Pathways of Influence: Women’s Agency & Grassroots Collective Action

Images of women laying out fabric for cutting and constructing garments

The forms of women’s collective action in rural Indonesia are situated on a continuum of more informal forms of influence through interpersonal networks developed with authoritative government and social leaders, to participating in formal processes of decision making in organisations, institutions, and forums. Many of these forms are interrelated to form a networked collective action, sometimes sequential, and often mutually strengthening.

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


The previous sections explored both the different dimensions of district and village contexts that might constrain or enable women’s collective action and empowerment, provided an initial summary of Village Law impacts identified in the study, and explored how women perceived and experienced changes in exercising voice and influence. This section explains the main forms of grassroots collective action identified in the research sites and the patterns in the forms and intensity of collective action through groups and networks across the research villages, with a particular focus on how individual and collective capacity to improve well-being and exercise voice evolved. Many of the forms of collective action were interrelated, mutually strengthening, and sometimes overlapped in the processes that led to women having greater influence on the structures of power and decision making.

It is important to note that the study does not seek to explain all dimensions of women’s associational life and household dynamics in each village, but rather to identify patterns in the processes and experiences, which notonly bolstered broad improvement in women’s wellbeing but also influencedstructures of power anddecision making in village governance and more widely.

We begin by providing a brief history of the women’s movement in Indonesia, with emphasis on core women’s organisations—particularly those with reach in rural Indonesia—and how the prior authoritarian regime sought to create structures to shape the nature and form of women’s role in society as wives and mothers responsible for families and the household. This is important for understanding how women’s organisations from the period (that remain today) certainly had experience of organising and of improving women’s wellbeing in particular domains (e.g. health, education). However, such organising was also limited in bolstering women’s political participation and more diversified roles. Instead, it often instead reinforced gender roles. We then discuss in more detail the forms of collective action that were evident in the research sites across the trajectories of change traced through the case studies. The analysis then explores comparatively the patterns of these forms of women’s collective action—both formal and informal—that were evident in the research sites, disaggregating these patterns by type of context. The key content of the section is provided in Figure 14.

Figure 14: Structure and Key Content of Section 5
Historical antecedents: women’s collective action pre-1998

Women’s collective action through networks, mass organisations and women’s groups, is not a new phenomenon in Indonesia. In 1914 the women’s organisation Sapa Tresna was established to promote the education of women and girls. The organisation was the frontrunner of ‘Aisyiyah, affiliated with the modernist Islamic mass organisation Muhammadiyah. The traditionalist Islamic mass organisation Nahdlatul Ulama also established its women’s wing Muslimat in 1946, followed four years later by Fatayat for younger women, similarly focusing on women’s education and health. These organisations continue to have significant influence today.

The rise of nationalism and the immediate years following independence provided an impetus for women’s political participation. Women were also consistently included in government rhetoric to advance the state and their designation of ‘weavers of national unity’ (Davies, 2005, 232) assigned women the role of mothers of the nation. Throughout the first two decades of independence, women were involved in political parties and encouraged to establish women’s organisations (Davies, 2005, 232). These were usually formed along religious or ethnic lines. Some organisations, such as PERWARI (the Women’s Association of the Republic of Indonesia), followed a national structure with regional branches whereas others were locally or regionally based (Migunani, 2017, 2).

The period of relative encouragement of women’s organisation and political participation came to an abrupt end under President Suharto’s New Order regime (1966-1998), as did many other forms of mass organisation and political participation. Like many other forms of social organisation, women’s groups at the community level virtually disappeared with the exception of religious groups (such as prayer groups) and the PKK (the Family Welfare Guidance organisation, Pembinaan Kesejahteraan Keluarga) (Migunani, 2017, 2), which we saw in previous sections were important groups in villages to this day. One or two state corporatist organisations set up by specific districts for economic sectors such as agriculture also sometimes established groups such as the KWT (Women’s Farmer Groups – Kelompok Wanita Tani), again, which remained present in a number of research villages.

Only state-endorsed organisations and groups were allowed to operate. Indeed, the regime established state-initiated corporatism in all ‘functional’ sectors (professions, students, farmers, labourers, fishers, and for women), as one of the key instruments organising and influencing society. These organisations stretched from the national to the village level, many of which also continue to exist today. However, from the mid-1980s and throughout the 1990s some women were involved in broader movements and networks of activists that drew extensively on global human rights movements and feminist ideas, and that sought to counter the regime (Blackburn, 2004, 27-28; Davies 2005).

On the whole, New Order state policy promoted nuclear families and motherhood, in what has been termed state ‘ibuism’ (Suryakusuma, 1987). Women’s roles were confined to the domestic sphere, as wives, mothers and managers of the household (Robinson, 2008). At the pinnacle of the policy were official women’s organisations Dharma Wanita (Women’s Duty), for wives of higher-ranking civil servants, and the PKK with reach into rural areas (Blackburn, 2004). The PKK was established across Indonesia from the early 1970s, under the Ministry of Home Affairs and the direct leadership of the minister’s wife.[1]

The PKK became the only organisation specifically for women officially endorsed to work at the village level. With the added political influence of the wife of President Suharto, the PKK leadership structure was established at the provincial, district, subdistrict and village levels. Branches at each level of the PKK were led by state officials’ wives. The PKK disseminated the state’s official gender ideology, emphasising women’s domestic roles. It organised female volunteers in state-led development programs (Blackburn, 2004; Robinson, 1994). During the Suharto era, the PKK aimed to improve standard of living for families in rural areas, through the implementation of literacy programs and establishing maternal and child healthcare groups (Posyandu).

The Posyandu have been widely credited with having a positive impact on maternal and infant mortality and morbidity (Marcoes, 2002; Robinson, 2008). While through the PKK and Posyandu village women became involved in matters of education and health, these organisations were focused on supporting state development priorities rather than the individual and collective empowerment of women. Indeed, these programs and its organisational structure were criticised for being top-down, elite centred, and having a Java-centric bias (Marcoes, 2002, 188). Nonetheless, for the subset of women involved in the PKK, they gained skills in organising and had some degree of collective influence on village politics and life through their family ties and close connections to networks of state officials, within the bounds of what was permissible by the state. Thus, while women did have spaces and organised forms of representation that enabled women to express their voices on certain issues, rarely could such groups influence and change the distribution of power in villages.

[1] The PKK was first established under the name Family Welfare Education by the wife of the Governor of Central Java from 1967 as a formalised version of organic women’s groups formed to perform neighbourhood activities (Migunani 2017, 2; Wieringa 1993, 24).

Historical antecedents: women’s collective action post-1998

The end of authoritarianism was a catalyst for increased women’s political action (Davies, 2005). New women’s networks, unions and other civil society organisations emerged nationally and locally throughout Indonesia, including the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) established as an independent state organisation in 1998, and many of the civil society organisations discussed in this study. Many larger organisations are situated in urban centres and the capital (some with networks of organisations to sub-national regions), while others have been established locally. Some focus on tackling inequities in the broader structures of power through, for example, advocating for legislation and policy changes to support women’s political representation, while others are issue focused such as reducing violence and human trafficking (and providing safehouses and legal aid), peacebuilding, improving land rights, health, access to education, and many other issues.

