventions and support provided by CSOs which contributed to the pathways of increased agency, collective action and influence on the Village Law. We differentiate the analysis by the three types of district/village contexts: highly difficult, moderately difficult, and moderately conducive contexts.

It is important to note that strategies around the particular types of groups to support is not delineated by each type of context, as this is contingent on the nature of each village site, the nature of women’s groups and the degree to which they included vulnerable women in each type of place, as well as the degree of diversity of these groups. MAMPU CSO Partners tended to assess each place according to such diversity. It is easier in highly difficult contexts to collaborate, at least initially, with established women’s groups or networks so as not to disrupt the status quo, before then extending membership and focus to a wider range of issues and/or supporting women to establish a new group. In more conducive contexts, in those situations where there were limited women’s groups and/or these limited membership diversity and access for more vulnerable women, it was easier than in more difficult contexts to support village women to establish new groups at the onset.

Highly difficult contexts

In highly difficult contexts where both the village level and the district level contained many barriers, CSOs often carefully sequenced their activities and support to village women. With careful sequencing to gain village access, in many examples CSOs began village activities by focusing on trust building, mapping networks, and gender awareness building with men. This approach usually involved live-in (or nearby) CSO-funded community organisers who were embedded in the village and could build relationships with both women’s groups (and village cadres where such a structure was used) and with elites. Sectoral activities were also often oriented initially to incorporate the expressed needs of village members. Work on providing services preceded attempts to build pressure for incremental changes in rules and policies or advocating for more allocation of village-level funding for women’s groups, and in changing norms. Framing activities so as to be aligned with village priorities and benefits for the whole community helped garner support from the village leadership for programs.

Efforts to change norms that were restrictive or dangerous for women were usually accompanied by other more development oriented and service provision activities for the benefit of women and the wider community. In highly difficult contexts too, CSOs tended to intensify efforts in fewer villages while working slowly at the district level. It was especially important to provide support for more vulnerable women in these contexts to access essential services and welfare. A focus on citizen legibility (through access to documentation) at the onset was also important (for increasing access to government services), as was a focus on activities that had economic benefits for women. Further, learning from the case studies in which progress might advance or regress at critical junctures (discussed further in the next sub-section), planning for changes in leadership and the political implications of any support for women’s groups from prior leaders would be important in all contexts.

In summary, drawing on all the cases and learning from the experience of the village women and CSOs involved in this study, strategic and adaptive approaches for influencing gender inclusion and women’s empowerment in highly difficult contexts would involve many of the following aspects outlined in Figure 33.

Figure 33: Key Activities and Strategies for Improving Gender Inclusion and Women’s Empowerment in Highly Difficult Contexts

This wider approach was important for the Village Law-specific strategies to be effective. Drawing from the study, the figure below outlines the kinds of activities and strategies that are relevant to each type of targeted Village Law impact.

Figure 34: Key Activities and Strategies in Highly Difficult Contexts for Supporting Women’s Influence on the Implementation of the Village Law

Moderately difficult contexts

In moderately difficult contexts, patterns were similar in the initial approaches used by CSOs for access in highly difficult contexts­—most often in both types of districts the village environments were similarly difficult to navigate with one or two exceptions. However, in moderately difficult environments, often at the district level there were additional opportunities for women’s empowerment and collective action due to the more conducive policy environment or existing champions, if compared with more difficult districts. When this was the case, CSOs were often able to progress more quickly with their lobbying for changes in policies and rules. In summary, drawing on all learning from this study, strategic and adaptive approaches for influencing gender inclusion and women’s empowerment in moderately difficult contexts would involve many of the aspects outlined in Figure 35.

Figure 35: Key Activities and Strategies for Improving Gender Inclusion and Women’s Empowerment in Moderately Difficult Contexts

This wider approach was important for the Village Law-specific strategies to be effective. Drawing from this study, the figure below outlines the kinds of activities and strategies that are relevant to each type of targeted Village Law impact in moderately difficult contexts.

Figure 36: Key Activities and Strategies in Moderately Difficult Contexts for Supporting Women’s Influence on the Implementation of the Village Law

Box 33 below illustrates another story of how change happens in moderately difficult contexts on the ground. The challenges in the research village for migrant workers were immense and the village leadership was initially resistant. However, this case study shows how advocacy efforts for the protection of migrant workers were driven by grassroots women’s groups, namely the DESBUMI cadres and members of the La Tansa Migrant Workers Observer Group, made up of former migrant worker women. These women’s groups were supported by the Panca Karsa Association, and saw new regulations enacted at the village and district levels related to safe migration practices as well as funding at both levels and integrated service units at both levels.

