Civil society organisations have supported women’s collective action and gender inclusion, with the goal of empowering women, through broader strategies to directly navigate context dynamics or to support village women to do so. CSOs used these strategies to harness opportunities and overcome context constraints. Such approaches, which often involve advocacy work or direct action undertaken by CSOs concerned with gender inclusion—independently or together with village women—constitute a form of more structured, organised women’s collective action.
In the previous sections we saw evidence of growing collective action among women to influence village life and how CSOs provided different models of support to village women for this process. In this section, we discuss the ways that CSOs supported women’s collective action and gender inclusion, with the goal of empowering women, through broader strategies to directly navigate context dynamics or to support village women to do so. We identify why and how CSOs used these strategies to harness opportunities and overcome context constraints. Such approaches, which often involve advocacy work or direct action undertaken by CSOs concerned with gender inclusion—independently or together with village women—constitute a form of more structured, organised women’s collective action.
We define these approaches to navigating contexts as both the strategic planned actions and adaptive unplanned actions taken in reaction to realities on the ground to foster an organisational, institutional, policy and socio-political environment supportive of gender inclusion and women’s empowerment. This is in contrast to any endogenous changes that may or may not occur over time within the contexts themselves in relation to gender inclusion. We also differentiate between the approaches used to navigate each context discussed in the section below, to the village-level activities with women’s groups aimed at building agency and voice and the models of support provided directly to village women discussed in Section 6. However, we consider these three forms of actions undertaken by CSOs to constitute external interventions to build support for gender inclusion and women’s empowerment.
Below, we briefly explore the core challenges to building women’s empowerment reported by all MAMPU Partners in 27 provinces, 147 districts and municipalities and 1,137 villages. We then draw on analysis of interviews with more than 600 people in the qualitative research sites to explore the pathways that CSOs took to overcome challenges and seek to influence the environments that they were working in so as to be more conducive to women’s empowerment. The structure of this section and the key planned and adaptive strategies used are outlined in Figure 25.
Such approaches varied in each context and according to the sectoral issue each organisation focused on. Some aspects of the approaches above were often undertaken at the same time, while others were carefully sequenced, particularly when it came to entry into villages. At times, there were ruptures or critical junctures where new threats or opportunities for women’s empowerment emerged—in some instances empowerment efforts stalled or were wound back. This is discussed further in Section 8. Regardless of whether CSOs initially planned their support to village women to have influence on the implementation of the Village Law (the MAMPU Program support for these organisations began just before the new 2014 Law was ratified), supporting village women, with the goal of grassroots women’s empowerment, nonetheless had implications further down the line for women’s collective influence on village development.
Figure 25: Structure and Key Content of Section 7
Patterns of core challenges for strengthening gender inclusion and women’s empowerment
MAMPU CSO Partners across Indonesia reported quarterly from 2014 on the key challenges they encountered to strengthening gender inclusion and women’s empowerment in all the regions where they have programs. Table 4 summarises the 1161 instances of challenges reported (as of October 2019) and tracked in monitoring databases by type. Approximately two thirds of the challenges encountered relate to the external environment. This includes the institutional and regulatory environment (government knowledge and capacity), leaders resisting or deliberately limiting their engagement with the CSO programs on gender inclusion and women’s empowerment, as well as community knowledge and capacity for the uptake of empowerment initiatives on the ground. We saw in Section 3 how these features were indicators of more difficult or conducive contexts. The remaining third of the challenges were more internal to CSOs programs (see Section 6), particularly in terms of their own knowledge and technical capacity to overcome the challenges they encountered, such as accessing government or communities during their busiest periods and program operation/implementation challenges.
Table 4: Core Challenges to Strengthening Gender Inclusion and Women’s Empowerment Reported by all MAMPU CSO Partners in 27 Provinces, 147 Districts/Municipalities and 1137 Villages, July 2014 – October 2019
We can see from the table above that challenges arise at different levels—in the district and village political and institutional environments, and in communities. Thus, MAMPU’s CSO Partners used strategic and adaptive approaches that targeted different strategic actors in different domains to overcome these context challenges. Given these challenges, and the context variation identified in previous sections, we now discuss the approaches that CSOs undertook to navigate their operational environments (and also support village women to do so) so that advocacy and collective action efforts by villagers had greater impacts on the ground.
Strengthening the institutional environment: Engagement with and support to village and district governments
How well CSOs were able to work in different contexts and overcome context barriers to gender inclusion in development decision making was partly contingent on how well they were able to engage both village and district governments in the women’s empowerment agenda. This includes creating awareness and gaining the support of authoritative actors to strengthen the policy and program environment so as to improve women’s position in government and influence over government priorities, and to accommodate women’s needs. Often at both district (and sometimes provincial) and village levels, this involved:
- Building formal partnerships and informal interpersonal and institutional relationships with authoritative actors (particularly government) through frequent engagement,
- Identifying knowledge and capacity gaps of authoritative actors (both state and non-state) in terms of gender awareness and how to support women’s empowerment,
- Identifying barriers and gaps in policy frameworks, regulations and programs, and opportunities for affirmative action, so as to introduce new or strengthened policies and programs specifically targeting women’s empowerment or their priorities,
- Supplementing knowledge and skills gaps by providing direct inputs into policy framework and program design and, in some cases, co-delivering programs and services,
- Advocating for budgets and staffing to deliver programs targeting women’s priorities (particularly at the district level),
- Participating in multi-stakeholder forums and advisory bodies to government (particularly at the district level), and,
- Monitoring progress through data collection and involvement in evaluation.
In particular we discuss many of these dimensions of CSO strategies within the three themes identified in Figure 26. We then further discuss regulatory design and influence in the subsequent section.
Figure 26: CSO Strategies to Influence the Institutional Environment through Engagement
Building and strengthening formal and informal relationships with government actors
It was evident in the research that building formal partnerships and informal interpersonal and institutional relationships with authoritative actors (particularly government) through frequent engagement was instrumental in providing a platform for women’s empowerment and women’s collective action on the ground. For example, in Cirebon in East Java, ‘Aisyiyah used both formal and informal approaches to connect to key government actors in the health sector and beyond so as to build rapport with and gain the support of these actors, particularly before seeking to support women’s collective action in villages.
‘Aisyiyah undertook focus group discussions with government on key issues in reproductive health and gender awareness, and attended government sectoral agency meetings, particularly in health. It established a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the District Health Office in 2016 so as to collaborate on programs, policy development and initiatives, such as the Program to Increase Reproductive Health Services for Women. At the time of the research, ‘Aisyiyah aimed to maintain intensive communication with almost all government offices in the district and had developed key implementation partnerships with the District Office of Population Control, Family Planning, Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (DPPKBP3A, Dinas Pengendalian Penduduk, Keluarga Berencana, Pemberdayaan Perempuan dan Perlindungan Anak), the District Office of Village Community Empowerment (PMD, Dinas Pemberdayaan Masyarakat Desa), and the District Planning, Development, Research and Improvement Agency (Bappelitbangda, Badan Perencanaan, Pembangungan, Penelitian, dan Pengembangan Daerah). The latter was a key partner for ‘Aisyiyah because the agency plays an important role in monitoring and improving performance on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a goal that the district branch of ‘Aisyiyah also shares. The Cirebon government had also established a multi-stakeholder forum comprising of numerous CSOs and other stakeholders with which to liaise on key issues related to women and health.
It was important for ‘Aisyiyah’s work to continuously maintain interpersonal relationships with key government actors and partnerships with offices so as to ensure their discussions were effective in formal settings. In explaining the importance of informal relationships, the Head of the District Branch of ‘Aisyiyah in Cirebon said:
“It is not that it is ineffective, but in official forums, they tend to be too formal … the discussion doesn’t flow freely. It’s not that we never participate in official forums. We do. We participate in task forces, in the District Office of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, in the SDGs Task Force, and in Bappelitbangda. We often take parts in their formal forums. But lobbying is more effective if it takes place not only in such formal forums.” Head of the District Branch of ‘Aisyiyah Cirebon, 21 February 2019.
Similarly, in Pangkep, the district partner of KAPAL Perempuan, YKPM (the Community Empowerment and Assessment Foundation) sought to develop a close relationship with the district government through the District Head to support the Women’s Schools (Sekolah Perempuan) program, through frequent and informal approaches to authoritative actors. The YKPM Director (at the time of the research) had long established ties with government and these connections were instrumental entry points for YKPM to connect to and build trust with strategic government actors. To advance its plans, it met the District Head at his regular coffee shop to discuss their plans to form women’s collective action groups throughout the island region through the Women’s Schools. This created an open relationship between the District Head and local CSOs seeking to work in the region, and permission was quickly granted to operate in the region through a MoU.
Indeed, across all MAMPU Partners and program regions, between July 2014 and October 2019, 87 MoUs were established to endorse collaborations between CSOs and government or to endorse the programs undertaken by MAMPU Partners in villages. This was a key strategy to open doors in villages and gain at least administrative support for their empowerment activities and support for women in villages.
In Gresik, KAPAL Perempuan and its partners (including KPS2K) conducted gender awareness training for government officials who were already willing to support gender-sensitive planning and budgeting but were unsure about how to progress this, given limited funding and knowledge. In Pangkep, gender awareness training was also conducted by KAPAL Perempuan’s local partner, YKPM. Such training was important for relationship building both between CSOs and government agencies, and institution strengthening in that it contributed to skills and knowledge development. Most MAMPU Partners adopted a knowledge transfer strategy to influence key decision makers and to build understanding and awareness of gender inequities and how to improve responses to these. These are just some of the many ways CSOs across the research sites sought to engage with and support government actors so as to bolster support for women’s empowerment. This was just as important in the highly conducive contexts for gender inclusion and women’s empowerment as it was in those that were least conducive.