A common theme among these organisations is raising gender awareness and knowledge so that Indonesian women can continue to push for change and seek to influence and change power structures. While understandings and perceptions of what constitutes the Indonesian women’s movement vary among women leaders, organisations and activists, ultimately it includes interconnected organisations, broader women’s networks and coalitions that seek to change patriarchal structures of power.

Over time the women’s movement has made significant headway in improving gender equity through garnering political attention to issues of women’s rights and welfare and gaining national and subnational changes to laws, regulations, policies and programs to address the challenges encountered by Indonesian women. As mentioned in Section 2, the UNDP Human Development Index report for 2018 ranks Indonesia as a country experiencing ‘medium equality’ between men and women (UNDP, 2019). However, such changes have been uneven, particularly for poor women in rural areas, which is the focus of this study.

Changes in state-corporatist groups and institutions

There have also been some changes to organisational structures of existing women’s organisations established by the New Order, in the post-1998 era of reform. In 2000, the PKK convened a special national meeting where it changed its name to the Family Welfare and Empowerment organisation (Pemberdayaan dan Kesejahteraan Keluarga—PKK), stressing ‘empowerment’ rather than ‘guidance’ as its key function. Despite the PKK still existing under the Ministry of Home Affairs, PKK leaders are now elected, and the organisation has attempted through national agenda setting to prioritise participation in politics and gender equality (Kurniawati, 2015, 45).

However, the PKK remains largely connected to development priorities set by the central government and the degree to which membership represents the diversity of women in villages varies across the archipelago. The PKK receives a set amount between IDR10-15 million (approximately AUD1000-1500) per year, which is distributed to the PKK via the budget transfers to villages but is an allocation outside the specific Dana Desa (Village Fund) transfer under the Village Law. Although, in practice and as was evident in the research sites for this study, sometimes the PKK receives this allocation from the Dana Desa pot (and in some cases additional funding) depending on the dynamics in each village.

The PKK’s scope to fulfil its vision of healthy, socially and spiritually virtuous families has recently been expanded through the Ministry of Home Affairs Regulation No. 1/2013. Under this regulation, the Minister of Home Affairs, Governor, District and Village Heads are the head of guidance for the PKK mobilisation team (Ketua PemBina TP PKK) at each respective level. Furthermore, Presidential Regulation No. 99/2017 imposed greater provincial, district, subdistrict and village control over PKK agendas through monitoring and evaluation (Brown, 2019, 17).

As a result of its budget access, and given its larger legacy and organising structure, the PKK (and the Posyandu) continues to command respect (Migunani, 2017, 25), but its influence on village governance, structures of power, and the reach and diversity of its membership varies significantly across the archipelago as evidenced by this study and others (such as Migunani, 2017). Its traditional focus on promoting women’s roles as wives and mothers, has been difficult to change in many places (for further discussion see Section 6). Further, in many instances, at the village level, PKK membership has tended to be dominated by more ‘elite’ village women (such as the wives of Village Heads). At the same time, some village-level PKK groups (including extension groups of the PKK such as the Posyandu) have undergone a degree of change in some villages so as to create a more diverse membership and to incorporate a broader understanding of gender and women’s roles, particularly in cases where the PKK had worked with other organisations to make efforts towards fulfilling their new ‘empowerment’ agenda.

Forms and characteristics of collective action

This section revisits how we conceptualise collective action in this research and then distinguishes between informal and formal forms of collective action.

Defining collective action

In their background paper on collective action and women’s agency, Evans and Nambiar (2013, 3) define collective action as ‘the act of mobilising people around common or shared concerns’. They go on to explain that collective action can:

  • be routine or sporadic,
  • take place informally or formally,
  • be localised or transnational,
  • be focused on the articulation of rights or the delivery of services, and
  • evolve organically from within a group of people or be established from outside a group of people.

This definition is consistent with the 2017 Migunani study of women’s collective action in Indonesia, whose authors defined women’s collective action as:

The formal or informal formation and activity of groups or networks of predominantly women that aims to bring about positive changes in women’s lives. Collective action is both the process of working to affect change, [the process] by which voluntary institutions are created and maintained, and the [process by which] groups decide to act together (Migunani, 2017, vii).

The theory of collective action has evolved from its origins in economics to its application in community development (Evans and Nambiar, 2013). In the context of economics, seminal writers such as Olson (1965) were focused on the challenges of people being less willing to actively participate than to reap the benefits of collective action performed by others—often known as the free rider problem. This issue is also raised by Wetterberg et al. (2015, 4) in their study of social accountability tools for citizens to hold service providers in Indonesian healthcare centres to account. They argue that ‘citizen mobilisation for collective action’ is dependent on participants’ capacities and their willingness to participate in relevant activities.

Ostrom and Ostrom (1986) have shown how collective action activities such as cooperative infrastructure, rules and norms supported communities in low-income and rural settings, particularly when the market and the state might have failed to thrive. We certainly saw evidence of these kinds of dynamics in village governance and the other outcomes achieved by village groups in this study. In particular, collective action has been important in the context of natural resource management in that it theoretically brings about the more equitable sharing of such resources (Pandolfelli et al., 2008).

Whilst collective action can take several forms, the distinction between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ collective action is of particular importance because it is thought that the engagement with these different types of collective action might be gendered (Pandolfelli et al., 2008; Agarwal, 2000).

Formal collective action generally takes place through an organisation or government structure (Evans and Nambier, 2013). These organisations might include microfinance groups, associations to manage natural resources (such as water) or cooperatives (Pandolfelli et al., 2008). In Indonesia, we might see such action in groups and associations and through the participation of individuals and these groups in government structures such as decision-making forums at village and district levels, or the participation of groups in other social influencing structures that shape norms or allocate resources outside the key functionings of the state.

Informal collective action takes place within more ‘amorphous social networks’ where there is greater flexibility for members to participate according to their changing needs (Pandolfelli et al., 2008, 3). The creation of informal and social arenas is relevant for women’s collective action as it allows for reflexive possibilities in which participants can identify everyday problems as well as imagine alternative realities. Furthermore, in creating and through such spaces, women may also disrupt overwhelmingly male-dominated sites of decision making (McEwan, 2005). Hence, in some contexts, it seems that women are more likely to engage with an informal collective action group than a formal one (Pandolfelli et al. 2008; Agarwal 2000). This has been observed in both low-income settings (for example, Agarwal’s (2000) research about collective action in rural villages in South Asia) and high-income settings (see Gerard and Kleiber’s 2019 study of Norwegian women in the fishing industry).

The examples of collective action identified in what were predominantly rural research sites for this study were both formal and informal in nature and often interrelated, overlapping and of different forms in the longer processes of change in women’s influence on structures of power and decision making. Formal collective action included formal leadership and participation in governance structures—for example, participation in MusDes (village consultation and deliberation meetings for decision making) and/or Musrenbangdes (village development planning consultation and deliberation meetings), in village and district planning forums and in taskforces to shape and deliver programs and other initiatives.

At the intersection of formal and informal collective action was participation in organised women’s groups (discussed further in Section 6), with the goal of collectively improving women’s wellbeing. While such participation could be considered formal or informal in light of the definitions above, for analysis purposes for this research, we have treated it separately for analysis purposes, particularly given that support for women’s organised groups and activities was a core form of support common to all case studies and CSOs involved in the study.