Box 33: A Story of Change in Central Lombok—Women Driving Change in Protection for Migrant Workers

Due to limited livelihood opportunities many residents in Central Lombok District seek work elsewhere, particularly as overseas migrant workers. In the research village, women—particularly widows and divorcees—are prime targets of recruiters who offer to facilitate their overseas employment.

“The recruiters are told who wants to leave. If there are widows [and] there are many widows here, they [the recruiters] will definitely come here.” Rani, a former migrant worker, Central Lombok, 6 July 2019.

The high prevalence of migrant work among women in Central Lombok is related to high rates of unilateral divorce. When women are divorced by their husbands, it is often very difficult for them to support themselves and their families financially. This is intensified by loans they use to pay the large recruiter fees to enable them to work overseas:

 “So actually, their problems started when they migrated abroad because they borrowed money. And, [often people] borrow money not from an official financial institution but from moneylenders.” Panca Karsa program manager, Central Lombok, 5 July 2019.

In 2012, the Mataram Panca Karsa Association (PPK) partnered with Migrant CARE through the MAMPU Program to begin awareness raising campaigns and run programs to address issues experiences by migrant workers. PPK’s village cadres supported villagers to form the DESBUMI (Villages that Care for Migrant Workers) group to advocate for migrant worker rights. In 2013 and 2014 PPK and four village female cadres conducted a survey of issues affecting migrant workers.

The survey showed that the main reason women reported for becoming a migrant worker was the limited livelihood opportunities in the village. This survey also demonstrated widespread problems including a lack of documentation before their departure, experiences of violence whilst overseas, and the heavy burden of debts accumulated on return. One woman, Saripah, described how she organised her departure by paying a broker who promised immediate departure:

“[I organised my departure] through brokers but they don’t follow through with the agreement. We gave the agreed amount, 2 million for departure in less than a month. But it took the company 3 months and the broker just took us to the office in Jakarta and just left us there and didn’t want to know about us anymore.” Saripah, member of La Tansa, 9 July 2019.

PPK together with DESBUMI cadres then formed the La Tansa Migrant Workers Observer Group. La Tansa has provided information about safe migration to other villagers and as a result many prospective migrant workers have since sought to get their permissions and documentation for overseas work through official channels rather than using recruiters. La Tansa has also collected reports of problems related to migrant work by listening to the experiences of women in informal chats and via social media.

“For those who leave, come home, or have problems, we get told. Our members give information to their neighbours, for instance, if someone wants to go to Saudi Arabia, they will tell them here is safer and that all requirements need to be complete, so don’t fake them.” Nisa, Head of La Tansa, 8 July 2019.

La Tansa has also provided opportunities for former female migrant workers to increase their livelihood skills, for instance by making and selling cakes and craft. Members also received assistance in purchasing appliances and tools for their businesses. The former Village Head reported that up to sixty percent of women said that as a result they are no longer interested in becoming migrant workers again:

“It’s more than 60 percent, it’s rather rare now [for village women and men to become migrant workers] because there are activities.” H. Haris, Former Village Head, 7 July 2019.

In 2015 Panca Karsa supported the drafting of a Village Regulation, which provides for the allocation of Village Fund resources for DESBUMI programs. Following this regulation and DESBUMI’s successful resolution of individual cases, the group increasingly gained legitimacy in the community, which led to its cadres being invited to participate in village policy development and MusDes, which previously was an almost exclusively male space. At the district level female DESBUMI cadres and La Tansa members, together with other CSO groups, contributed to discussions that led to the Central Lombok District Regulation No. 1/2017 on the protection of migrant workers.

The work of DESBUMI and La Tansa has generated data on migrant workers, which has given them leverage to lobby the village government for programs and policies that support women’s rights. Through regular meetings, the groups have enhanced women’s public speaking skills and knowledge of rights, enabling them to influence policy both at the village and district level.

Conducive Contexts

In contrast to approaches in more difficult contexts, in moderately conducive contexts such as Tanggamus where CSOs had established networks with whom villagers and leaders were familiar, they could support women for influence of rules and norms through a less embedded approach. Villagers and district leaders were also likely to be less averse (although not uniformly) to tackling sensitive issues of concern to women. There was also the opportunity to work at scale in more villages, with CSO staff visiting rather than living in.