Frequent engagement with government agencies and departments
Regular interaction with entire offices of government over time was also important to maintain relationships with authoritative actors, as every change in staff, particularly at the leadership level, could slow policy development. Interviewees from ‘Aisyiyah in Cirebon explained how in one case, a draft program had already been discussed at length, planned out in detail, and agreed with the previous officials, but then had to be redrafted because the key official in charge moved on to a new position:
“It is really a hassle. In government offices, the change of officials in charge happens so fast. The heads of the district agencies [Kepala Dinas] change positions more than once a year. Changes to positions [often] happen every six months, even every two months. When we visited, the head of the agency was really cooperative. But then she was suddenly replaced. When we visited again, the new head of the office [did not endorse the program] and said “No, and I don’t know where the data is.” Interviewee, 21 February 2019.
Indeed, such changes in key officials also occurred as a result of elections. Often when a new District Head is elected, key officials and the heads of district agencies also change, which can impede quick action on establishing supportive policy frameworks or programs for women’s empowerment, even when inroads have already been made. For example, in East Lombok this was a key challenge encountered by local CSOs and government officials seeking to scale up initiatives in gender mainstreaming.
“The obstacles also emerged when there was a change of District Head. We may have had more luck in [quickly achieving our goals], if the District Head was not replaced. Because of district elections [we] waited seven months. The Head of the Department for Gender Mainstreaming was empty for seven months. The process [of establishing our program] had actually been completed, but we were just waiting for the election [to finalise the new appointments in the bureaucracy].” District government official in DP3AKB, Selong, 3 July 2019.
Across all provinces where CSO Partners undertook activities with MAMPU support, change in government staff or systems was a key challenge encountered by these MAMPU Partners (44 instances). Together with a lack of understanding of gender mainstreaming and knowledge gaps of government decision makers in how to introduce policies and instruments to do so (see Table 4), this slowed progress in building women’s empowerment.
To facilitate engagement and overcome these challenges, particularly in new districts where CSOs had not worked before, there were many examples of the informal and formal approaches they used to develop relationships with key government actors and other actors across the research sites, especially prior to developing programs in villages. Aside from frequent and direct personal contact, as well as regular participation in sectoral agency meetings, participation in multi-stakeholder forums was one of the main ways CSOs sought to maintain engagement with government and other influential leaders over time, as was evident above in the discussion of ‘Aisyiyah’s work. Most CSOs across all the qualitative research sites participated in government-established forums or established these multi-stakeholder forums themselves (sometimes with government, sometimes among organisations outside government, so as to have a clear forum for communication between strategic actors in particular sectors or for tackling particular issues. BaKTI established such multi-stakeholder forums in Makassar for many CSOs with reach in eastern Indonesia, through which participating organisations collectively monitor media, share information, respond together to key issues and programs in the region and coordinate which CSOs are best placed to respond to emerging issues and challenges on the ground.
BaKTI also established its Reses Partisipatif (Participatory Recess)programto advocate for regional parliamentary representatives to collect, advocate, and respond to their constituents’ concerns and aspirations. Parliamentary representatives are encouraged to help communities understand legislation through visits, moral and political accountability and communication and outreach (socialisation).
Box 28: BaKTI’s Reses Partisipatif
In East Lombok, two District Parliament (DPRD) representatives participated in BaKTI’s Reses Partisipatif: Khairul Rizal, who was then the Chairperson of the East Lombok DPRD from the National Democratic Party (Nasdem) and Baiq Nurhasannah, a female council member from PDIP. Good relations between BaKTI and the two representatives also resulted in BaKTI being provided with an office in the East Lombok DPRD building.
This program has mutually benefited women members of parliament and women in villages. One interviewee described how votes for the female district parliamentarian in the Reses Partisipatif more than doubled compared with the 2014 election. She garnered approximately 3,000 votes in 2019, compared with around 1,500 in 2014, although the electoral area for this female parliamentarian did not cover the East Lombok District.
BaKTI also facilitated the establishment of the Women’s Development Planning Forum (Musrenbangda or Musyawarah Perencanaan Pembangunan Daerah–District-level Deliberative Forum for Development Planning), with one of KAPAL Perempuan’s sub-national partners, LPSDM (Lembaga Pengembangan Sumber Daya Mitra—the Partner Resources Development Institute).
These dynamics were also similar in villages. CSOs used both formal and informal approaches to:
- Establish relationships and trust with village leaders before commencing any programs,
- Build gender awareness,
- Strengthen village policy, and
- Seek to change norms with the support of village leadership.
We also see this in other examples where village women and CSOs worked together to build these relationships. For example, KPS2K, together with Women’s School group members also successfully advocated on the issue of child marriage in Gresik District:
“We made recommendations in the subdistrict and district Musrenbang. KPS2K has always advocated for eliminating child marriage. We approached district government offices and we alerted them to the consequences of child marriages for women’s economic wellbeing, domestic violence, maternal mortality, and children’s health. As a result, in 2018, [the district government] published a circular letter on the elimination of child marriages.” Women’s School group member, Gresik research ‘intervention’ village, 19 February 2019.
Other examples of building and strengthening such networks are discussed further below in the sections on building trust and leveraging social networks.
Frequent engagement with influential social leaders
Connecting and maintaining relationships with religious and other influential social organisations was also an important strategy used by many CSOs, both through direct engagement and in indirectly supporting village women to develop such engagement. This was especially true in areas where religious, ethnic, customary (adat) and other social leaders were particularly influential. These leaders often have influence over social norms, government and broader policies, and have the trust of communities. Building relationships with these actors was an important strategy for CSOs to reduce the likelihood of encountering resistance to their activities in villages or more widely, and for bolstering support for establishing or working with women’s groups in villages. CSOs not only built relationships with such leaders, but also often included them in on-the-ground training and outreach so as to broaden the knowledge of these leaders themselves.
For instance, in North Central Timor, YABIKU engaged with influential societal actors, including adat and church leaders. Adat leaders were included in the paralegal group, with a prominent leader assigned the position of chairperson. With the church, YABIKU was able to include information on domestic violence in pre-martial courses that prospective spouses must follow before being able to get married in church. Some parishes in the village have also made provisions for the inclusion of women in Church councils, which has led to an increase of involvement of young women in the church.
Similarly, in Tanggamus, the collaboration between DAMAR, the Catholic Women’s Organisation (Wanita Katolik) and the Women’s Partnership Network (Jaringan Mitra Perempuan)—which was headed by a nun—helped it to gain broad-based community support for its efforts to improve community understanding of women’s health, a topic that in many communities is considered to be taboo. Prior to the arrival of DAMAR, the Women’s Partnership Network regularly organised information sessions on sexual and reproductive health, but it was only after DAMAR became involved that these activities were opened to the wider (and non-Catholic) population by involving existing organisations at the village level such as the PKK and Posyandu. This was also an important avenue for the CSO to garner support from the village government, as the head of the PKK was also the wife of the Village Head.
Identifying and filling technical capacity and resource gaps for policy design and delivery
Similarly, in other districts, CSOs worked with government agencies and leaders to identify policy gaps, develop a stronger regulatory environment (see also Section 7.3), create better gender awareness, and to supplement skills in policy development and program delivery. In addition to supporting government to design policy instruments (such as regulations and technical instruments) discussed in the next section, many CSOs throughout the research sites helped support and deliver programs with or for government. Such support tended to be based on the sectoral knowledge specific to each MAMPU CSO Partner. Providing such support was a common feature of strategies used in both highly and less conducive contexts for building women’s empowerment.
For example, PEKKA in North Hulu Sungai (a moderately conducive context given the openness of the village and district governments to improving gender inclusion) developed relationships with the district government so as to both change the broader enabling environment, but also to gain support to access villages. The field facilitator of PEKKA worked with the District Women’s Empowerment and Family Planning Agency to map the villages with high divorce rates and high numbers of female-headed households, which is now data the district uses but was also helpful for PEKKA to determine where there were particularly vulnerable female-headed families at risk.
In Cirebon too (a moderately difficult context), ‘Aisyiyah conducted advocacy and support for government to develop a series of programs in reproductive health. In 2018, the District Health Office released a Circular on Cervical Cancer Screening (VIA) and Clinical Breast Screening and a similar Circular on Exclusive Breast Feeding, as one way of tackling stunting. It also helped develop District Regulation No. 1/2018 on the Protection and Empowerment of Women and Children together with other organisations such as Women’s Crisis Centre, Mawar Balqis, Fahmina, and Fatayat. Twenty-five community organisations, including ‘Aisyiyah, formed the Concern for the Health of Newborns Forum, to also bolster attention for reproductive health and infant health. In Pangkep District (a highly difficult context) and other neighbouring districts, such as Maros District, ‘Aisyiyah has worked with government and directly in the field to provide information and services on cervical cancer screening, pap smears, reproductive health and palliative care for cancer patients as well as the elderly, and many other services.
In Central Lombok District (also a moderately difficult context), Migrant CARE and its partner Panca Karsa also provided direct support to the district government to develop its integrated service centre to support migrant workers and their families, particularly those who face challenges overseas and when reintegrating on return to Indonesia. In Gresik and North Lombok Districts (both moderately difficult contexts) and Pangkep (initially a difficult context), KAPAL Perempuan and its local partner CSOs have worked with government to replicate and roll out Women’s Schools. BITRA and Yasanti have supported the government leaders at multiple levels to develop the technical instruments for recognising homeworker rights, unions, and to access government support programs.
These are many of the examples of the ways CSOs have sought to directly provide services or to support and supplement capacity gaps in service delivery of government agencies to improve the institutional environment for gender inclusion and attention to women’s needs. There were some sectoral differences—those organisations that had skills in specific sectors (such as in health or education) or in tackling specific problems such as trafficking, sexual and domestic violence, labour rights, citizen legibility, were able to provide community services together with, or independently of, government in these discrete sectors and fields. Others that worked on broader cross-cutting issues, such as gender awareness and policy development for gender mainstreaming, tended instead to collaborate on advocacy and policy development at the district level, and broader skills building of women at the village level, while some did both.