Women were also engaged in collective action informally, for example through personally lobbying influential and authoritative actors in the district and village governments, and participating in more informal ‘spaces for women’ and collectivities that did not have the structure of a formal group—such as gatherings at the Early Childhood Education Centre (PAUD). Most importantly, one of the most prevalent forms of women’s collective action in rural areas identified in this study were, as we saw in the previous chapter, the ways women accessed and influenced public decision-making spaces via strategically accessing and leveraging social networks with influential social and political leaders. Often together, women and these influential actors undertook a form of networked collective action to influence decision-making forums so as to be more gender inclusive and to give attention to women’s priorities. We return to this theme at the end of this section, but first, below we analyse the core forms of collective action that contributed to women increasingly exercising power and influence in villages to strengthen their social, political, and economic capacities, improve the wellbeing of themselves and their families, and shape the implementation of the Village Law. These forms are outlined in Figure 15.

Figure 15: Key Forms of Women’s Collective Action Discussed

Formal forms of collective action

To varied degrees and with changes over time, village women exercised formal forms of collective action where they directly focused on formal leadership and governance participation. There were several forms of formal collective action undertaken by rural village women, as representatives of, or through, groups, associations and collectivities. These main forms include, among others:

  • Participation in, and the running of, elections, and/or strategically and collectively using votes to support particular candidates who are known to be inclusive of women,
  • Participation in the decision-making meetings of government and other forums (both village and district-level forums),
  • Participation in taskforces, associational networks and program development and implementation initiatives, and
  • Providing input into regulations and policies in ways that are of benefit to them.

Formal forms of collective action constitute a form of exercising power to shapepolitical and policy decisions that affect women’s wellbeing, as well as to shift social norms that may constrain their choices and participation in public realms. In finding common ground among people with different interests and building collective strength through participation in the groups discussed above, women have found power with other group members in the mutual support they provide to each other (See Section 2), and with other actors, groups and associations in shaping the decisions of authoritative structures so as to be more gender inclusive. Each of these forms of collective action is discussed further below.[1]

[1] As was discussed in Section 2, VeneKlasen and Miller (2002, 39) identify different types of power: Power over—The most commonly recognised form of power, power over, has many negative associations for people, such as repression, wealth, force, coercion, discrimination, corruption, and abuse. Power is seen as a win-lose relationship.Power with—to do with finding common ground among different interests and building collective strength.Power to—refers to the unique potential of every person to shape his or her life and world.Power within—has to do with a person’s sense of self-worth and self-knowledge.

Participation in village decision making

Women’s participation in decision-making meetings such as MusDes and Musrenbangdes allows them to bring issues relevant to women’s needs to the attention of the village government and to influence the decisions made (i.e. expressing their power together with others to shape political and policy decisions). Such participation varied across the research villages—it was rare in the ‘control’ sites and in a number of the other research villages, although in the case of the latter this improved over time.

In some villages, women’s groups had to first ensure that women were able to participate in these meetings. In the Cirebon research village, for instance, initially there was no women’s participation in the Musrenbangdes and rarely in MusDes. As was illustrated in Section 3 in the Story of Change in the Cirebon research village, meetings were held in the evenings and social norms in the village forbid women to be outside the house at night. Women’s group cadres lobbied the Village Head to change the time of the Musrenbangdes. The Musrenbangdes was then moved to Sunday afternoon, creating better opportunities for women to participate. They then advocated for funding for a number of women’s initiatives and a new Village Regulation.

Once women had better opportunities to participate in these forums, their confidence grew each time they participated to exercise voice and put forward proposals (see also Section 6). In the North Hulu Sungai research village, in their routine Pekka union meetings, members practiced public speaking, which increased their confidence to then voice their interest in village meetings:

“Our self-confidence perhaps [increased] after two or three years because of being invited to meetings a lot. Together we learned to speak in the front of the group, one by one… and how to take turns in leading meetings.” Head of Pekka group, North Hulu Sungai research village, 13 July 2019.

They then advocated for the improvement for health services in the village by recommending purchase of equipment for the village Posyandu using the Village Fund.

Similarly in East Lombok, the ability of women to raise issues that matter to them in these forums led to an allocation of funding. The chair of the Posyandu, who is also a member of the Constituent Group, was invited to participate in the Musrenbangdes:

“[I was] invited because I am a Posyandu cadre, and also a member of the Constituent Group. [In the meeting] I made recommendations to buy equipment for the Posyandu, [these were] collective recommendations. We made list of what we needed and the village [government] allocated some funds.” Chair of Posyandu and Constituent Group cadre, East Lombok research village, 8 July 2019.

Women’s active participation in village meetings also had a ripple effect on their position in the domestic sphere. For instance, in North Hulu Sungai, Pekka members started to participate in the Musrenbangdes where they advocated for the improvement of health services and for training on economic skills to enhance women’s ability to generate an income. In being able to generate more income, women also enhanced their bargaining position at home.

Participation in district-level forums so as to influence political and policy decisions

During the research we found many examples in which village women not only participated in governance processes at the village level, but also at the district level to express their power together with others so as to shape processes and outcomes, particularly (but not always) after they were able to demonstrate the benefits of their collective action and initiatives in villages.

For example, in Gresik, Women’s School members made recommendations to influential district actors to make greater investments in women’s health issues as well as education extension programs for women. In Central Lombok, village women have been involved in providing inputs to district-level initiatives to support migrant worker registration and to help respond to challenges that migrant workers encounter. We provide other examples in later sections.

Participation in taskforces, associational networks and program design, and development program and implementation initiatives

Participating in initiatives that contribute to village and district development and service delivery are a way to influence the design and delivery of these initiatives so as to benefit both women and others, to exercise power to shape processes and outcomes, often together with others. Participating in these initiatives is also a way for women to build their public profile and legitimacy as influential and authoritative actors who can exert further power in the future. This is particularly helpful for those women unaccustomed to engaging in public-facing activities, especially in places where gender norms confine women to the home.

For example, in Bangkalan in Section 4, we saw the way women like Ati, Nurul and Indah participated in the Village Consultation and Information and Service Clinics (KLIK). This not only augmented their learning and knowledge, it also helped them develop relationships and a public profile in which they became increasingly well-known and trusted. They then used this experience to lobby for further support for verifying and registering religious marriages through government processes. In Labuhan Batu (see Box 21 below), SPI women were active in the multi-stakeholder forum to provide services and support for women and children experiencing domestic violence, which then augmented their influence over and input into the design of the Village Regulation to bolster support for violence prevention.

Village women in case studies in multiple sites also participated in the district taskforces and other forums for the design and delivery of other initiatives and services in health (Cirebon), gender mainstreaming and Women’s School replication (Gresik, Pangkep), violence prevention (TTU, Tanggamus, East Lombok), changing customary dispute resolution practices (TTU), migrant worker protection (Central Lombok), and many others.

Taking these kinds (and others) of public-facing roles also provides role models for other women and helps break down what might be community perceptions in some villages that women’s primary role and skills pertain to managing households—we saw how Mita in Bangkalan, Gita in Central Lombok (see also Section 4) and many other women found ways to pursue both publicly oriented active roles while also having families, with part of their goal being to be role models for others.