In places such as North Hulu Sungai District, strong, frequent support for village women was still needed, because despite both the district and village being open to change, PEKKA did not have established networks and relationships in the village. CSOs drew on the activity of strong existing village groups and local champions and emphasised coordination and scaling of these efforts to the district level. In conducive contexts, sequencing tended to be less important than in challenging contexts, and a focus on rules and institutions could be introduced earlier as the leadership was likely to be supportive. Supporting women’s groups in their activities to lobby the village leadership was still important as was network development, for example, through help with letter writing, facilitating meetings and accompanying women to decision-making forums. In summary, drawing from all learning from village women and participants in this study, strategic and adaptive approaches for influencing gender inclusion and women’s empowerment in moderately difficult contexts would involve many of the aspects outlined in see Figure 37.

Figure 37: Key Activities and Strategies for Improving Gender Inclusion and Women’s Empowerment in Moderately Conducive Contexts

This wider approach was important for the Village Law-specific strategies to be effective. Drawing from this study, the figure below outlines many of the kinds of activities and strategies that are relevant to each type of targeted Village Law impact in moderately conducive contexts.

Figure 38: Key Activities and Strategies in Moderately Conducive Contexts for Supporting Women’s Influence on the Implementation of the Village Law
Shifting institutional contexts over time

Women’s grassroots collective action and the strategic and adaptive approaches of MAMPU CSO Partners also produced significant changes in the contexts themselves (Figure 39). While contexts may also evolve due to endogenous factors, we can see from Figure 39 below that significant changes did not occur in either of the control sites, where there were no such interventions and very few strong women’s groups that had wide and diverse participation. This was particularly the case in the Gresik research ‘control’ village in which there were only state-corporatist women’s groups (the PKK and Posyandu) with few members and Fatayat prayer groups, less than a handful of women who led these groups and had some influence, strong resistance from the Village Head and other leaders to empowerment programs, and no CSO presence. The village was also relatively isolated from the influence of state policy makers.

The Pangkep control research village had slightly more opportunities given it had had a prior female Village Head who had recognised the importance of women’s education and leadership. Nonetheless, since the implementation of the Village Law (after her tenure) this village had not introduced any new regulations prioritising women’s needs or any Village Fund allocation for women’s priorities, and did not find ways to ensure women’s influence in decision making. It is evident then, that a history female leadership in and of itself does not guarantee a strong women’s empowerment agenda will be pursued, although it may help as it has in a number of districts. Again, the only women’s groups present were state-corporatist women’s groups (the PKK and Posyandu, with some sub-groups) each of which was made up of the same few elite members. There was a slightly more varied membership in the state-corporatist Women Farmers Group (Kelompok Wanita Tani, KWT).

In contrast, in the intervention areas, in most cases the improvements in the degree of conduciveness of these environments to gender inclusion and women’s empowerment over time was significant. The four areas that were moderately difficult at the onset of women’s collective action initiatives became far more conducive—in the three of these areas villages were particularly difficult but there were some indications of a conducive district environment (Gresik, Central Lombok and East Lombok) there is now fertile ground for continued change to improve the position and welfare of women.

Figure 39: Changes Over Time in Village and District Environments after Several Years of Empowerment Interventions

Equally, while the Cirebon village was reasonably open to women’s empowerment initiatives, there was initially a weak institutional environment at the district level. Not only have village conditions improved and a ‘Aisyiyah cadre has been given the position of Village Secretary, a multitude of policies and regulations and new programs have been introduced in the District. ‘Aisyiyah cadre/group members have also received presidential awards and been involved in district decision-making forums.

Even in the most difficult places there has been some change. Two of these districts (Pangkep and TTU) are now far more conducive than they were at the onset, and the village contexts in Bangkalan (East Java) and Labuhan Batu have also improved, although village conditions still remain somewhat difficult in these four regions to varying degrees. In the Pangkep intervention research village, one of the women in the Women’s School was asked to run for the district elections, and was proud to do so. Although, as is discussed below, some of the early gains in this village have regressed with a change in village leadership.

Monitoring the ways village women, together with CSOs concerned with gender inclusion and women’s empowerment, might shift context dynamics over time, and identifying where there might be risks of regression, particularly at village level, is crucial in understanding how women’s collective action can influence the Village Law and how this can be sustained. From 2014 onwards when MAMPU CSO Partners began to implement program-supported initiatives, in some places the features of the district context evolved to be more conducive to supporting gender inclusion and women’s empowerment, which in turn had implications for village-level activities and Village Law implementation. The deeper changes in the enabling environment were, in part, the result of the advocacy work undertaken by many CSOs either directly supported by MAMPU (where they had a national office and a branch structure) or supported by MAMPU via partnerships between national organisations and regional organisations, and in collaboration with other CSOs and development programs. These changes were also due to shifts in the political environment and the increased knowledge on the part of local government actors and leaders on how to support women’s empowerment.