Strengthening the institutional environment: Policy advocacy to support women’s empowerment
While every country differs, in Indonesia policies are created through legislation (at the national level) and regulations (at provincial and district levels) in a way that is highly prescriptive. Often legislation and district and provincial regulations not only outline the guiding principles, but also the priorities, the technical features of the policy and its implementing arrangements. The legislation also sets out which actors and agencies have authority for implementing the policy (sometimes new agencies are created), often what constitutes transgressions of policies and sanctions, and even in some instances budget priorities and allocations.
Thus, a new priority or policy that is not cemented in regulations is unlikely to be implemented, which is why the policy advocacy and supporting the development of regulations is considered by CSOs to be key to improving gender inclusion, women’s influence and everyday wellbeing throughout the country. This is in contrast to other countries where government policies might outline a higher-level set of principles and priorities reflecting the decisions of the government of the day and the broad designated authority and approach for the agencies to take in implementation. In such contexts, however, the aspects of technical implementation, budgets, and specifications of inter-agency relationships and programs tend to be less prescribed in legislation (nationally) or regulations subnationally. These, instead, are left to implementing agencies to develop over time. Thus, in Indonesia, developing regulations is a key policy lever. We discuss the following four aspects that are important for understanding the regulatory environment and CSO efforts to influence this (see Figure 27), although there are likely many more.
Figure 27: The Regulatory Environment and CSO Influence
Contributing to the design of regulations to enact policies supporting women’s empowerment
Almost all MAMPU Partners across all the qualitative research sites targeted policy development through the creation of (and input into) regulations to bolster gender inclusion and women’s empowerment at both district (sometimes provincial) and village levels (see Annex 4). Simply gaining in-principle commitment from the district and village leadership to support women’s empowerment was insufficient for ensuring action on the ground without introducing supporting regulations.
District Regulations enacted through either the district legislature together with the district executive (Perda, Peraturan Daerah), or directly by the District Head or Mayor (Perbup or Perwali, Peraturan Bupati or Peraturan Wali Kota) were a key target of advocacy efforts to create an environment conducive to gender inclusion, women’s empowerment and influence at scale and, to a degree, to influence villages. These regulations in some cases were broad-based gender mainstreaming or social security policies so as to influence government agencies widely, and in others were discretely tied to particular sectoral issues of concern such as migrant workers, reproductive health, domestic and other violence prevention and support, and labour rights for homeworkers.
At the community level, under the Village Law, villages too can now create regulations within their authority, which constitute village-level policy frameworks. Given that these are often very directly related to village problems, these tend to be quite discretely focused on changing a particular mechanism in the way decisions are made, or in outlining specific development priorities, sanctions or incentives to encourage or discourage particular behaviours. It is unsurprising then that CSOs targeted their advocacy at formulating and enacting regulations at the district level and, alongside community level activities to support village women, targeted the design and enactment of Village Regulations in their efforts to strengthen the conduciveness of institutional environments to gender inclusion and women’s empowerment.
Annex 5 outlines all the regulations that were identified in the qualitative research sites, which resulted from CSO advocacy and inputs at district and village levels over time in the 12 research districts/villages and the two control villages (in Gresik and Pangkep Districts). This includes broader, gender inclusion and women’s empowerment regulations, and those on specific sectoral issues of concern to women and the CSOs. Some CSOs also targeted provincial level regulations, particularly for issues which cross-cut regions and sectors in a province, such as human trafficking and domestic violence prevention. It is important to remember that under decentralisation in Indonesia, the district has more political and budget authority than the provincial level of government for many sectors, unless the issue of concern crosscuts district boundaries or is specifically designated in national legislation to be within the authority of the province.
The sectoral case studies of MAMPU CSO Partners advocating for improved employment conditions and labour rights (in urban, peri-urban and rural areas), particularly for homeworkers, revealed that they too used the strategy to strengthen the institutional environment through supporting the development of regulations and other policy instruments. While the work of such CSOs tends to occur in peri-urban areas where large industries are situated, they also target both district and village level environments, as village cottage industries supply larger businesses, stores and factories. MAMPU’s CSO partners TURC (in Sukabumi, West Java), BITRA (in Deli Serdang, North Sumatra), and Yasanti (in Yogyakarta Province near Central Java) have sought to strengthen policy frameworks at both levels. TURC’s advocacy led to the enactment of a District Head Regulation in 2019 on the Strategic Action Plan to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Yasanti’s advocacy saw a number of provincial and district-level decisions (from the offices of Manpower and of Cooperatives) introduced to bolster the rights of homeworkers groups to organise through unions, providing them with greater eligibility for government services. Both TURC and Yasanti’s programs and advocacy conducted directly and together with the collective action of homeworkers, achieved the passage of village and kelurahan (urban precinct)-level regulations, instructions and decisions that registered and supported homeworkers, providing them with increased eligibility for government services. BITRA’s advocacy with homeworkers in North Sumatra resulted in homeworkers being included on the list of recipients for free healthcare through the National Health Insurance schemes (BPJS).
District-level regulatory impacts under decentralisation
More widely, in most cases MAMPU Partners across all 27 provinces sought to strengthen the district policy environment, along with that in villages. Indeed, through their lobbying efforts, developing relationships, working with government, and filling technical capacity gaps to design regulations and policy instruments, all MAMPU Partners (not just those in the qualitative research sample) supported the development of some 184 policy instruments at district/municipality level, approximately half of which were finalised between July 2014 and October 2019and two thirds of which constituted stronger district/municipal regulations (see Table 5). That is in addition to the 11 national-level policy instruments, including national laws, government regulations and presidential regulations, and the 10 provincial-level regulations which were the target of CSO advocacy during the same period, many of which at the time of writing were still under discussion (see Table 5).
Village-level regulatory impacts under decentralisation
Similarly, at the village level, between July 2014–October 2019, across the 27 provinces where MAMPU CSO Partners worked, CSOs supported the development of some 341 policy instruments of which two thirds were finalised by October 2019, and half of which were village/kelurahan (187) or customary village (8) regulations (see Table 5). Such changes were particularly significant in influencing the implementation of the Village Law in the 85 cases in which village/kelurahan or customary village regulations were enacted.
Table 5: Results of all MAMPU CSO Partner Advocacy: Legislation, Regulations, and Other Policy Instruments in 27 Provinces, 147 Districts/Municipalities and 1,137 Villages, July 2014 – October 2019
Variation—onset conditions, speed of uptake, and advocacy targets
Drawing on the qualitative research, in Annex 5 it is evident that prior to the commencement of MAMPU in 2013, in some research sites, CSOs had long begun to advocate for gender inclusion and women’s empowerment and in others, political leaders undertook their own initiatives to improve gender inclusion, although the latter was more often than not the result of advocacy from civil society. As a result of this, in some of the moderately conducive districts (and those moderately difficult districts where the district environment had a greater degree of conduciveness than the village environment), district (and sometimes provincial) regulations had already begun to be introduced to strengthen the policy environment so as to be more inclusive of women and their needs. This includes, among others, Lampung, Bantul, East Lombok, and Gresik. Thus, when MAMPU provided support to their partners in these regions they were able to quickly focus on more discrete sectoral initiatives and/or village level activities given the onset conditions for strengthening women’s empowerment were already conducive to the partners’ agenda.
This was certainly the case in Lampung Province where Tanggamus District is located. MAMPU’s partner DAMAR had long worked at the provincial level to improve the policy environment for women’s empowerment, child protection, and services to support victims of violence (see also Section 3). Support from MAMPU—through the consortium PERMAMPU, of which DAMAR is a member—helped DAMAR to build on and scale up these earlier advocacy efforts that had already gained traction with policy makers in the region. This included concrete support for DAMAR’s work with the Tanggamus district government to further develop clear district policies and frameworks supporting women’s empowerment. It was also able to focus on a broader women’s rights agenda beyond its sectoral concerns of violence against women and to spread and embed advocacy efforts in concrete village-level activities where village women could experience on-the-ground benefits.
The Gresik District was also an early mover in gender mainstreaming, which was the result of advocacy of local CSOs and early impacts of the Gender Watch program. Regulations were introduced from 2012 to strengthen gender-sensitivity in district planning and budgeting. Given the broad openness to women’s empowerment signified by the 2012 regulation, when MAMPU Partner KAPAL Perempuan together with its local partner KPS2K commenced its new program supported by MAMPU in Gresik in 2014, they managed to quickly gain a degree of commitment from the district government to the agenda through their engagement strategies. An MoU was established in 2014 between the three parties and signified commitment from each to seek to improve women’s participation and resolve women’s issues in villages, and endorsement from the district government for KP2SK’s Women’s Schools activities in villages.
Indicating Gresik District’s support for more attention to gender mainstreaming, the District Family Planning, Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Agency (Dinas KBPPA) was upgraded to a full district sectoral agency in 2016. In district development planning processes that always involve a Musrenbang, a special Musrenbang was introduced for women so as to better hear their priorities and include these in the planning agenda. KAPAL Perempuan and its partner KPS2K used informal engagement approaches to gain the commitment of influential actors in the district government to their agenda, which culminated in more formal endorsement and outcomes of institutional strengthening for women’s empowerment and policy and program support to replicate the Women’s Schools in other villages (See Box 29).
 While districts such as South Lampung and the Bandar Lampung Municipality have begun to introduce district-level regulations related to empowerment, this has not specifically been the case in Tanggamus.
Box 29: Gender Mainstreaming in Gresik
The regulatory environment in Gresik was first bolstered by CSOs in the program Gender Watch. In addition to introducing gender-responsive budgeting and planning in 2012, what was initially a sub-office was upgraded to a full District Sectoral Agency for Family Planning, Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection in 2016, signifying a conducive context for further building institutional support for women’s empowerment. In the 2012 regulation, government units were directed to be gender-responsive in their programs and funds allocated for gender-responsive programs. In 2014, KAPAL Perempuan and KPS2K gained support for their planned activities from the district government through establishing an MoU, and from that point forward they were able to commence their engagement with various villages to seek to establish village-level Women’s School groups.