However, without the support and back up of groups (that is, power with others), it is difficult for women to advocate and take on leadership roles alone, especially when this is not the norm. We found two influential women in the Gresik research ‘control’ site. Whenever villagers were asked if there were any female leaders or influential women in the village, these were consistently the two to whom they would refer. One, the head of the PKK, was generally well respected by men and women in the village—which led to but was also a result of her position in the PKK and the women’s religious organisation Fatayat—and had managed to have some, albeit limited influence on Village Law implementation via one proposal for village funding. The other, as people thought back, was a woman who took on the role as the first female Neighbourhood Head in 1999 (and is one of less than a handful of women to have ever held such a role) who didn’t have such group support. Villagers struggled to find other examples.

Few questioned the integrity of the PKK Head, particularly given that this particular PKK was made up of a small group of elite women in the village and tended to conform to the gender norms of women as wives and mothers. However, the former Neighbourhood Head had struggled to counter gender norms of the day—many interviewees said that women simply didn’t have the capacity to be leaders. She consequently had to work twice as hard to gain trust and respect on her own, without others to help counter these views. Villagers in Gresik explained:

“Yeah, early on there were people that would say that women [didn’t have the capacity to be a leader]…I was quite young back then… I heard my neighbour say, ‘what would this Female Neighbourhood Head possibly be able to do?’…but there was no need to listen to that, because in the end it turned out she could do the work.” Female villager, Gresik research ‘control’ village, 9 November 2019.

“Yeah, we only knew women could become leaders because Ibu Mafiroh became the Neighbourhood Head. I now know that, and in fact, they are more agile and work faster than the male Neighbourhood Heads do.” Male villager, Gresik research ‘control’ village, 14 November 2019.

“Before, we women were doubtful yeah…[we thought] can we or not?…You know, now that we have seen that she could do it, I know women, you know, even me (!), I could do that work.” Female villager, Gresik research ‘control’ village, 10 November 2019.

“What’s the word for it?… Inspiration for us women here”. Female villager, Gresik research ‘control’ village, 12 November 2019.

These examples highlight the importance of group support for women who begin to emerge as leaders to help overcome the barriers they often encounter.

Influencing the content and enactment of regulations

Women have also engaged in collective action by influencing the content of regulations, again to exercise their power to shape policies and outcomes, often with others. For instance, in Cirebon the passing of the 2017 Village Regulation on the Management of Reproductive Health was a result of negotiation between ‘Aisyiyah cadres and the village government. The cadres, who at the provincial level had been assisted by academics, took part in focus group discussion meetings to write the regulation:

“Apart from [the information] that was gathered by cadres in the first FGD forum, there were additions, consolidation [of the draft], rebuttals [on some clauses] from participants in the second FGD … Once [the draft was] developed, a village government team conducted a public consultation, where they invited the people of the village [to give inputs], because not everyone had participated in the development [of the regulation]. We explained the draft, read out [the clauses] one by one, and asked whether there was any disagreement or rebuttals. After we finished that process, we went on to formalise the regulation. So, yes, these are all the processes involved.” Head Regional Officer, ‘Aisyiyah in West Java, 28 February 2019.

In East Lombok, the Constituent Group was also instrumental in the passing of a 2018 Village Regulation on the Protection of Women and Children. Similarly, in Central Lombok, DESBUMI (Villages that Care for Migrant Workers) cadres were involved in the drafting of the Village Regulation No. 4/2015 on the Protection for Indonesian Migrant Workers from the Village. For this, DESBUMI heavily relied on the survey it conducted earlier:

“From the results of the survey we decided what points needed to be incorporated in the [new] Village Regulation. For instance, how to process [migrant worker] documents, from the beginning to departure. That is the main point of the Village Regulation. So, after we gathered all of the materials, we made the draft [of the Village Regulation].” Village Secretary, 5 July 2019.

The example from East Lombok also illustrates how various forms of collective action support and strengthen each other—from participatory data collection to formulating the content of regulations.

Pathways at the intersection: Participating in formal groups and gaining group recognition

As was clear from Section 4, a key form of women’s collective action was undertaken through women’s participation in women’s groups, mixed gender groups and multi-stakeholder groups (we discuss these further in Section 6). This occurred in both the ‘control’ and ‘intervention’ sites. Participation in such groups, particularly women’s groups, in and of itself constitutes a form of collective action for building agency (which is strongly associated with power to—or the unique potential of each person to shape his or her life—see Section 2), strengthening village women’s power within (that being their sense of self-worth and confidence), and making positive changes in women’s lives. Exercising agency and making positive changes for women are key aspects of how women’s collective action is understood in this study, as such action constitutes a form of the power exercised with other women, or what might be considered a form of collective agency. Group participation and action can also be a part of a pathway for women to exercise greater (albeit not exclusive) power over broader structures in society and in decision making in villages and beyond. Through this pathway, women exercise influence over those structures that influence governance and those structures that shape socio-cultural norms, particularly when groups seek to interact with and seek change in these structures of power (not all groups do, even when they do improve women’s wellbeing).

Growing agency

We saw in Section 4 many of the benefits of group participation described by women, many of which also constitute a form of social capital that helps bolster women’s agency. This is discussed further in Section 6. As was discussed in Section 3, women in the two research ‘control’ sites predominantly participated in existing state-corporatist groups such as the PKK and Posyandu, which supported a subset of women in these villages for improved wellbeing within certain confines of gender norms. In other ‘intervention’ sites, women’s groups (and other mixed-groups concerned with advocating for women) were more varied and had more diverse membership, examples of which are provided throughout this report, especially in Section 6. For example, in the case study excerpt on changes in the Cirebon research villages, women in the Balai Sakinah ‘Aisyiyah (BSA) group (some but not all of whom are in the PKK), now regularly attend village decision-making meetings.

Influencing structures of power and decision-making

While under the Village Law all community members can participate in MusDes and Musrenbangdes, in many villages in practice, participation in such forums tends to be by invitation only. We saw this in the two research ‘control’ sites described in Section 3, and it was a common practice in many of the other research villages. Recognising this reality in many villages, what was clear across the research sites was that the more such groups were ‘officially’ recognised as a legitimate and important groups by government authorities at different levels, the more they were likely to make it on to the invite list to attend decision-making forums or be included in other associations, networks, discussions and multi-stakeholder forums on a range of issues.

For example, in the case study overview of the changes in the East Lombok research village presented in Section 4, we saw how through the formal recognition of the Maju Mele Constituent Group in the Village Regulation on the Protection of Women and Children, the group is now invited to village decision-making meetings. This has similarly been the case in other research villages where groups have been recognised in village regulations and activities driven by these groups have been earmarked for an allocation from the Village Fund via these regulations. We can see such processes are evident too in the case study excerpt of a larger process of change in Labuhan Batu in Box 21. Here we see two types of groups in action—the Women’s Independent Union (SPI) in the village and the multi-stakeholder Community-Based Service (LBK) Forum. Their collective action and wider advocacy led to the establishment of a Women’s Care Post, cross-stakeholder collaboration and support for women experiencing violence, the enactment of the Village Regulation to support this collaborative effort and the promise of a Village Fund allocation.