Again, the dynamics in Pangkep District in South Sulawesi provide an illustrative example of how the district-level institutional environment became more conducive to supporting gender inclusion and the women’s empowerment agenda over time. First, the district developed its regulations on women’s empowerment and child protection, among others, with the external support of CSOs engaged by MAMPU and other programs. Creating these regulations and associated policies not only signalled to the public and government institutions in the district that women’s needs and rights were a priority, but also helped secure a sectoral budget for the District Office of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection for designated programs. With the strong regulatory framework that CSOs helped develop over time, and the sectoral budget allocation to fund staff and activities to support villages, the district was better able to collaborate with CSOs and others to scale up initiatives already underway, and to launch district-initiated programs and activities to support women’s empowerment.

Overall, in returning to conceptual framework, the analysis throughout this report has illustrated how the pathways by which local women’s collective action, often with the support of CSOs, influenced not only women’s wellbeing and Village Law implementation, but also the conduciveness of village and district environments to broader gender inclusion and women’s empowerment (see Figure 40).

Figure 40: Pathways to Outcomes: Village Law, Women’s Empowerment and Context Changes

Critical junctures: Ruptures and opportunities

Over time contexts for women’s empowerment shifted, yet in some contexts these shifts occurred more rapidly while in others there was some regression through critical junctures and ruptures in expected trajectories. These ruptures presented both threats and opportunities for gender inclusion and women’s empowerment. Ruptures were precipitated by a range of events and factors including District or Village Head elections, national policy changes, natural disasters, and changing NGO or donor agendas, among others.

For example, in the research village in Pangkep, by 2016, women had successfully advocated for Village Funds to be allocated for the Women’s School. However, when the Village Head candidate with whom they had established close ties lost the election, they were perceived by the incoming candidate to be in the wrong camp, and he actively sought to block funding and their involvement in village meetings (also discussed further in the next sub-section). One Women’s School member described how she would chase down the Village Head in the street to demand financial accountability and turn up to meetings anyway, but nonetheless funds were not forthcoming after the first year. See Box 34.

Box 34: A Story of Change in Pangkep—Women Driving Change through Women’s Schools

This case study examines the establishment of a Women’s School (Sekolah Perempuan) in an island village in Pangkajene and Islands District, South Sulawesi. With the support of KAPAL Perempuan in partnership with the Community Empowerment and Assessment Foundation (YKPM) in South Sulawesi, island women organised to form grassroot women’s groups in each island in the village, under the banner of the Women’s School. The School has become a vehicle for women’s advocacy to respond to many complex challenges they face as island women, among others, restrictive social norms that limit women’s opportunities, a lack of access to basic infrastructure to meet their needs such as electricity and clean water, and a lack of access to economic support and social protection programs.

Island women have augmented their intrinsic and practical skills by participating in various training and education activities for group members, such as education on gender equity and ideology, leadership training, as well as the development of knowledge and technical skills on accessing government social protection programs. Moreover, the Women’s School has become a mechanism through which island women can develop their networks of support, not only with fellow island women, but also with the district and village government.

The Women’s School has effected several positive changes in the village. First, women’s active participation in Women’s School activities helped them to raise critical awareness among themselves and other women, especially on gender equity, rights and their access to social protection programs, and to be more confident in voicing out their opinions and aspirations. Second, improvements of women’s intrinsic and practical skills enabled them to collectively participate in village decision-making forums from which they had previously been marginalised. As Laila, the head of the Women’s School, describes, members surveyed villagers’ needs in a sub-village meeting before attending the Musrenbangdes and strategically advised on how to make proposals.

“Before the village Musrenbang, we had a sub-village Musrenbang and invited people who wanted to attend. We asked them what they needed [and] to say it like this or that because of what the Village Head is like.” Laila, Pangkep research village, 25 February 2019.

Third, their advocacy in these forums has resulted in the greater fulfilment of basic needs, not only those of the women, but also the needs of the island people in general. According to these women, their most significant achievement is gaining Village Fund allocations for women’s savings and loans activities. Savings and loans opportunities helped meet women’s needs for financial capital for new businesses and livelihood alternatives. Finally, women’s advocacy has resulted in securing support and funds for the development of basic facilities such as clean water, sanitation facilities, and solar-powered electricity, as well as government recognition of fisherwomen that enable fisherwomen to access government-funded fishing equipment.