In 2016, concurrent with the change in government at the district level, KPS2K used a direct, personal approach to engage key young actors in the District Development Planning Agency (Bappeda) and the Dinas KBPPA. These actors were considered to be both open-minded and in strategic positions of influence, particularly given their authority in developing the District Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMD) and their capacity to navigate the bureaucracy and frame women’s empowerment in the appropriate language for the bureaucracy. The personal approach then resulted in government efforts to accommodate the interests of women and children by initiating a regional development planning forum (Musrenbang) especially for women and children.
“Recommendations related to women’s needs are heard [in the forum]. [For] the Musrenbang Perempuan, besides inviting women’s organisations, we also invite women at the grassroots level, because we want to have a clear picture of what their basic needs are. Their needs are not usually echoed in the media, nor heard in [conventional] forums, so women are more reluctant to have a voice. When they are among fellow women, we can know ‘oh what women need is this, or that’, so we can focus more on what they actually need.” Interview with BAPPEDA staff, 26 February 2019.
The KAPAL Perempuan/KPS2K strategy of working with strategic actors in the bureaucracy also resulted in changes to the nomenclature and priorities outlined in the District Family Planning, Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Agency Budget in 2018 to provide support for KAPAL Perempuan/KPS2K’s Women’s Schools and a district policy to replicate the Women’s Schools in 10 other villages. This was given further endorsement through its inclusion in the Gresik District Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMD) for 2016–2021.
Despite regulations allowing for gender-responsiveness and the policies to support empowerment initiatives on the ground, there have nonetheless been weaknesses in some aspects of the implementation of gender mainstreaming at the district level in sectoral agencies as they have sometimes not known how to translate gender mainstreaming in their program and policies. KAPAL Perempuan and its subnational partner KP2SK have conducted training with some agencies to improve this process.
Some districts did not have this strong existing policy environment to empower women, but did have the openness and political willingness to quickly develop such efforts following advocacy and the support of CSOs to provide technical inputs into how such instruments should be designed. North Hulu Sungai is a relatively poor region compared with other research districts in terms of its economic development, but it was very open to change and was quick to work with CSOs to improve its policy environment by 2015. The existing policy environment prior to mid-2014 (the point at which CSO partners began to be able to draw on MAMPU support after the planning period) and political willingness and openness to quickly improve the policy environment to support women’s empowerment were two key indicators of conduciveness.
In areas with moderately difficult and difficult policy and institutional environments for women’s empowerment, CSOs targeted much of their district-level efforts on improving these environments, with achievements made over time at the district level in almost all regions where the qualitative research was conducted (See Annex 5). CSOs had to overcome deliberate resistance to the agenda, limited and changing commitments or other political priorities (such as elections) to make headway. These issues accounted for one of the five key challenges to improving women’s empowerment across all 27 provinces where CSOs worked with MAMPU support (see Table 4). For example, initially, East Lombok (a moderately difficult context) and Pangkep Districts (a difficult context) had less conducive environments to women’s empowerment. However, the CSO strategic and adaptive strategies to influence these contexts resulted in the enactment of District Regulations with a wide scope to either support gender mainstreaming, or the introduction of protection for and empowerment of women and children. This is in addition to sectoral-focused regulations that were also enacted in these two districts and all other highly, moderately, and least conducive regions encountered in the districts, with the exception of the two difficult regions.
In two of the most difficult areas identified in the qualitative research, Bangkalan and Labuhan Batu Districts, MAMPU CSO Partners also targeted collaborative approaches to gain the support of district decision makers but have had to work more slowly and incrementally to gain support. In both districts, MoUs were achieved between district agencies and MAMPU’s Partners and work at the time of the research continued their efforts to influence the creation of new regulations and policy instruments, which would have widespread implications for women’s empowerment, especially at the village level. However, PEKKA (Bangkalan) and FPL/SPI (Labuhan Batu) sequenced their efforts to first target smaller initiatives, particularly at the village level so as to first build trust by demonstrating the benefits of their initiatives, and to slowly influence both leaders and communities to be more gender inclusive in village development (see further discussion on building trust below).
Thus, we can see how CSOs used adaptive strategies in women’s empowerment relevant to the environments in which they worked. They adapted their approaches based on:
- The history of their work or that of other CSOs, leaders and champions of women’s empowerment in each region,
- The degree to which the existing institutional and policy environment had already begun to give attention to women’s empowerment,
- How open and willing authoritative leaders were to quickly strengthen the policy environment—often there was willingness, but little knowhow, and in such instances CSOs supplemented their technical capacity to formulate new regulations, and
- Identifying the appropriate level (district or village) to aim for early wins while seeking to influence change at scale and sequencing activities accordingly.
We can see in Annex 5, in almost all research sites it was approximately three years after CSOs commenced, or scaled up, their advocacy efforts to strengthen the institutional and policy environment, with MAMPU’s support, before there were indications of significant shifts in the policy environment through the enactment of new regulations that would inform institutional change to support gender-sensitive governance, budget allocation, and programs. This tended to be slightly faster for sectoral-focused initiatives, and slightly longer in districts less conducive to the uptake of an empowerment agenda. Most regulations began to be enacted between 2017-2018, with a few regulations being introduced in 2015-2016 in moderately or more highly conducive areas. These efforts took longer in the most difficult areas too and regulations began to be enacted in 2018-2019 and at the time the research was conducted the process was ongoing.
Lag to implementation
In Indonesia, after (often highly prescriptive) policies are enacted, a series of highly detailed technical implementing guidelines then need to be developed at the relevant level of government and authorised by those with the designated authority (usually government agency heads at all levels). This is the case with national legislation or Provincial/District Regulations enacted by regional legislatures (provincial or district DPRD) and district/provincial administrations, or regulations enacted directly by District Heads and Governors. These implementing regulations and implementation guidelines outline the ways agencies should design programs, allocate human and financial resources, and inform civil servants within the bureaucracy as to how policies will be implemented. Sectoral agency staff at the national, provincial, and district levels then closely follow these regulations to implement policies and programs. This is particularly important for policies that create pathways for programs to be enacted with budget/staffing allocations.
Thus, even when policies are enacted through legislation or regulations, there is often a lag to implementation so that there is time to develop the implementing regulations/technical guidelines and to align with annual budget cycles. The length of time to develop these policy instruments depends on the complexity of the new policy and the degree to which change is wide-reaching and involves multiple agencies, or is a smaller initiative of less complexity or confined to one agency.
In the case that a policy enacted through a regulation is not perceived to require significant funding and staffing, or is quite discrete and the policy change has already been planned for, the research found it usually takes between 6-12 months after ratification for the policy to be enacted through technical regulations and even longer for programs to be implemented. This might be the case for broad regulations prioritising, for example, women’s empowerment, without clearly prescribed programs—authoritative actors can nail their commitment to the mast without a significant shift in business-as-usual budget allocation processes. The process is likely to take a similar time if a particular ‘policy’, albeit more complex, is one of the handful that the President, Governor, District Head or Mayor designates for fast-tracking—government agency staff will then prioritise finalising the technical implementing regulations and instruments and lobby for budget allocations so as to be able to launch programs. Even then, it is unlikely that policies equate to on-the-ground programs in under 12-18 months, as they also need to align with the yearly funding allocation in the budget cycle, which in and of itself is a contested process involving negotiation between sectoral agencies to access the funding pot.
On the whole, however, after regulations have been passed, district-level policy changes that have programs and budgets attached, usually take between one year to 18 months (sometimes two or three years) for changes to be implemented on the ground unless there is significant pre-planning. With a significant degree of coordination, multi-stakeholder commitment, and pre-planning, this process may be sped up to one year (although this tended not to be the norm in the research sites) if:
- Pre-planning has taken place for budget allocations (assuming the regulations/legislations are already drafted and there is pre-existing broad-based in principle support from authoritative actors),
- Technical guidelines have already been developed, and
- Programs have already been designed (often with the support of CSOs in the case of women’s empowerment) or can be scaled up and out.
It is clear to understand why long-term commitment is needed to begin to see real changes in women’s empowerment on the ground in areas of Indonesia where there are few indicators of existing gender-sensitive policy making and programs. With sustained and ongoing advocacy from civil society, shifting the regulatory and institutional environment tends to take three years, followed by between one to two years to establish programs. That does not include the time to actually deliver, evaluate, improve, and begin to see the impacts of on-the-ground empowerment initiatives at scale. In many ways, after seven years of MAMPU support for some of its CSO partners, it was towards the end of the program that the real women’s empowerment impacts were beginning to be strongly felt in districts.
Across the qualitative research areas, institutional change was fastest in more conducive areas, and slowest, but nonetheless achievable in the least conducive areas. Beyond the research sites, across the 147 districts and municipalities where MAMPU CSO Partners were supported in 27 provinces, significant change has resulted in the regulatory environment. Unsurprisingly, few regulations were passed before 2016 in the few years after MAMPU commenced but then we begin to see real change by mid-2017. Most of those district/municipal government (and district head/mayoral) and village-level regulations which MAMPU Partners across the provinces targeted that have now been passed were enacted in 2018-2019, with fewer being passed in 2017; approximately half were still in progress at the end of 2019.
Leveraging strong district institutional support to overcome challenges in villages
While places such as Gresik, East Lombok and Central Lombok Districts were considered to have moderately conducive district-level environments for supporting gender women’s empowerment at the onset of the MAMPU program—because the institutional environments had already begun to give at least some attention to women’s empowerment or there was political willingness to do so (see, for example, the situation in Box 29)—they were nonetheless considered to be moderately difficult environments overall when village dynamics were taken into account. Many villages in these districts were disinterested in supporting gender inclusion and women’s empowerment, including the research ‘intervention’ villages in Gresik, East Lombok and Central Lombok and the research ‘control’ village in Gresik where there was no presence of active CSOs and little support for women’s empowerment initiatives at the time of the research. In Cirebon, the situation in villages was more varied, with some being more open to supporting gender inclusion and women’s empowerment with CSO support. In Cirebon too, while there were few indicators of district support early on in the program, decision makers were not entirely closed off to the idea. In the highly difficult regions, there was very little interest and sometimes resistance among the leadership to improving gender inclusion in decision making at both levels.