Box 21: A Story of Change in Labuhan Batu—Influencing Change in Reponses to Domestic Violence through Community-Based Forums

In the Labuhan Batu District research village in North Sumatra, village women have sought to influence changes in the way cases of domestic violence are handled and to provide support to women who experience such violence. Factors contributing to high rates of violence against women in the Labuhan Batu research village are varied according to villagers and include juvenile delinquency, child marriage, narcotics use, and the burdens on households in poverty. There are also numerous barriers to handling cases of violence against women, including a lack of safehouses to receive and process complaints of violence in villages and subdistricts, and a lack of collaboration between available services.

The Independent Women’s Union’s (Serikat Perempuan Independen – SPI) in Labuhan Batu has sought to support women in the Labuhan Batu research village to address some of these challenges through collective action. It supported village women to establish an SPI group at the village level. This village women’s union has become the driving force in the advocacy and support for domestic violence victims in the research village. The district-level SPI Labuhan Batu provided gender equity, paralegal and other training for women and others in the village.

The village SPI established a Women’s Care Post (Posko) to respond to cases of domestic violence and to provide a safe space for women to engage and gain support. The head of the village SPI, Yuli, explains the importance of this Post for women:

“In the past people were more afraid to talk about family problems because it was taboo. People were often silent instead of talking, otherwise other people would gossip about it. But after the Posko SPI was established, now if there are small family problems people report them to the Posko. The Posko is a place for confiding [with other women].” Yuli, 13 October 2019.

The village SPI group also built networks with village leaders, in particular with the Chair of the Village Consultative Council (BPD), to advocate for wider support for preventing domestic violence, which was eventually supported by the village government and other influential leaders and groups in the village. Such cross-stakeholder collaboration and collective action resulted in the formation of a Community Based Service (LBK) Forum in 2016, comprised of the village SPI group and key village leaders from the village government, the BPD, as well as religious and community leaders, and other community groups. By establishing the LBK in 2016, SPI members shifted the responsibility for addressing violence against women and children from members of the SPI to it being a joint responsibility of the community. SPI members also invited members of other community groups such as Karang Taruna, the PKK, the Posyandu and as well as religious and youth groups to join.

Increased co-operation between the SPI and the village government was led by leaders like SPI’s deputy chair, Tari who began attending village meetings in early-2016. Like many other residents, Tari is a migrant from Bandung, and arrived in the village in 2004. For many years Tari had not been interested in the SPI and preferred to stay at home rather than join community activities. Tari initially came to meetings in 2015 out of a sense of obligation.

“The first time I came to SPI was because I was invited and I thought I had nothing to lose by getting a cake and if the activity was outside the village you could go in a car. But then after a while I understood the material, and I liked it.” Tari, Labuhan Batu research village, 13 October 2019.

Tari also attended SPI’s training on gender equality and women’s rights and quickly became more active in SPI and LBK. Since 2016, Tari has been more involved village decision making and in advocating for and drafting the Village Regulation.

We had to come to the village meeting at first with Kak Liana, our leader. And if you came, you had to talk. ‘Why not come and just sit’, she’d say. I didn’t want to go and especially didn’t want to talk. I was just lazy and didn’t really care. Sometimes I wanted to say something, but my mouth wouldn’t say anything because I was already shaking, even if I just thought about speaking. But then I remembered her message. Finally, I began to slowly be brave and speak.” Tari, Labuhan Batu research village, 13 October 2019.

Indeed, cross-stakeholder collective action through the LBK successfully led to the enactment of Village Regulation No. 2/2018 on the Implementation of Protection of Women and Children Victims of Violence under the Village Law, and the promise of a fund allocation from the Village Fund. Tari had a core role in spearheading the collaboration. She was regularly in contact with the Chairperson of the BPD and the Village Head to ensure that the Village Regulation was drafted, ratified (and now implemented) by village government institutions.

In the research village, increased awareness of the prevalence of violence has also led to an extension of the definition of domestic violence in the research village to go beyond physical violence and include psychological violence, such as neglect, and infidelity, although these definitions are yet to be codified in District Regulations.

The SPI in the Labuhan Batu research village (and the District SPI) is also the only organisation collecting data on reports of violence against women and children at the village level and providing paralegal advice to women to take divorce proceedings. SPI receives reports of violence and supports women to take divorce proceedings to the religious court. While women trust the SPI and report cases of violence, these allegations may not be followed up by police.

“The police cannot be relied on here. I can only report to the SPI, although my husband has not changed that much. But the important thing is I have a place to talk. With the Village Regulation too, he was brought to the village office, and they said there is a sanction for violence under the regulations, that there is a fine. If they don’t have money, how will they pay?” Gina, Labuhan Batu research village, 17 October 2019.

Gina’s experience illustrates the ongoing challenges faced by village women in addressing violence and the ongoing need for deepened co-operation.

Indeed, all of these changes are underway in the village but are not without ongoing challenges. First, the Village Fund allocation for the implementation of the new Village Regulation is yet to be fully released. Second, while the Village Regulation has set up sanctions for perpetrators of violence, its implementation lacks monitoring, particularly when the perpetrators are elite figures in the village, indicating social norms in the village have only partially shifted and have lagged behind the broader institutional changes. Third, collaborations with district government has been hampered by frequent changes to government officials, as is common at a particular point in the political cycle. Nonetheless, this case study shows how village women’s collective action, with the support of SPI Labuhan Batu, has played a significant role in effecting change on preventing and responding to violence against women.

Recognition of groups and their activities in formal Village Regulations helps but does not entirely prevent groups from being excluded from decision-making structures. We saw in Juli’s experience (see Section 4) in the Pangkep research ‘intervention’ village that the new Village Head sought to exclude the Women’s School group who had previously been regularly invited to and attending meetings, as it was associated with the prior leadership. Nonetheless, working towards gaining group recognition among authoritative actors has, on the whole, in many places been instrumental in bolstering women’s collective action and influence.

Informal forms of collective action

As mentioned above, informal forms of collective action are particularly important for gender inclusion and women’s empowerment. Informal forms of collective action on the one hand were common across the research sites, but on the other were particularly prevalent and important in the most difficult areas in which social norms or other barriers often prevented women from participating in formal forms of collective action, or because women see informal structures as being more effective (cf. Agarwal, 2000). Regardless, women’s informal strategies may play an important role in social cohesiveness (DeSena, 2000) and in turn, this strengthens women’s collective influence across multiple domains, augmenting their ‘power to’ andpower with’ potential to effect change.

In this sub-section, we consider how the women in this research participate in informal collective action through many mechanisms, that range from participatory data collection (with data also being used in more formal decision-making forums to lobby for policy change) to creating informal women’s spaces, to the more risky actions of protest or turning up unannounced at decision-making meetings from which women have been excluded. Figure 16 outlines the key forms identified in the research sites. Most pertain to establishing and strengthening informal networks with other women, community members and authoritative actors. As we shall see, such networks are important for activating and driving multiple, interconnected forms of collective action the broader trajectories of change, as women can leverage these growing networks to garner support from others and then undertake further collective action together (discussed separately at the end of this Section 5.3).