These early successes of the Women’s School groups initially occurred with the strong networked support of the village and district governments. Yet, the political situation in the village changed when a new Village Head was elected, who sought to exclude these women from village decision-making meetings, which weakened support for Women’s School activities. Such political dynamics have also delayed the passing of a draft Village Regulation that would have legitimised the Women’s School as a strategic partner of the village government. These dynamics indicate that despite some early wins, in restrictive and patriarchal village power structures, changes in women’s influence may sometimes only be partial, and often incremental.

In contrast with some of these setbacks in support for women at the village level, women’s political participation both at the district and village levels has been strengthened in other ways. One of the group leaders of the Women’s School was nominated as a candidate for district legislative elections in 2019. She had the backing of elite political figures in the district. Although her candidacy was unsuccessful, her political participation was an expression of women’s agency that was uncommon in the district and she has provided inspiration for others to express their political aspirations. In addition, women’s everyday political participation is evident through the establishment of a Complaints Post in the village for people to report challenges encountered in social protection programs. The Post signifies an alternative form of women’s collective influence and participation in village development processes, albeit informally, in the midst of an inconducive political environment in the village. The Post also embodies women’s symbolic stance in monitoring the delivery of social protection programs on their islands. Furthermore, the Post provides an informal space for women to develop solidarity and share information.

The case study demonstrates how increasing women’s expressions of agency through collective action, as well as developing their networks, has empowered them to advocate for the fulfillment of their needs, and brought benefits to the island community at large. The case study also illustrates how the trajectory of women’s collective influence is not always upwards and positively linear over time. The trajectory of women’s collective influence might also differ between village and district levels. Nevertheless, the ongoing presence of some supporters of the Women’s School in the village, and much support from the district government, as well as women’s own perseverance has helped to sustain the group’s women’s empowerment activities.

Across the sites, elections represented a change in the environment for either regression or advancement of the empowerment agenda. In Cirebon District (described in Box 12), being associated with losing Village Heads had the potential to undermine empowerment efforts. Equally, alignment with newly elected officials could create opportunities. In some cases, Village Head elections saw, to a degree (depending the political economy of each village), the opportunity for women to express their preferences. It also allowed village women, other actors and CSOs to advance the gender inclusion and women’s empowerment agenda (even in the face of resistance from other factions in the village) as was the case in East Lombok when BaKTI’s constituent group chairperson was elected as the Village Head. He had already successfully lobbied for a Village Fund allocation for a village ambulance and funds for a safe house for victims of domestic violence, and was able to continue to pursue the agenda and support a Village Regulation on the Protection of Women and Children enacted in 2018. In Tanggamus, the election of a female District Head has also presented new policy opportunities in a place that has already been quite open to domestic violence prevention initiatives.

These ruptures can be an opportunity for women’s empowerment through giving women the chance to demonstrate their capabilities. For example, after a natural disaster in North Lombok, women in the Women’s Schools quickly provided the services needed by villagers and demonstrated their knowledge and capacities in rapidly changing circumstances. Critical junctures and ruptures contributed, in different cases, to both rapid progression and regression.

Temporality: Progression and Regression

The shifts of the context over time, either through gradual change or ruptures, meant that there were examples in the study of both progression (summarised above) and regression in women’s collective action—women’s journeys are not always upwardly linear and progressive. The Pangkep research village saw initial progress in women’s empowerment and increases in collective action and influence on the Village Law. However, with later changes in village leadership, there was significant regression. As one interviewee explained.

“When we were invited to the Musrenbang, we spoke about what [our island] needs. After Pak Andi finished his term as Village Head, we stopped being invited. I recently asked Bu [the Hamlet Head], ‘Can we come to the MusDus [Hamlet decision-making meetings]’, and Bu said, ‘Yes, you can, but I don’t know when the Musrenbang will be, so I don’t know when the MusDus will be’. That was her response. The Women’s School will continue, it can be beneficial, there are lots more women who can feel its benefits, there are many women who do not know about it which mean that they don’t know its benefits.” Julianti, Pangkep research village, 2 March 2019.

In some cases, village groups were resilient in the face of these setbacks. This resilience relied on a range of contextual factors including the prominence of women’s empowerment discourse in the public domain, the degree of institutionalisation of women’s empowerment in written policies and regulations, the level of support from the district, the level of existing resourcing of women’s collective action, a diverse range of champions, and the degree to which women’s groups had wide networks through which they could influence power holders.