Indeed, limited engagement, commitment or deliberate resistance to the empowerment agenda by leaders (government or social leaders) at district or village levels was one of the five key problems encountered by all MAMPU CSO Partners across the 27 provinces (see Table 4). CSOs reported 142 instances of where there was such deliberate resistance to or outright rejection of empowerment initiatives—not forgetting that the highly bureaucratised structure of governance in Indonesia makes it difficult to commence on-the-ground programs with villagers without at least administrative permission from either district, municipal or village officials. A further 66 instances were reported where leaders at various levels, or key business people (as potential partners who work in employment conditions and labour rights) gave initial verbal or on-paper support but then did not follow through, reneged on or changed their commitments (see Table 4). In addition, it is difficult to tell what proportion of the further 118 instances of scheduling difficulties with actors at different levels encountered in the project were a part of their efforts to avoid engagement with CSOs. In the face of resistance or apathy, the CSOs in this study and beyond pursued long-term strategies of finding ways to build the trust and interest of the leadership, and identifying and working with champions who had connections to and influence with key decision makers (see further discussion below).
Resistance or apathy among decision makers, unsurprisingly, slowed or made it incredibly difficult to make inroads in providing support to women on the ground. All in all, between nearly one quarter of the reported instances of impediments to building women’s empowerment encountered by all MAMPU Partners across 27 provinces (as of October 2019) resulted from deliberate resistance, unfulfilled commitments or minimal engagement from key decision makers.
However, when there was support from district decision makers, to varying degrees and at different points in time during the life of the program, this proved useful for CSO approaches to access villages and in some instances to overcome resistance. For example, in the research ‘intervention’ village in Gresik discussed in Box 29, in which KAPAL Perempuan and its partner KPS2K undertook initiatives to support village women to establish a Women’s School group, KPS2K initially faced resistance from the village leadership and other actors to it establishing its programs and women’s groups in the village. Some village leaders and community members perceived that the Women’s Schools were not focused exclusively on productive economic activities and were therefore not a priority. Influential actors also feared their work would disrupt social norms in which men tended to be key decision makers or involved in village decision-making forums.
In its adaptive strategy to overcome these challenges, KPS2K sought support from the district-level decision makers with whom they had already engaged to endorse their village level activities. They then used this support and permission from the district government to pressure village decision makers to allow Women’s School members to participate in village forums—eventually village women who were members of the Women’s Schools were able to collectively pressure the village government to provide funds from the village budget to also support their Schools.
This process also worked in reverse over time. Following the success and popularity of its Women’s Schools, in Gresik, North Lombok, the Pangkep Islands and other places, KAPAL Perempuan and its partners have used early success from the villages where they first commenced their program to pressure and encourage district governments to scale out these programs to other villages in the districts. The Schools demonstrably gave women more power, skills and voice, and also improved economic opportunities in many villages. The success of the Women’s Schools was considered by the district government to be a strong model for improving gender equity and achieving the district goals of gender mainstreaming and regional development. It therefore committed budget allocations to support the scale out the initiative to at least 10 other villages in Gresik (at the time of the research). In North Lombok, the initiative was replicated to all villages, and in Pangkep District it was also been scaled out with the support of the district government. CSOs did not undertake this advocacy alone—village participants from some of the Women’s Schools in Gresik and Pangkep participated in the district advocacy efforts to lobby the government for support to roll out the initiative in other villages.
Building a network of champions: Creating or augmenting political will for change
District-level champions of the women’s empowerment agenda, particularly those occupying influential positions in either the legislature or in the executive, or situated within the networks of power close to government, also helped create a more conducive institutional environment for gender inclusion and women’s empowerment by fostering political will among other authoritative actors. This in turn interacted with the ways in which women were able to influence the implementation of the Village Law. In some instances, these champions existed prior to the implementation of MAMPU program initiatives, and in other cases women and CSOs (sometimes together, sometimes separately and sometimes at different levels) helped create a network of champions.
In many cases in the research sites, district (and provincial) champions helped garner politico-economic support for regulations, policies, programs, sectoral budgets and other changes in the institutional environment that supported women’s empowerment. That is, given their influence and reach, they were helpful for building political and public support for women’s collective action to address the issue in question. Such support was a part of the broader women’s networked collective action processes discussed in Section 5, which involves the efforts of village women, CSOs and other authoritative actors together endeavouring to create change. We saw in Section 5 that networked collective action was an important and prevalent form of women’s collective action in most of the research areas, but particularly in difficult contexts.
For example, in Central Lombok, Panca Karsa initially approached the Employment and Transmigration Agency (Disnakertrans, Dinas Tenaga Kerja dan Transmigrasi) to seek support for regulations to protect migrant workers, but this was rejected. It then it shifted its attention to a government official, the District’s First Assistant Secretary, who had shown a particular interest in migrant workers issues (See Section 3). Migrant CARE, Panca Karsa and women from the research village lobbied this champion to take up their cause. The First Assistant Secretary, due to his own personal experience, became a champion for increasing regulatory protections for migrant workers and lobbied for support from other government officials. Migrant CARE and Panca Karsa then supported the District Legislature to develop the new regulations. This illustrates how garnering political support for gender inclusion more widely helps create conducive contexts by reducing barriers for support for women on the ground.
For this reason, one of BaKTI’s key program strategies entails is building a network of champions in parliament through its Reses Partisipatif program described above in Box 28. In Pangkep, the Head of the District Development Planning Agency (Bappeda) also became a champion for gender mainstreaming. He created an office to coordinate activities and seek funding for activities from across agencies.
“We have this one room in Bappeda that we prepared for all NGO programs so that we can sit together. This includes for MAMPU, Oxfam, KOMPAK, and HKI Helen Keller. We also give a lot of scope to coordinate with related government offices. The function of Bappeda is to facilitate the coordination of communication with other government offices, which includes our four working groups in Bappeda. This means that success cannot be solely achieved as there are other influencing factors. That’s why we hope that [NGO] programs collaborate with others, [and activities] are either funded by the district budget, or from other sources.” Head of Pangkep Bappeda, 19 February 2019.
In Tanggamus District, DAMAR replicated the strategy of the wider PERMAMPU consortium of mapping of influential actors in the province and district. It made use of its network of partners across Lampung Province, and Tanggamus District, to identify key actors to be invited to participate in the regional Multi-stakeholder Forum (FMS, Forum Multi-Stakeholder) that it established, which then became an important source of influence for giving greater attention to women’s empowerment in government and non-government policies and programs (see Box 30).
Box 30: CSO-established Multi-stakeholder Forums (FMS) in Lampung and Tanggamus
At the time of the research, both DAMAR and FAKTA had developed good relations with government offices at the district level, particularly the Office of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, the Health Office, and Office of the Empowerment of People and Villages. To leverage this relationship, FAKTA-DAMAR established the FMS in Tanggamus, inviting a wide range of government offices to participate that were previously identified through DAMAR social mapping.
The FMS was established to gather aspirations and initiatives from local government leaders, so they could become champions and be more likely to collaborate with DAMAR in education and services on sexual and reproductive health rights issues. The forum also provided DAMAR an opportunity to introduce their programs, and to gain support from the heads of the villages they targeted for intervention. The Village Head in the research village, for example, gave support because he has similar vision and missions to DAMAR.
“I came after DAMAR’s second invitation. At first, I was not really interested in CSOs. CSOs here [in Lampung] are different from CSOs in Java. Here they are looking for money. But when I attended DAMAR’s forum, I saw that [DAMAR] was different. The trainers, speakers, and correspondents, everyone is credible with strong educational backgrounds and they know what they are talking about. [I found out] apparently [DAMAR’s agenda] is women’s empowerment and it appealed to me.” Former Village Head, Lampung research village, 7 July 2019.
Some influential champions with policymaking authority also originated from CSOs who then joined government. This was the case in East Nusa Tenggara in North Central Timor (TTU) District, when one of the women deeply involved in the women’s movement in the region was elected to the local legislature, which we saw in the case study Story of Change in TTU in Section 4. Her election helped to promote the issues of key concern to women in the region and she was able to advocate first through her own party faction, and then to others in the bureaucracy and legislature of the importance of giving attention priorities for women in the region.
“I tried to become like a funnel to influence all the factions. To influence them through personal relationships. Then, I organised events [at the offices of the local parliament] to bring them together and invited my NGO friends to come [to discuss] the impacts of violence on women’s reproductive health. After that, together with YABIKU, we devised our strategy because this had been the TTU community’s dream, especially for women who care about victims of violence. The TTU NGOs, together, drew on that power and we went to the local parliament for a hearing and asked the DPR to immediately draft the local regulation.” Former TTU District Representative, 26 June 2019.
This helped smooth the pathway for the ratification of several District Regulations on women’s empowerment, child protection and domestic violence prevention. The (former) TTU District parliamentarian used her interpersonal networks with key leaders in the district government to strengthen support for new regulations and programs and for collaboration between government and CSOs.
However, if advocacy efforts are reliant on single champions alone—without other supportive coalitions, actors and institutions—when they lose their influence there is a risk that any prior progress made will stall. For example, if a champion loses their seat in parliament and their prior efforts have not already become entrenched in policies, institutional practices and regulatory frameworks, there may not be lasting change. This has been a risk in TTU since the former head of the CSO YABIKU lost her seat and has returned to CSO work. A YABIKU staff member explained:
“It was an advantage that one of our people was elected, because… not everyone understands the conditions women face. Yes, when Yohana joined the local parliament it really helped. Not just YABIKU, but it helped all of the related organisations [who work] on women’s and children’s issues. So then when [she] was not re-elected, we thought ‘oh no’ that would make our work really difficult. Who would want to help us now?” YABIKU staff member, 26 June 2019.
Interviewees saw that the return of this former parliamentary leader to CSO work was helpful for the organisation and important for strengthening their grassroots work given her strong leadership role in the organisation. Some of the Village Regulations developed as a result of women’s collective action in the research village were yet to be ratified at the time of the research as there were fewer pressures from the district to continue to work on strengthening the regulatory environment so as to better protect victims of domestic violence. Her return to the organisation is seen as a positive to move this agenda along.