Figure 16: Forms of Informal Women’s Collective Action

Participatory data collection, knowledge generation and using data in lobbying actions

Women engaged with the village government by collecting data on pressing problems in the community and especially those experienced by women. This not only gave women a better understanding of the challenges encountered by, and issues important to, other women and community members, it also constitutes an informal form of collective action as women engaged in this themselves. Participatory data collection furthered their own knowledge (augmenting their ‘power within’) and in the process of collecting data provided a mechanism by which women could relationships with villagers to influence village decision making (augmenting their ‘power to’ and ‘power with’ potential). Women also later used the data both their formal collective action (such as in putting forward proposals in Musrenbangdes), but also in their informal lobbying activities to persuade authoritative actors to support their initiatives. For instance, DESBUMI cadres in the Central Lombok research village conducted a survey on the experiences and issues of migrants. The outcomes of this survey were relevant to DESBUMI, but also to the village government:

“The presence of the DESBUMI is really helpful for the village government. We didn’t have data, but now we do. At first, people would not report who is going to [travel] as migrant workers, but now they report through the village [government]. This includes the cases in this village whose [travel and registration] has been supported and facilitated by DESBUMI cadres. So those are the benefits [for the village government]. We don’t have to spend money and have less work. They are really helpful. Those things are supposed to be the responsibility of the village, but DESBUMI cadres handle that now.” Former Village Head, Central Lombok research village, 7 July 2019.

“We let people know that we had surveyed the village and that there were 300 migrant workers. That’s the result of the survey. And, [this process] also raised awareness that there are cases [of migrant workers experiencing problems] from the village that I didn’t know about before.” Panca Karsa field coordinator, 2 July 2019.

Similarly, through their involvement in Information and Consultation Services Clinics (Klinik Layanan Informasi dan Konsultasi – KLIK), Pekka union cadres in the Bangkalan research village collected data on priority needs of the people in the village, namely vital life documents required to access social protection programs. During data collection, they also raised awareness of the people about the importance of such documents for citizen legibility and accessing programs and services. The collected data was provided to village officials and used as a means of lobbying the village officials to allocate some of the Village Funds for marriage certificate processing. To facilitate this, the village government enacted the new Village Regulation to provide free services for marriage certificates.

“After KLIK, we conducted a village discussion, as a follow up to the data that we collected. We asked the Village Head and Hamlet Head, ‘what are we going to do with the data?’. We then had a village discussion meeting involving Pekka union cadres, public figures, religious figures, village members, the Village Head, and the Hamlet Head. Everyone was there together… So now, when people need to ensure their marriage has been legalised, the Village Head first filters them [the applicants], because the prodeo services are only for those who are poor, we don’t provide services to those who can afford it.” PEKKA Head Bangkalan, 25 February 2019.

Through these surveys, the legitimacy of the women’s groups (and supporting organisations) was enhanced. This subsequently influenced the willingness of village governments to involve women in the village meetings.

Everyday informal engagement with influential figures to build relationships and networks

Women also engaged in collective action by approaching key, influential figures in the village government, the Village Consultative Council (BPD), the Village Head, social leaders, and other influential community figures, often in informal settings and through everyday interactions. This helped to establish relationships and networks with these actors with which to garner support for their initiatives over time. Essentially, women were finding informal ways to exercise power with others so as to create positive changes for women.

For instance, in East Lombok women met with the Village Head in his office and house, outside of formal meetings (i.e. Musrenbangdes) to discuss water supply issues. In Pangkep, women met the District Head at a café to discuss women’s issues. In Labuhan Batu, Women’s Independent Union members built strong informal relationships with BPD members, which were important for later networked collective action involving both women and these leaders discussed at the end of this section.

Through these informal approaches, key figures in government became more familiar with the CSOs and women’s groups and in turn proved to be more responsive towards issues raised by them. Furthermore, these groups often built the confidence of women to engage with influential actors, and in so doing this forms a stepping-stone for women’s informal engagement with village governance processes:

“We often chat directly [with the Village Secretary]. If you can chat directly people are relaxed.” DESBUMI Cadre, Central Lombok research village, 6 July 2019.

Intervening in forums from which women are excluded

Women also engage in collective action by intervening in processes where they have not been included as a way of accessing forums in which villagers exercise ‘power over’ decisions. For instance, in Central Lombok, there was one instance where the Village Head forgot to invite the DESBUMI cadres to a meeting. In response, the members decided to just go to the village office:

“Well, as the former Village Head knew about our programs, [we thought we should just] relax! If we want to use anything [village rooms and equipment], if we want to conduct training, for example, if we want to use the hall or whatever, then it’s up to us. Before, we were always involved in activities and invited to everything. [We thought] if we now need to use a letter [to attend], then maybe he was just forgetful. Before, during the compilation of the RPJMDes [Medium Term Village Development Plan], we were [considered to be] a village institution, [we thought] why have we been forgotten like this? Oh, [given] there was no invitation, ‘we will just go’, that’s what we said.” DESBUMI Cadre, 6 July 2019.

We saw too in Section 4 how Women’s School group members in the Pangkep research ‘intervention’ village turned up uninvited at the Musrenbangdes, after being deliberately excluded. This was a brave act given the Village Head had been overtly hostile to these women.

Creating women’s informal spaces

The informal spaces through which women can engage in collective action, are often, but not always an extension of the formal groups in which they participate. Through these informal spaces, women become engaged in collective action to build their wellbeing through building power with other women in everyday activities. In the research sites, there were many informal spaces in which women gathered, built relationships or strengthened networks and friendships and used these to provide support to each other and to access other forms of social capital and resources. Common spaces included WhatsApp Groups, social media groups, gathering at Early Childhood Education Centres (PAUD), health centres and, among others, often gathering in particular spaces in markets.

Creating such informal spaces also provided the opportunity in many cases for women to build connections more widely with the community. For instance, the DESBUMI in the Central Lombok research village raised awareness on safe migration and heard complaints from villagers through everyday conversations between neighbours. DESBUMI cadres then followed this up with the village government. Members found this a more effective way to engage with people, as in the village people live close to one another. It was therefore easier to relay information through personal, informal, word-of-mouth approaches rather than through formal events held in the village office. For instance, in Central Lombok DESBUMI cadres meet outside in the absence of having another meeting space:

“[At first] we weren’t that active, we tried but we didn’t have a space to meet in. So in the end, we just met under the jackfruit tree. We didn’t have an office, because it was being used by other staff.” DESBUMI Cadre, Central Lombok research village, 6 July 2019.

Such informal spaces were evident in other sites encountered during the research (but which were not the subject of deep fieldwork). For example, in North Lombok District, members of the women’s group established by one of KAPAL Perempuan’s partners, were quick to act after the earthquake devastated the region in 2018. They took on the leadership of rehabilitation activities and supported many in the village who had lost loved ones and their homes. In gaining funding from the Village Fund during the rehabilitation efforts, they built a women’s meeting centre, in the form of an elevated pavilion right next to the village office. This pavilion is used for women’s meetings and childcare. The women explained that they deliberately built it in front of the office and on an elevated platform as a reminder of how integral women were in the village.


Protest is another form of collective action undertaken by the women’s groups in the research villages, albeit rarely and often as a last resort in rural villages as it brings power struggles to the surface and can make social life in villages difficult and fractious for participants. However, in some instances, women’s groups have deemed it important. In the Pangkep research village for example, a change in the Village Head saw efforts to side-line members of the Women’s School and to renege on commitments to provide funds for activities from the Village Fund made under the previous village government. Group members hung banners outside one of their meeting spaces, directly opposite the village office. The village is small, and villagers must pass by this banner to go about their daily affairs. As was mentioned in Section 4, this act of protest was to embarrass and apply pressure on the village government.