Second, as the district institutional environment strengthened, this interacted with the village-level dynamics, which also evolved over time. For example, in observing the concrete benefits of village-level collective action activities for women in the Pangkep District, such as the Women’s Schools, the district government in turn looked to scale up the initiative. The district government provided funding and support for new Women’s Schools in other villages and encouraged villages to support these efforts with their own budgets. As the Pangkep Deputy District Head explained:

“We are always open to ideas from civil society organisations. They are our partners in development. As long as they are good for the people, including for women, we are willing to replicate their programs in other villages. What the Women’s Schools [program] did was very good. The program enables women to be confident and independent, including as fisherwomen, which has traditionally been men’s domain. We understand that one of Women’s School participants is a fisherwoman. She can inspire other women, and should not be embarrassed by what she is doing.” Makassar, 2 March 2019.

Thus, it is clear from the dynamics in Pangkep and elsewhere that progress made to influence village and district contexts does not always move at the same speed or in the same direction due to context dynamics, even if similar degrees of support and types of initiatives are provided in different regions. This is illustrated in Figure 41. While village governments are politically independent from district governments, district governments play a coordinating role for villages and a percentage of the Village Fund comes from district budgets, which increases the opportunities for district governments to endorse certain programs, including women’s empowerment programs. The impact of the collective action activities at the village level and the advocacy work at the district level was somewhat iterative—district policies reinforced village initiatives, which in turn strengthened and informed district policies. This was particularly the case with concrete activities that could be funded and implemented. This trend was widely observed in the research sites—in places where a strong institutional environment developed to support women’s empowerment at the district level (whether due to the advocacy work of CSOs, or to existing conditions that supported inclusive policies for women), CSOs were able to leverage the districts to encourage villages to support their empowerment activities.

Figure 41: Trajectory of Change in Pangkep

The findings from a selection of research regions presented in Annex 6 shows the diversity of progress over time. In some places at critical political moments village-level progress on gender-inclusiveness regressed while the district environment continued on the path to greater conduciveness. It is evident too in the analysis that changes in social norms tend to lag behind institutional changes, which is illustrated in Figure 42 and in other trajectories of change presented in Annex 6.

Figure 42: Trajectory of Change in North Central Timor

Sectoral differences

There were some differences between CSO strategies related to the sectoral focus of programs that are important to note. Changing norms associated with cultural taboos was a long-term agenda that might be supported by Village Regulations after a significant period of trust building, women’s collective action, and service support, but would not immediately produce behavioural changes on the ground. Sequencing, as described above was important, as was providing services such as paralegal support, safehouses, counselling and so on. Many MAMPU CSO Partners helped establish such support, particularly throughout the FPL network. The research found that behavioural change tended to be slowest in sectors such as reducing violence against women, women’s reproductive health, and tackling child marriage, as we can see in Figure 42 above.

Further, in the employment and labour rights sector, many CSOs work at the district level or in urban areas and tend to have less impact directly on the implementation of the Village Law unless they directly target villages, but nonetheless, they make important inroads in bolstering the rights and protections for precarious homeworkers working in cottage industries who are often women. We can see in the case studies below (see Box 35 and Box 36) how both BITRA in Deli Serdang District in North Sumatra and Yasanti in Bantul District in Yogyakarta have, together with village women, strategically influenced change in policies, union establishment, union membership and union registration. We can also see the importance of undertaking empowerment initiatives at both district and village levels.

Yasanti provides direct support to homeworkers to both build skills, identify, and advocate for the protection of labour rights and work conditions, while also advocating for policy changes in districts and beyond. This has not only had empowerment impacts and effects on the Village Law, but grassroots pressures from women on district officials have bolstered policy change in Bantul.

Box 35: A Story of Change in Bantul—Recognising and Increasing Protections for Homeworkers

In the Bantul research village, women have limited livelihood opportunities outside of informal sectors and home industries. The most common types of home-based work include sewing crafts, bags, clothes, and bordering material to be sold to larger enterprises, at local markets and online. Women have often faced challenges due to homeworker industries not being formally recognised as employment, particularly in accessing health insurance and social security. Without formal recognition, many women reported experiencing unfair employment practices. For example, Citra describes how an employer did not provide the materials required to carry out her work.

“For example, with thread, some people give you some but others don’t. If you’re not given thread, then you buy it for yourself. How can you protest if they’re your neighbour? Especially because we really need these jobs.” Citra, Secretary of Kreatif Bunda Homeworkers Union, 23 October 2019.