Finding champions, and working at both levels, often with government and other actors to show them how to improve policies and programs, also allowed CSOs to leverage their relationships and champions at one level to engage resistant actors at the other.
Using discourse and tailoring priorities: Framing agendas to be aligned with economic and other village/district interests
As was first introduced in Section 3, the extent to which the advocacy and collective action efforts undertaken by MAMPU CSO Partners were able to influence district and provincial policy makers was in part contingent on whether these focus issues were already considered a priority problem for redress in the district prior to these CSOs beginning or upscaling their programs. In situations in which the district leadership had already identified similar issues as a policy or funding priority that was of concern to a women’s CSO, or when the issue was already discursively embedded in public debates as one of public interest (such as protection for migrant workers at risk of exploitation overseas or facing challenges on return to Indonesia), it was easier for CSOs and women’s groups to gain broad support for their advocacy efforts. This was the case even in the most challenging of environments. Actions that sought to address such challenges also had a greater likelihood of having lasting effects, even after short-term collective efforts to improve the situation of women at risk.
Important in this process was the ways that CSOs framed their projects and interventions in villages and districts in their initial engagement strategies with influential actors so as to depict a degree of alignment with district political interests and policy priorities, even if their agenda was wider or different to that of these influential actors. How programs were discursively depicted in turn shaped how they were perceived by influential actors. This had implications for district support (and administrative permission) for these CSOs to embark on or continue activities in villages, particularly on difficult social issues such as domestic violence and knowledge in reproductive health. This was equally important at the village level as it was at the district level, particularly in places with little history of supporting gender inclusion and empowerment initiatives. CSOs were most successful when they could frame their work in alignment with the economic and other interests that were already of priority to the village and district.
For example, in supporting female heads of families, PEKKA usually endeavours to roll out its KLIK program (Village Consultation and Information Service, Klinik Layanan Informasi dan Konsultasi) in most villages where it works. As we saw in the Bangkalan Story of Change, KLIK assists people to obtain vital administrative documents such as birth and marriage certificates, as well as identity and family cards, which are important documents for accessing government services. However, this is not necessarily the way the organisation initially gains support for its programs. At the time of the research, one of the core challenges for the district government and the research village in North Hulu Sungai was limited livelihoods opportunities, particularly for poor villages. This is an acute problem in the research village where very small businesses (such as kiosks and snack production) had failed and there were few livelihoods opportunities.
Thus, when PEKKA approached district and village actors in North Hulu Sungai, it framed much of its engagement around supporting livelihoods diversification for women, albeit with a continued focus on female-headed families but also more widely. As women needed business capital, PEKKA helped village women and the village government to establish small cooperative groups and took initiative to support the village government to establish a village-owned enterprise (BUMDes). Members of the village’s Pekka union attended a BUMDes training in Jakarta, and the village government involved them in all the district-level trainings, in which the Village Head also participated. The Story of Change is overviewed in Box 31 below.
Box 31: Story of Change in North Hulu Sungai—A Case Study of PEKKA Support for Village Women and the Establishment of the BUMDes
Women in the North Hulu Sungai District in South Kalimantan have worked collectively to economically empower themselves and to advocate for change so that village governance is more inclusive. In this village natural resources are scarce and women have had limited livelihood and self-development opportunities and historically have not been involved in decision-making processes about village development. The arrival of PEKKA and the women’s groups it established—Pekka unions in the form of savings and loans groups—provided new hope and options for women facing severe economic challenges.
Economic empowerment activities were the entry point for organising village women in the North Hulu Sungai research village. PEKKA encouraged women to form a savings and loan group, called the Papadaan Group. This group has provided opportunities for village women, especially the female heads of families (such as widows), to access loans and get business training so that they can earn an independent income. Moreover, this group has become the vehicle through which women have participated in village development decision making.
Due to the popularity of this savings and loans group, married women also expressed interest in joining the group and its activities. PEKKA responded flexibly in the spirit of inclusiveness, forming a new category of membership called “extraordinary” PEKKA members to accommodate these women. These married women who contribute to their family economies then formed another group, known as the Setia Kawan (Loyal Friends) group. As Farah, the head of the Setia Kawan group described, group saving was a popular drawcard for new members.
“I said that it would be good if those who were active in the group saved every month, so that if we were short on money or wanted to establish a rice field we could borrow [from the group]. And if we have a really important need [for money] we can borrow. If we don’t borrow, we can help friends to get benefits. She [a potential new member] was immediately interested.” Farah, North Hulu Sungai research village, 13 July 2019.
Through joining both these women’s collectives, women in the village have built their practical, organisational and influencing skills and now have the self-confidence to increase their participation in the public sphere, interact with public institutions, and are increasingly empowered economically. In regular group meetings they have practiced public speaking but have also learned a variety of other more tangible skills. By participating in PEKKA’s Paradigta Academy, some women have also learned about government systems, village budget processes, and advocacy strategies to voice women’s policy needs in their village. They have also built networks with other women and with influential village actors and other leaders.
“It was about increasing gender equality. Women must be equal, so that they are not underestimated. Women are often underestimated.” Rina, North Hulu Sungai research village, 16 July 2019.
Such women’s groups, with the support of PEKKA, have created significant change. Women from the village Pekka groups initiated the establishment of a village-owned enterprise to develop the village economy, which was legalised through Village Regulation No. 4/2015. To draft the Village Regulation, village women in North Hulu Sungai worked together with village, subdistrict and district governments.
Women’s participation in village development has increased the funds allocated for women’s programs and activities and ensured women’s political representation in village meetings. In MusDes, women have successfully made proposals for village budget allocations to procure medical equipment, fund the Posyandu, and purchase musical instruments. The participation of women in village meetings was also codified through the 2019 Decision of the Subdistrict Head No. 5 about the involvement of women’s organisation representatives in development planning meetings (Musrenbang).
“Now we directly propose [at the Village Meeting]: ‘Pak [we say to the Village Head], us women want to propose this.’ We first proposed the purchasing of medical equipment in 2016.” Aminah, North Hulu Sungai research village, 15 July 2019.
Members of Pekka women’s union groups also have assisted community members to apply for legal identity documents so that they can access government social protection programs through PEKKA’s Village Consultation and Information Service Clinic. This clinic provides information and consultation services for issues about legal identity, marital and domestic problems, and access to government-provided support for social protection.
In the North Hulu Sungai research village, economic empowerment activities have been an effective strategy in encouraging rural women to participate in women’s collective action. Women in North Hulu Sungai have developed their economic and political capacity and strengthened their role in their community’s development and village government policy.
Supporting BUMDes development aligned with the broader Village Law priorities in the North Hulu Sungai village outlined in District Regulation No. 5/2017 and district priorities, and proved popular with the village government and women alike.
However, in the Bangkalan research village, where PEKKA has also supported village women, the village government was initially resistant to any new initiatives, but particularly those that might affect the village budget or village priorities. Options like the BUMDes or other initiatives that might require village funding were initially not possible. Instead, PEKKA highlighted the benefits of its KLIK program for the village government in terms of its popularity among villagers and political and other benefits (more access for villagers to government social protection programs through greater citizen legibility) that might flow from the program. As we saw in Section 4, this initiative proved popular with the village government and villagers alike and was important for building trust in its activities. Eventually, women’s groups participated in meetings with the village government and lobbied for the development of a Village Regulation on Marriage Verification. With a small allocation from the village budget, poorer village residents now gain support from the village for pro bono marriage certification.
Building trust: Sequencing of entry
Knowing which influential actors to engage and how to engage them, including the most resistant actors, and how to reach these actors and influence their views is key to developing relationships before pursuing more formal channels, particularly in areas where CSOs have not worked before. In the research sites, this required careful sequencing—particularly at the village level to respond to the local context—to gain the trust of both influential leaders and villagers. In challenging contexts for example, CSOs did not begin with advocacy for policy change or for funding for women’s collective action, but rather with trust building activities. We can see the careful sequencing that PEKKA used to access and build trust in the Bangkalan and North Hulu Sungai research villages discussed in the previous section.
In North Hulu Sungai, PEKKA branch staff first attended the subdistrict forums that involved Village Heads. Prior to this, PEKKA approached the subdistrict government to gain information about the scheduling of the meetings. Through the forums, PEKKA provided information about their programs to the attending Village Heads, for which they received positive responses. Second, PEKKA approached each of the village governments in the subdistrict, visiting each of the six villages where they work. Third, PEKKA branch staff also attended pengajian (prayer group religious activities) in the village to get to know the villagers informally. Through these religious activities, PEKKA started to introduce their programs to the villagers by sharing information.
When PEKKA entered the village with more formal programs, it did so through the village government and existing institutions, including farming groups in which women were active. This greatly assisted the smooth entry of the CSO into the village. PEKKA also proved itself to be adaptable to the specific context in which it found itself. In some contexts, women wanted to join, but did not meet the criteria of being the head of the family. PEKKA therefore added an additional membership category (luar biasa or ‘extraordinary’) to enable these women to join.
Over time they were then able to undertake more concrete activities and work with women’s groups in a variety of capacities (including to undertake many of the initial steps to establish the BUMDes), and to help them diversify their membership to include other women, including female-headed families. They increased their Pekka union membership and many village women have gone on to have influence in the village and district forums.
In Bangkalan, a district that is characterised by very strong patriarchal family structures, support from influential individuals and institutions was crucial before PEKKA entered the village. PEKKA started by mapping the most important actors in the village (see further discussion below) and based on this, approached both the village and hamlet heads, as well as influential women with connections to leaders. Through approaching these actors, it gained permission to conduct activities in the village. Upon entering the village, PEKKA organised identity documents for these leaders, which was important to gain more support from leaders and convince the population.