The Panca Karsa Association in Central Lombok initially faced pushback when approaching executive officials at the district level, particularly from the Manpower and Transmigration Agency. The Agency had rejected the idea of developing a District Regulation to protect migrant workers, because it perceived that such a regulation would not help solve migrants’ issues. Panca Karsa then brought the idea to legislative members, which responded more positively. They also organised a protest march along with DESBUMI members and the families of migrant workers from five villages, bringing posters and banners to voice their aspirations for the regulation.

“There were a lot of things we recommended to raise awareness among the public. It was rowdy, we chanted for the government to accept [the recommendations]. We did a big speech in front of the parliament building, then we were accepted in for a discussion.” Saripah, La Tansa member, Central Lombok research village, 9 July 2019.

“In the process of developing the District Regulation, staff and village migrant worker activists were involved in the legislative hearings conducted with the district parliament. There were around 16 people that participated in the hearing, including DESBUMI staff, and the members of the Migrant CARE group [La Tansa].” Panca Karsa staff, 9 July 2019.

Patterns in type and intensity of women’s collective action

Women engaged in various forms of collective action, both formally and informally, across all research sites. However, patterns can be established regarding the intensity of different types of collective action in the research villages, disaggregated by the different type of contexts, the framework for which we established in Section 3. Figure 17below, outlines the patterns of different forms of collective action identified in the research villages, not only in the case studies of Stories of Change but also in many of the other forms of analysis of interviews, focus group discussions, women’s life histories, village and district context analysis, and observations.

Many of the forms of collective action were interrelated, sometimes sequential, sometimes overlapping and often mutually strengthening in the processes and trajectories of change mapped in villages, especially those that led to women having greater influence on the structures of power and decision making.

In Figure 17, we disaggregate the forms of collective action across highly difficult (yellow), moderately difficult (green) and moderately conducive (blue) contexts. Darker colours indicate more frequent and intense forms of collective action. Grey indicates we did not find examples in the research area across multiple forms of analysis. The ordering of different forms of collective action should be used as a heuristic tool, as it is debatable which form could be more or less formal. The ordering has been arranged as much as possible to convey, in increasing scale, the degree of direct and formal influence on structures of governance and decision making.

First, in Figure 17 below, we can see that in the two research ‘control’ villages that there were more limited forms and intensity of women’s collective action across the board in comparison with other villages. We also see that there were more intense efforts in ‘intervention’ villages to form or extend village groups that in most cases were women’s groups (in addition to other groups and multi-stakeholder mixed groups) and in one case was a mixed-gender group with a core focus on women’s issues. Common in all sites was also informal spaces for women, with greater or lesser intensity of action.

In Figure 17 it is also evident that the highest diversity in terms of in modes and intensity of collective action can be found in moderately difficult contexts (with the exception of the Pangkep control site), such as Central and East Lombok, as well Cirebon and Gresik. In these contexts, women’s formal collective action includes the use of collected data (while we have combined these in the discussion of forms above, we have disaggregated the collection and use here), women’s participation in decision making at the village and/or district level, and women’s participation the drafting and enactment of regulations to try and create change. In these contexts, we also see a range of informal types of collective action, ranging from informal spaces and personal engagement with influential figures, to intervention in forums. The wide range of forms of collective action evident in these contexts suggests that when there are indications that change might be possible or beginning to occur, collective action intensified. In some ways, despite the difficulties, the environment was a more conducive space for collective action of multiple forms, especially when compared with highly difficult contexts. More importantly, engaging in a wide range of forms of collective action also opens up multiple avenues and strategies for women to exercise their agency and in turn their ability to influence the implementation of the Village Law.

Figure 17: Patterns in the Type and Intensity of Women’s Collective Action, by Village

In highly difficult contexts, such as North Central Timor, Bangkalan, Labuhan Batu, and Pangkep (the Pangkep research ‘intervention’ village) there were far less opportunities for women’s groups to engage in different forms of more formal collective action, as in many instances direct action remained risky (even dangerous) in what were often highly repressive environments, or came with significant concerns of social exclusion from small, tight-knit communities. However, even in these challenging environments women found ways to engage in collective action, particularly informal forms of collective action, with the more formal forms of collective action tending to be spurred by support from CSOs. Through informal women’s spaces a sense of belonging and community was fostered among women, thereby providing a basis for other forms of women’s collective action. Similarly, in these contexts, data collection activities gave women a way to directly engage with pressing issues in their villages in a non-confrontational way, while at the same time providing practical information to the village government. In turn this provided the more formal women’s groups with legitimacy in the villages, which was crucial for them to develop their activities. As with the moderately difficult contexts, seeking new everyday interactions with other authoritative social and political actors outside the group was important for building trust and getting to know these actors for later support and networked collective action.

Meanwhile, in moderately conducive contexts (Tanggamus, North Hulu Sungai and Bantul in Yogyakarta), collective action was increasingly more formal. North Hulu Sungai was considered moderately conducive because of the openness of the leadership at multiple levels of government to improve gender inclusiveness, but nonetheless also saw a range of informal collective action to bolster this process.

Although the extent of collective action varies by context, many of the forms were mutually reinforcing. When we condense these patterns to revisit the most common forms of women’s collective action in each type of context (see Figure 18 below), we can see that the intensity of more informal forms of women’s collective action is most prevalent in the highly difficult contexts, with the more formal forms of action being more readily accessible in terms of intensity in the moderately difficult and conducive contexts. Protests were rare in all research ‘intervention’ villages, participating in taskforces and project implementation had a similar degree of mid-range intensity, and providing content into and focusing on enacting regulations was significant everywhere, a strategy which was often driven by supporting women’s CSOs (see Section 7).

Figure 18: Patterns of Forms and Intensity of Women’s Collective Action, by Type of Context

Networked collective action

Across the research sites, but most intensely in the most difficult contexts, a range of collective action processes, particularly driven by women’s efforts to establish relationships and networks of trust with authoritative actors with influence over governance processes and social norms, contributed to what this research identifies as women’s networked collective action. That is, the efforts of women and other actors take to collectively endeavour to influence governance, development, policy programs and structures of power to be more gender inclusive. Networked collective action involved women building or strengthening networks of trust with other women (through groups and informal spaces), and with other community members, especially authoritative actors, often through engagement in everyday settings. It then involved women leveraging their newly-established or existing networks to garner support.

Such support then created multiple sources of pressure on authoritative actors and ultimately decision-making forums and other power structures, so as to influence outcomes. Such processes were also helpful for overcoming challenges, particularly resistance to gender inclusiveness among authoritative and influential figures. Women’s informal spaces and more formal groups bolstered this process by extending networks, providing a new arena in which to build individual and collective agency through shared knowledge, skills and resources, providing mutual support and a source of protection, and fostering a sense of solidarity and collective agency.

In some cases, cross-stakeholder pressure manifested through these networks alone, and in other cases was formalised through establishing multi-stakeholder groups or forums involving village women, other community members, and often, influential leaders from within and beyond the village. Such groups and forums further strengthened these cross-stakeholder networks and provided some of the same kinds of benefits of groups mentioned above—shared resources, knowledge and skills. When such forums (and other women’s groups) were formally recognised and became embedded in the village through regular activities, this often provided the mechanism for further legitimising the women’s agenda, giving it greater continuity beyond electoral cycles or the tenure of particular individuals leading the cross-stakeholder forum.