Yasanti has long focused on supporting homeworkers in this region and in the Yogyakarta area since it was established in 1982. It has supported village women to establish 10 homeworkers unions, five of which are located in Bantul District, including the Kreatif Bunda (Creative Mothers) Homeworkers Union in the research village. Since 2008, Yasanti has aimed to support village women (including homeworkers) to be involved in hamlet (MusDus) and village (MusDes) consultative forums, while also enhancing women’s gender awareness, understanding of worker’s rights, and improving their practical skills. One woman described the benefit she feels from joining a union for women homeworkers:

“I learned a lot of things by joining the Union. I learned about gender, about bookkeeping, about administration in business, and how we can manage time as workers and as mothers who need to take care of our kids. Also, I learn about safety while working.” Widyati, Member of the Kreatif Bunda Homeworkers Union, 24 October 2019.

According to many members, bookkeeping is one of the most valuable skills that they have gained:
“I am so hopeless when it comes to bookkeeping. I don’t know how to do it. During the training, I learned how to do it. My bookkeeping is neat now, and ever since I am aware how much money I earn, and how much I spend. Thanks to bookkeeping, now I know all of that. I also learn how to make priorities. The training taught us how to be careful about what we spend.” Member of Kreatif Bunda Homeworkers Union, 24 October 2019.

At the village and district levels, Yasanti has succeeded in supporting village women to advocate for new regulations. At the district level, they successfully advocated for and provided technical support to the Head of the Manpower Office to design and enact Decision (No.98, 2017) on Homeworkers Unions, and to the Village Head to design and enact a Village Head’s Decision on Homeworkers Unions in 2018, which includes stipulations for a Village Fund Allocation for the Kreatif Bunda Homeworkers Union.

“YASANTI provided assistance. It helped form groups and create awareness [among women]. [Women] were invited to organise [into union groups]. What’s more, the women were dedicated to the trainings… The women were invited to participate in a dialogue with the Lurah [Head of the Urban Precinct] and Village Head. And, now there is a [new] Village Head Decision [that recognises and supports homeworkers]. Women are also now involved in policy making and both village and hamlet development planning meetings. And, women’s proposals [to support homeworkers] have been included in the RPJMD this year, and last year a program was even funded.” Ira, Yasanti Program Manager, Bantul research village, 22 October 2019.

Since the 2018 Village Head Decision on Homeworkers was issued, the Kreatif Bunda Homeworkers Union has held an equal position with other village institutions, such as the PKK and youth organisations, in village budgeting. This has enhanced their involvement in various village and hamlet meetings.

“Yes, we usually only bring issues to the Musrenbang… At least the mothers, they know about village programs. If the village holds a Musrenbang, and they know about the Musrenbang, they join in. They eventually gained understanding about manufacturing chains too.” Ratnawati, Former Village Head, Bantul research village, 24 October 2019.

By forming homeworkers unions, women in Bantul have improved their business skills, increased their knowledge of workplace health and safety, and advocated for formal recognition of their rights at the village and district levels.

In contrast, BITRA has tended to mainly work at the district level and with women’s groups spread across localities and has, to date, been less focused on Village Law implementation. BITRA also started from scratch in mid-2014, whereas Yasanti already had two decades of experience.

The sectors also operate differently in terms of the structure of the industries that the homeworkers distribute to and how distribution is managed. In Deli Serdang, middle-men called tauke distribute jobs to female homeworkers, while in Bantul the business owners live in the village, as neighbours of the homeworkers. This influences the closeness of the relationships between homeworkers and business owners and the importance of also focusing on village institution strengthening. The village environments are also different. In the Deli Serdang research village, political families are very strong and exclusionary. They have dominated village power structures and controlled village politics for more than a decade. Yet, at the district and provincial level, the situation is more favourable. North Sumatra is known for its long history of labour rights movements, which have paved the way for BITRA’s networks and the women’s collective action it facilitates. For instance, when BITRA has advocated for a new local regulation on homeworkers, other existing labour unions have assisted them in lobbying influential figures in the government.

In Bantul on the other hand, the political environment at the village level has been more welcoming to empowerment initiatives compared to Deli Serdang. The former Village Head, who was female, strongly supported Yasanti’s endeavours early on. Their advocacy and support for women’s grassroots collective action resulted in a Village Head Decision on Homeworkers Unions in 2018, the technical drafting of which was supported by Yasanti and women in the Union. At the district level, Yasanti has had a good relationship with the district government too, as demonstrated by the Decision (No 98, 2017) on Homeworkers Unions issued by the Head of the Manpower Office.

Box 36: Story of Change in Deli Serdang—Recognising Homeworkers and Increased Access to Social Protection and Insurance

In the research village in Deli Serdang District, for women, homeworker cottage industries are a popular livelihood due to limited employment opportunities and social norms about married women’s mobility.