“At first, Pak Mukti registered himself to make a marriage certificate, after that, 13 people registered. After the certificates were issued and [the program] was a proven success in the eyes of villagers, the Village Head responded positively and said ‘If [the program] exists, I am proud, it can help me’. He said, ‘It is my fault, the fault of older generations who did not make the documents because of the long-standing issue of child marriages’.” Ati, Bangkalan research village, 20 February 2019.
Sequencing and trust building were no less important in highly difficult contexts as they were in more conducive contexts as the examples above illustrate in North Hulu Sungai (a more conducive area) and Bangkalan (a highly difficult area). Mapping and sequencing (informal then formal access) was a common strategy used across many of the research sites, including in the more conducive contexts, such as Tanggamus District.
“We always use an informal approach before we try to make formal connections [with policy actors] when DAMAR wants to target a region for intervention. We need local people who can map key individuals. For example, John knows this person and that. DAMAR will ask for help from people like John for introductions to key actors. Once the door is open, however, we then enter following formal procedures.” DAMAR leader, 18 July 2019.
“Whoever has decision-making power, that’s the one we approach. At the subdistrict level, it is usually the Subdistrict Head, or public figures that we involve [for lobbying], or religious leaders. They lobby the District Head, then the district parliament members, especially those who are in our electorate. Each member has their own constituency, so we approach the representative of our constituency, and talk to them about our issues intensively.” Community organiser, Tanggamus, 12 July 2019.
Social mapping in villages
A crucial first step for CSOs who were able to effectively navigate different contexts, especially highly difficult contexts, was undertaking social mapping. Many CSOs, often with MAMPU support and with village women, undertook extensive mapping exercises in villages before undertaking any kind of new activities, especially those that would challenge social norms. This was deemed essential to ensuring future support for village women was aligned with their needs. It was also essential for customising activities and the approach to suit the varied village social contexts, institutional capacities of government, and the nature of groups and social relations in the village in ways which were sensitive to the gender or social norms in each place (particularly in relation to the sectoral issues with which they were concerned such as domestic violence). Further, understanding the social environment was helpful for designing interventions in ways that could navigate village power dynamics and circumvent any emerging resistance to women’s group activities, their participation in governance structures or other public forums, and to broader gender inclusion agendas, like the examples mentioned above.
Through social mapping, often undertaken together with or by village women, CSO partners to varying degrees sought to understand:
- The socio-demographic structure of the village, existing social networks, and existing relations of power so as to identify entry points, potential supporters for new initiatives, potential obstacles and actors who might resist new initiatives,
- Women’s priorities and needs in the village and the key problems encountered by women,
- Local culture, social norms and diversity, particularly in relation to gender norms,
- Existing women’s groups and forms of organisation and whether these represented the diversity of women in villages,
- Existing gender awareness, attitudes towards gender roles, and knowledge of gender rights and responsibilities,
- Existing knowledge and capacity of leaders to advance women’s empowerment.
Not all CSOs or women’s groups mapped every aspect of the aforementioned list, and this was not always in a written, structured exercise, but nonetheless, knowledge of these features of the village environment was essential for the strategies and activities that CSOs developed. Especially in highly difficult village and district contexts, this information informed how CSOs customised their strategies to access then support village women in each place, the nature and membership of the groups they formed or sought to strengthen, the activities undertaken, alliances built, and the ways that they sought to engage women, the village government, other leaders and community members, particularly those who were resistant to the women’s empowerment agenda.
In the Central Lombok research village, for example, Panca Karsa/Migrant CARE and village women spent some three months collecting data in 2013 so as to carefully design initiatives to provide support to villages. Meanwhile, in replicating Migrant CARE’s DESBUMI initiative in its own programs, interviewees explained that less than a week is allocated by the Ministry of Transmigration to conduct similar social mapping processes other places. Village women, together with Panca Karsa also used its social mapping strategy to raise awareness among the people and officials in the village about the plight of migrant workers. The mapping was conducted through a survey of 800 former migrant workers. In the survey, the respondents were asked about their experiences, needs and issues. The survey provided a tool to convince the officials and people in the village about the seriousness of undocumented migration. Panca Karsa then communicated the survey results by holding meetings in village offices, and travelling from one hamlet to the other, as well as door to door to share information and raise people’s awareness. The survey helped village women and Panca Karsa to garner support from the Village Head for the program.
“I was interested [in the data collected by Panca Karsa] because I care that a lot of these illegal immigrants face issues abroad that sometimes we don’t know about. We only know after they encounter problems. But we still don’t know who sent the workers abroad [or where they are]. This makes the government look like we are not giving serious attention [to the issue] because we did not know where the migrant workers are.” Former Village Head, 7 July 2019.
Strategically leveraging village social networks
These mapping exercises were also essential for understanding village social networks, gender norms, and other constraints on women’s power and influence. Below we provide some illustrations of the social networks in villages. These maps, in a way, represent ‘elite’ village social networks but also show the connections of women’s groups. These maps were developed qualitatively through observations during extended village stays. Researchers identified the prominent influential and authoritative figures in village life (socially, economically, religiously, ethnically, in government and others), including village women or group organisers, who were frequently mentioned across the interviews, and/or shown to be prominent in the case studies of village Stories of Change or women’s life histories. The social network maps show kith and kin and associational ties—through, for example, family, friends or social connections, and through religious, customary, ethnic, economic or government ties—between the influential figures identified in the research, including with formal and authoritative government actors. Such government actors were either active in village governance or had significant granted authority (such as Village Heads, BPD leaders, or government officers). We show how women’s groups (where they existed) and women’s leaders connected to these key figures, which was important for leveraging support for women’s collective action described in Section 5.
We can see this if we compare the networks between elites in the Gresik ‘control’ village (no CSOs) and in the Gresik ‘intervention’ village (where KPS2K/KAPAL Perempuan supported village women to establish the Women’s School group) in Figure 28 below. It is important to note that the size of the circle does not necessarily correspond with the size of the influence of a particular actor/collectivity of actors.
The Gresik ‘control’ site also had limited diversity of organised associational ties between actors and with government authorities, beyond the few state-corporatist associations such as the Posyandu, the kindergarten, and the fairly inactive PKK. Most networks were concentrated around the Village Head (the red circle) and state corporatist actors and village government (pale blue), and tend to mostly be related to working relationships or family ties. There is very little influence of CSOs (pink). This was the village where there was great resistance from the Village Head and government to new empowerment initiatives and outside influence that was discussed in Section 3, and this is evident in the absence of actors in the map associated with non-state corporatist women’s groups (the actors included in the map represent most members of the PKK) or CSOs (pink). If in future new programs of any kind were to enter this village that might have potential influence on the structures of power, they would need to navigate the tight networks associated with the Village Head, and likely gain his support if they were to have any effect.
In the intervention site where the Women’s School group was established, we can see that there is a greater spread of networks among actors, and these include Women’s School members (hot pink). While the Village Head has significant administrative ties to other actors, these are not compounded by significant family or other social ties of the likes that we see in other places (see further discussion below). These maps show how women might have influence in villages through their connections to others to leverage support or to navigate particular actors that block their efforts.
Figure 28: Social Networks in the Control (no CSOs) and Intervention Sites in Gresik, East Java
As is illustrated in Figure 29 below, different villages had different types of social networks and connections between people with authority and influence. In some villages, the types of connections tended to be dominated by politico-government administrative ties and family connections. In others, there was an overlap between ethnic, religious, familial and government administrative ties. Some villages were more homogenous in the types of social ties while others were more plural.
Figure 29: Social Networks in Bangkalan (Madura, East Java), East Central Timor (NTT) and Pangkep (South Sulawesi)
In many instances, influential figures tended to have close ties to other ‘elites’ and authoritative figures that transcended both social and ‘politico-economic’ realms (represented by a mixture of colours in the network connections in the maps). Often those who had the greatest concentration of connections also wielded significant social and political influence. If this coincided with more formal state authority, then these actors had significant political and social power.
In other villages the diversity of actors and types of relationships varied. We can see in Figure 29 above that religious figures and ties feature prominently in Bangkalan in East Java, while custom and tradition actors had a greater role in NTT if compared with Bangkalan. In Bangkalan, the Village Head was central and tied by family and religion to others in the village and networks were concentrated around him, but such networks were more spread out between influential actors in NTT. Meanwhile, economic and family relationships stood out in Pangkep, and again networks were densely concentrated around the Village Head.
When networks (diverse or homogenous) were concentrated among a handful of actors, but these actors were on either side of the political divide in the village, these tended to coincide with factional splits in the village. In contrast, in situations where power was spread among plural actors (as signified by a more even spread of the density and type of social ties), village women and supporting CSOs had more choices in who to lobby for support or to target as champions for women’s empowerment. When power was more concentrated at the onset of entry to the village, CSOs had limited options but to try to find ways to target actors within the predominant networks of influence to gain their support to access both the village and activities with women’s groups.
Once village women and CSOs had mapped and understood these social networks, they were in a position to be able to leverage these networks by identifying potential entry points and people who had significant power in the village that could influence any resistant actors. For example, a core strategy that had significant success was to identify and gain the trust of actors one or at most two steps away from key decision makers who were likely to be resistant to new initiatives. In Bangkalan, networks were concentrated among one family who had long dominated the village government but also were strongly tied to religious institutions. These kinds of ties are evident in the social network map of Bangkalan (Figure 29). In the face of initial resistance from the Village Head, PEKKA targeted his younger brother (who was a school friend of the PEKKA branch head), and the nephew of the Village Head who in his own right had significant sway and strong networks within the village. They in turn helped to convince the Village Head to slowly open the door to PEKKA’s program.
‘Aisyiyah’s strategy to gain access into the village also involved leveraging existing social networks in the village, by building on networks established by ‘Aisyiyah members past. In the past twenty years, young activists of Muhammadiyah (with which ‘Aisyiyah is affiliated) have helped provide social services and donations to orphans in the Cirebon research village, which provided them with an early understanding of the social and economic conditions of the village. From these long-standing connections, ‘Aisyiyah was able to leverage its connection to social networks to access and gain the trust of the village, even though the village on the whole supports another mass Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama.