We can see these interconnected processes play out in the case study excerpt of the Labuhan Batu research village Story of Change (seeBox 21above) and through other analysis of how different types and forms of collective action were interconnected, and how networked collective action was a part of this story. In the Labuhan Batu research village, while the Village Head was reasonably supportive of the formation of the SPI in this village, the ‘formal’ process was significantly delayed because it wasn’t deemed a priority for the village. Recognition of the group was important for being able to conduct activities unencumbered, particularly those involving other villagers, groups and members of the village government itself. Thus, village women leveraged the support of the Chairperson of the BPD and others to create additional sources of pressure on the village government to speed up the process. Once the group was ‘officially’ formed, it undertook a series of training and other activities on gender awareness, and issues related to domestic violence involving village leaders and all manner of other social groups in the village.

Gradually through these knowledge sharing activities, support was garnered to establish the cross-stakeholder LBK (Community-Based Services Forum), made up of SPI women, village leaders and many other groups in the Village. Continuous lobbying both from SPI and through cross-stakeholder collective action via the LBK, successfully led to the enactment of Village Regulation No. 2/2018 on the Implementation of Protection of Women and Children Victims of Violence under the Village Law, and the promise of a fund allocation from the Village Fund. The Deputy Chair of the village SPI had a core role in spearheading the collaboration. She was regularly in contact with the Chairperson of the BPD and the Village Head to ensure that the Village Regulation was drafted, ratified (and now implemented) by village government institutions.

Figure 19: A Process of Networked Collective Action, Drawing from the Labuhan Batu Research Village

We can also see these processes play out in the Bangkalan research village Story of Change in Section 4. Women developed networks and garnered support for forming the Pekka union and for other initiatives through prayer meetings and other informal spaces. Key women drew on, strengthened and built networks with authoritative figures through every activity and each new initiative, including through providing services such as verifying and registering religious marriages in government-recognised processes. On seeing the benefits of the Pekka union KLIK activities, the village authorities and the wider community increasingly supported these women’s initiatives and ultimately the design and ratification of a new Village Regulation on Marriage Verification, for which Pekka women also secured a Village Fund allocation. This was achieved even though this research village was, at the onset, a significantly difficult environment for raising issues important to women and in terms of women’s influence on shaping village development.

Sometimes, when progress slowed in villages, women’s group members, with the support of a CSO would tap into district networks that they had established to garner support to move village agendas forward. In the Gresik research ‘intervention’ village, members of the Women’s School (Sekolah Perempuan) group had already participated in the Musrenbangdes, but their priorities were not initially accommodated by the village government in the budget allocation; instead, as is common, infrastructure was prioritised. The women involved in the Women’s School group then shifted their attention to the district government and lobbied for support. The district government—which had committed to supporting the Women’s Schools—exerted pressure on the village government. In light of the multiple sources of pressure—particularly from influential district actors—the village government allocated some funding to the group. At the district level in Gresik, Women’s School group members also made recommendations to influential district actors to make greater investments in women’s health issues as well as education programs for women.

In the Tanggamus research village (see Box 22 below) and many of the other villages, we also see evidence of these interacting and mutually strengthening processes of women’s collective action, including leveraging cross-stakeholder networks and creating multiple sources of pressure for change through multi-stakeholder networked collective action so as to increasingly address and focus on issues important to women in villages. In Tanggamus, there was little resistance to this agenda, in fact it was strongly supported by authoritative figures such as the Village Head, which sped up the process. The case shows how increased gender awareness, knowledge dissemination, strengthened networks and collaborative collective action between village women, village leaders and supporting CSOs, led to change in the implementation of the Village Law. A new Village Regulation was enacted, guaranteeing a Village Fund allocation to support the village-level task force to track data on and respond to cases of violence against women and children, which was a priority issue for women in this village.

Box 22: A Story of Changing Gender Awareness in Tanggamus— A New Village Regulation and Guaranteed Village Funds to Support Women and Child Victims of Domestic Violence

“There are a lot of changes and there were many things which I didn’t understand before. Before, I thought that men really were number one, that there were men and then there were women.” Sulis, FAKTA-DAMAR cadre, 12 July 2019.

In Tanggamus District, the maternal mortality rate is in the top five out of the 15 districts in Lampung Province. In 2014, The DAMAR Women’s Advocacy Institute sought to respond to this and other issues, including the lack of institutional support in Tanggamus for responding to violence against women in the district and insufficient education about reproductive health and rights. Together with its district partner FAKTA, DAMAR conducted social mapping in the Tanggamus research village to establish priority areas, which revealed a widespread lack of awareness of women’s reproductive health rights.

“Through our research in 2014, we saw that women’s awareness of their own bodies was very low. There are many practices that mean women do not have autonomy over their own bodies. For example, in cases of sexual violence, sometimes women cannot choose if they want to continue a pregnancy, or sometimes they are forced to be married. These decisions are often made by religious leaders.” Director of the DAMAR Women’s Advocacy Institute, Bandar Lampung, 18 July 2019.

Village women leaders have played a crucial role in encouraging participation in FAKTA-DAMAR gender awareness classes. Initially, DAMAR invited a number of prominent village women to first participate, who then invited their friends, particularly from religious groups to join. These women then invited 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. Separate gender mainstreaming classes were also held for community leaders, village men and youth to better understand gender dynamics.

One participant, Mariana, described their approach to encouraging women to participate in the Mothers’ Class (Kelas Ibu) through informal networks.

“We had to persevere. We used formal invitations first. We went door-to-door introducing FAKTA-DAMAR. After a while, most people learned [about us] by word of mouth. We had to be patient at the start, we had to persevere and promote that DAMAR was sharing good knowledge with us, then we told our neighbours. Slowly, then they started going themselves.” Mariana, FAKTA-DAMAR cadre, Tanggamus research village, 5 July 2020.

Sulis, who shares her experience at the beginning of this case study excerpt of participating in the Mothers’ Class, described how she shared materials she had learned in the class and her new understanding of gender and equality with her husband. Similarly, a participant in FAKTA-DAMAR’s Young Women’s Class (Kelas Remaja Putri) reflected on the importance of specialist classes, which helped her and her family understand the difference between gender norms and a religious understanding of sexual difference (kodrat).

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 that runs a Post for the Empowerment and Protection of Women, Children and Families. This Taskforce and the ‘Post’ is run by village community leaders, especially women, who put into action the knowledge and skills they gained from gender mainstreaming classes. The Taskforce aims 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 then formalised through Village Head Decision No. 30/2018 which paved the way for receiving a budget allocation from the Village Fund, augmenting the sustainability of its activities.

Members of the Taskforce also liaise with the Integrated Service Centre for the Protection of Women and Children (P2TP2A) and village and district health clinics.  

“In [this village] there has been lots of support from DAMAR and now women are not afraid to speak out. Last year there was the case of a female migrant worker who had returned home after a year away. After her husband hit her, she immediately reported it to the Head of Community Welfare, who took her to the Puskesmas to be treated and contacted P2TP2A and the police. This shows that the network acts quickly, if something like that happens, we all respond straight away with care.” Village Midwife and Puskesmas Staff Member, Tanggamus Research Village, 8 July 2019.

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.

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