“Generally, women cannot leave their home without their husband’s permission. So, women can’t go anywhere, especially us Muslim women. These women’s husbands don’t usually permit them to leave the house.” Reni, Head of the Straw Credit Union, Deli Serdang research village, 10 November 2019.

While homeworkers have existed in the village for many decades, they were not supported by CSOs until BITRA began initiatives in 2014 to help village homeworkers to organise, to educate homeworkers about workers’ rights and gender empowerment, and to help homeworkers improve their work conditions. To support collective action among women homeworkers, BITRA helped establish homeworker unions to provide a platform for collective action among women homeworkers. To build trust, initially, BITRA members went door-to-door to ask women to join a union and educate them about the importance of joining a union.

After three months of employing this strategy, homeworkers were finally able to hold group meetings with BITRA support. Held under the banner of SPPR (Sekolah Peningkatan Kapasitas Perempuan Pekerja Rumahan—School for Increasing Women Homeworkers’ Capacity), women learned about gender, leadership, negotiation skills, and other livelihoods skills such as sewing and acupressure, and small business enterprises.

“We participated in a lot of types of training sessions, which made us more courageous to come forward [and speak]. Before these training sessions, when we introduced ourselves by name in a group, lots of people even said their name wrong. Now it’s not like that, it feels normal looking at people’s faces.” Mila, Head of the Straw Group, Deli Serdang research village, 9 November 2019.

BITRA also facilitated the establishment of a Credit Union after social mapping revealed high dependency of women homeworkers on loan sharks.

“Many of them have experienced changes since the Credit Union started in terms of meeting their everyday needs. In the past they had to borrow from moneylenders, most of them are loan sharks here.” Diah, BITRA Field Staff, 9 November 2019.

BITRA’s unions were successfully registered with the provincial government. The Union structure extends from village level to the district and provincial levels. Since the Union was officially established, all homeworkers activities are more structured and organised.

“Yes, it’s better to be in a union than not be in a union. If the union comes together, we become one. If it is not a union, then it will break into pieces. There is no cohesiveness.” Mila, Deputy Chairperson of DPC SPR Sejahtera, 9 November 2019.

BITRA has also been a strong advocate for a District Regulation to protect homeworkers. In the absence of a regulation, BITRA has pursued other routes to improve the welfare of homeworkers by supporting the unions to advocate for health insurance through the District Office of Social Affairs. This led to the inclusion of homeworkers on the list of recipients for free healthcare through the National Health Insurance schemes (BPJS), which prior to such advocacy was not accessible as homeworker ‘work’ was not recognised.

“Yes, I got the card. I was given BPJS Employment insurance for 3 months, and after that I paid for myself, it was only IDR 16,800. The thing is that BPJS Employment system doesn’t issue fines, so if we can’t pay the policy is just stopped, and if we have money later, we can re-join without a problem. Wire weaving work is also risky, as hands get pinched and scratched. There really is a big risk.” Mia, Secretary of SPR-Sejahtera, research village in Deli Serdang, 8 November 2019.

Despite ongoing challenges to implementing policy change at the village and district levels, women, through grassroots union organising, have successfully gained access to other government assistance and social protection, through the District Head’s Integrated Referral Service System regulation (Sistem Layanan Rujukan Terpadu – SLRT), which recognises their status as workers. At the time of the research, the village had also become more open to women participating in decision-making forums and a number of women participated in the 2019 Musrenbangdes. Building on their experience in gaining access to free National Health Care, members of SPR Sejahtera have also been recommended by the village government to assist other villagers, thereby further increasing access for other villagers to social protection.

While there was variation across the sites in the strategies needed to overcome sectoral challenges and related context constraints, the strategy used in the homeworkers sector to support village women was similar to that used by MAMPU Partners in other areas and sectors. First, these MAMPU CSO Partners sought to support village women to establish a group (unions) as a platform for women to strengthen their individual and collective skills, knowledge, networks and agency and propensity for collective action. Second, they sought to facilitate village women’s increased knowledge and understanding of women’s rights, in this case in relation to wages and workers’ rights. Third, they focused on building skills in leadership and public speaking. Fourth, they focused on institutionalising changes for homeworkers through regulations at the village, district and provincial levels.

District Context
Village Context
Collectivities: Existing & New
Pathways of Influence: Women’s Agency & Collective Action
Pathways of Influence: Structures and Support for Women’s Groups & Agency
Pathways of Influence: Planned and Adaptive Strategies