“In the beginning, I gave donations for some orphans in the village. At first it was only 9 children, then it grew to 18, then 40 the following year until I couldn’t provide more assistance. I have seen from year to year that there are more orphans and I wonder why. It is because their fathers worked as construction labourers in Jakarta. If they do not work overtime, they cannot send money to their family. Because they handle sand and cement every day, they get TB [tuberculosis]… we have three groups in the village. I myself first came to the village twenty years ago. From then, I got to know the village officials … Both of them are old now, and I consider them as my parents. That’s how I got to know other people in the village.” Subdistrict Branch Head, ‘Aisyiyah, 4 March 2019.
Understanding social networks and patterns of influence is also important for CSO adaptive strategies to gain access to villages but also to support village women to navigate and ultimately influence village power structures. This is particularly important in the most difficult villages that are resistant to empowerment initiatives and changing gender norms, in which power is often concentrated in the hands of a small few. But the examples above do show that it is not impossible to slowly influence change even when activities might be initially rejected outright by influential leaders, in particular the Village Head.
Further, the social network maps show that CSOs provided in some cases a crucial link between women’s groups, village organisations and authoritative actors, and agencies and influential actors at the district level. This was helpful for connecting district actors to village-level empowerment initiatives and women’s groups and for village experiences to inform policy. The social network map of the Gresik intervention village in Figure 28 shows these connections between village and district actors, with the MAMPU Partner, KP2SK providing an important node in these connections, particularly in facilitating village women’s access to policy makers. Through these connections came greater awareness of the changes underway at both levels. Indeed, the changes that occurred in the Gresik intervention research village became an important inspiration for the district-level forum to support the scale up of support for similar Women’s School initiatives elsewhere. We see this in the Story of Change case excerpt below in Box 32.
Box 32: A Story of Change in Gresik—Changing Social Norms and Scaling Up Women’s Empowerment Initiatives
“I was married at 13 and had children by 15. I had an arranged marriage. I stayed at the Islamic boarding school [pesantren] for four days, then I was taken and told that I was getting married. It was after I graduated from primary school, I was taken home right away and proposed to. I didn’t know what my husband’s face even looked like. After four days I was just taken… That’s what the arranged marriage was like.” Nining, Gresik research ‘intervention’ village, 24 February 2019.
In 2014, the district regulatory environment in Gresik was relatively conducive to gender-awareness development programs given it had gender mainstreaming regulations, although these were yet to be implemented and had not necessarily translated into on-the-ground practices in villages. In 2014, KAPAL Perempuan and KP2SK, with support from the MAMPU program, gained agreement from the district government through an MoU that enabled them to establish village-level women’s groups, called Women’s Schools. These Women’s Schools seek to address the complex needs of the poorest women in the village.
Through the Women’s Schools, women’s public speaking skills, gender awareness and confidence to participate in public forums were fostered. While some village women had participated in Musrenbangdes before the Women’s Schools lobbied to be explicitly invited, they collectively found that women’s social and gender development priorities were generally overlooked:
“From 2016, I attended the Musrenbang. At the beginning I went with friends. We were not invited, but we always asked the Village Head, “when is the village Musrenbang? When is it? When is it” So, because we asked so often, after a while he was overwhelmed. And it turned out, the Women’s School also wanted to attend the Musrenbang. In the end we were invited. But it was different. There were ten proposals, but the four suggested [by a Women’s School cadre] were rejected.” Endang, Gresik research ‘intervention’ village, February 2019).
Given the village government were unsupportive, the Women’s School cadres then shifted their lobbying attention to the district government. They leveraged their growing connections to district officials for support. The district government—which had committed to supporting the Women’s Schools—exerted pressure on the village government which in turn allocated some funding to the group. Such networked collective action saw results in accessing the Village Fund, although advocacy continues in the village for the institutionalisation of the Women’s School through a Village Regulation.
At the district level, Women’s School members also made recommendations to influential district actors to make greater investments in women’s health issues and against child marriage. This resulted in the issuing of a District Regulation (Perda) prohibiting child marriage, and the establishment of a special Musrenbang forum for women. Despite the entrenchment of patriarchal norms, after five years of village women’s collective efforts with the support of CSOs in the research village, women influenced the implementation of the Village Law to the extent that funding has been allocated from the Village Fund to support the Schools and build women’s knowledge and skills.
“In 2017 it was because the district head supported us and because we had proven the function of Women’s School. We had proven to the district and the district offices [Dinas]. It wasn’t just us in the Women’s Schools who worked, there were also district committees like the monitoring committee. So, we picked up the work from the district offices and we worked together. That is why in 2017 we began attending village Musrenbang. At the Musrenbang we really pursued village funding. It was in 2017 that such goals began be realised [with a fund allocation].” Indah, Women’s School group leader, 22 February 2019.
In addition to women’s ability to speak up in and lobby for their interests in the public sphere, the skills they gained through the Women’s School also improved their ability to do so at home:
“In the past, if my husband was really angry, I could only cry and hold it in, and he was angry even if I was just crying. Now I can talk, maybe sometimes complain, but I know what I am saying is true. I didn’t dare to before but now we can have small discussions.” Lasinem, 19 February 2019.
“Then [after attending Women’s School sessions] we realised what a woman’s needs are and that there are ways to be able to discuss [these needs] with children and families. In the past I could not leave my child at home, but now I can negotiate with my husband to go out.” Indah, 19 February 2019.
The Women’s Schools have thus provided women with the skills and voice to demand and negotiate more power both in the private and public spheres. The district government has recognised that the Schools are a strong model for gender empowerment, and have replicated them in 10 other villages in Gresik.
Partnerships with other organisations
Depending on the nature of the context, CSO’s partnerships with other government or non-government organisations had different degrees of importance for programs. The nature of these partnerships also had implications for MAMPU Partner initiatives—where these partnerships worked well, they were mutually constitutive. Where this was less the case it had the potential to undermine progress in women’s empowerment (see also Section 3).
Partnerships with government
One way to strengthen and scale out the impact of empowerment initiatives is through partnerships with government. Most CSOs established MoUs and multi-stakeholder forums, but some also established more formal partnerships to collaborate on programs and service delivery. On the one hand, this was helpful to undertake activities that required administrative, legal, or other state support (such as legal cases, providing vital documents and responses to cases of violence), but on the other hand, when CSOs helped government to replicate their initiatives but did not control delivery, they could not always ensure quality implementation and the same kind of impacts they might have achieved themselves.
Nonetheless, partnerships proved important for many CSOs to deliver services and situate women in a position so as to be better able to participate in society and ultimately have more agency and voice. In Bangkalan, for example, the national secretariat of PEKKA signed in 2005 a partnership agreement with the Supreme Court on marriage arrangements. This was followed by a partnership agreement between the Office of the Religious Court and PEKKA at the district level in 2011. The agreement was to prioritise poor women assisted by PEKKA to access free marriage certification services. The head of the Bangkalan Religious Court elaborates:
“Without this partnership [between the Religious Court and PEKKA], we face difficulties in using the fund [prodeo quota]. Because people do not know that we have these programs, even though they have urgent needs. They need recognition from the government that they have husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, but no proof. They want the state to recognise them. Maybe they have financial obstacles, maybe they lack information. Maybe they have money, but they have other constraints. Or they have the perception that going to the religious court will cost a lot.” Head of the Religious Court, Bangkalan, 18 February 2019.
Partnerships with CSOs and non-government organisations
In other places, CSOs established partnerships with other organisations. We saw above how BaKTI has maintained multiple networks in Eastern Indonesia and has many partnerships with other organisations undertaking advocacy and empowerment initiatives on a range of issues. Similarly, many of the case studies in this research illustrate partnerships between national and subnational organisations and consortiums so as to share skills, resources, and to have greater collective capacity and reach (see Savirani et al., 2020).
This also occurred among subnational organisations. For example, as part of their strategy, YABIKU in North Timor Tengah approached other CSOs with similar concerns about violence against women. It collaborated with Amanekatob, which allowed the two organisations to divide operational areas/villages between them. YABIKU has conducted empowerment initiatives in the north of the district, while Amanekatob has operated in the south. They worked together, and with village women to lobby for and provide input into the formalisation of the District Regulation on the Protection of Women and Children. YABIKU also expanded its network to the provincial level, partnering with other CSOs, such as Rumah Perempuan (Women’s House), Truk F (F Truck) and others. YABIKU has referred the victims of domestic violence it encounters in regions where it does not have a strong presence to these partners. At the time of the research, it also had partnerships and collaborations with government institutions, such as the District Office for the Empowerment and Protection of Women and Children (DP3A), the District Health, Education and Social Affairs Agencies and the Office for Rural People’s Empowerment.
In advocating on the issues of domestic violence in TTU, YABIKU also worked with church institutions in the research village, in which most are practicing Catholics, and religious (and customary) norms are strong. YABIKU invited the parish priest to participate in YABIKU’s activities to garner support for its agenda in reducing domestic violence in the village, of which rates are high. One breakthrough which resulted from the collaboration is that the Church has embedded teaching materials on domestic violence in its pre-marital courses mandated by Catholic Church for couples intending to marry. Moreover, the church has served as an informal institution dealing with domestic violence. As Catholic beliefs do not allow for divorce, domestic conflicts are often mediated by Bapa Mama Serani, the official Church witnesses at weddings. Thus, the church becomes the initial mechanism for mediation.
“Most of them, before they come to the church to talk about their issues, they visit Bapa Mama Serani first. From the Church’s perspective, it is our duty to protect the sacrament and to foster marital relationships. So, if there are any cases that arise, the ‘parental’ figures [who help resolve disputes] are Bapa Mama Serani—the official Church witnesses to the marriage.” Parish priest, 6 July 2019.
Key features of effective CSO strategies in different contexts
Drawing on the discussion above, below we identify the key aspects of CSOs strategic and adaptive strategies so as to navigate context constraints and harness opportunities at the onset and over time. This constitutes one form of strategic collective action by women’s organisations, as distinct from grassroots collective action by village women (often with the support of these CSOs) that were discussed in the previous sections.