Event / Seminar

Published: 14/03/2005

The changes that took place in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam because of the Tsunami have destroyed the entire public service infrastructure, public safety, and people’s welfare. The reconstruction process has been the agenda of the central government and international institutions, but this is not followed by the process of raising the awareness among the people on the importance of their participation in the reconstruction process and the need to formulate a strategy for social reconstruction together.


Before the Tsunami happened in Aceh, the people of Aceh had faced problems related to prolonged conflicts which eventually led to poverty, especially for women.


This seminar was held in Jakarta on 9 March 2005 by Women Research Institute. This discussion concluded that women’s needs and thoughts have to be incorporated in the reconstruction concept. This discussion aimed at formulating Social Reconstruction in Aceh which involves women.


Syarifah Rahmatillah (Mitra Sejati Perempuan Indonesia-Aceh)
The Involvement of Women in Aceh Social Reconstruction


There were many works that were stopped in Aceh when the Tsunami happened. Because of the Tsunami, many organizations had to change their orientations to emergency works. The social condition in Aceh itself did not change much even though there were a lot of emergency works that had been done.

The involvement of Aceh women in decision making process is of no difference with the position of women in Indonesia in general. The overview of WRI’s research shows that the position of women in Indonesia is nearly the same. In Aceh, the problems faced by women are more difficult and complex due to the conflict. Before discussing the quality of women’s involvement, we faced another conflict and natural disaster. However, the goals and positions that we want to achieve remain the same before and after the Tsunami.

Aceh women’s position in decision making process is still very low. With the implementation of Law No.44, the decision makers in Aceh are: Consultative Assembly of Ulema (MPU) and Legislative and Executive Bodies. According to this law, the roles of the ulemass are very significant as they belong to the group that is involved in and is responsible for creating regulations in the context of Aceh.


The thing that needs to be highlighted in discussing about women is to give context to the discussion. In reality, in the making of Qanun in Aceh, women are not involved. The triangle of decision makers is constituted of MPU and legislative and executive bodies.

Among the ulemass, the focus of Aceh women movement is to open a space for women. Fatwa is considered as very important, and thus, female ulemass need to get themselves involved in the making of policy. If they do not involve themselves, it will create an image of women against men.

In addition to having control over the grass root movements, we also need to have a legal basis for the strengthening and empowering of women. During the 2004 election, there was a significant change on the representation of women in Aceh. In the previous election, the number of women was almot 0% which became 36% in the next election.

Before the Tsunami hit Aceh, there were women organizations who conducted capacity building for women to enable them to get involved in the MPU and legislative body. However, this women’s empowerment effort was very minimum and the dialogue was only touching the surface without really discussing the needs of the victims of conflict especially women and children.


The condition of Aceh after the Tsunami became an extra work. The steps of the work include emergency response, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. Where is women’s participation? It’s not the time to talk about men and women. It’s the time to focus on the hungry.


Women were not involved in the rehabilitation process and only men were involved. We can see an example of this in the distribution of economic aid and in the making of barracks. The women were even not knowledgeable about women’s issues. As a result, the construction of barracks did not accommodate the needs of women and children (sanitation and private room).

Women’s Issues:

  • Civil property rights will disadvantage women because in the certification of land, almost all certificates are made with the names of men. Women, without the understanding of land ownership, are prone to be the victims of the current data collection. 
  • In terms of the fulfillment of needs, women are often not involved. As an example is in the distribution of funding for informal sector which does not reach women who mostly work in the informal sector. 
  • Women’s health is not taken seriously as can be seen from the fact that there is no special allocation for women’s health. 
  • The education system that is being designed for Aceh is focused on formal education while non-formal groups play significant roles in the education in Aceh and the informal sector is where Aceh women are mostly in. 
  • We need to have legal products to ensure that women’s needs are taken into account. 

Lailisma Sofyati (Banda Aceh Women’s Empowerment Bureau)
The Role of the Government in the Aftermath of Tsunami


Before the Tsunami, the number of women was less than the number of men in Aceh. Since the 15th Century, there had been a queen in Aceh, Nih Rasih, who ruled for 34 years during the Sultanah era. Women were also involved in the People’s Court and acted as ulee baling. Currently, the position of women in Aceh is not as good as it used to (data on women’s position in Aceh).


The gender units were divided into 5 working groups namely: 1) the data team who designs the method for data collection and the recruitment of data collectors, 2) the advocacy team, 3) the monitoring team, 4) the economic rehabilitation team, and 5) the legal team who helps women on guardianship, inheritance, and ownership.


Women’s participation in Aceh has not been maximized. Several works were done by the government after the establishment of the Bureau of Women’s Empowerment both through focal point and coordination with related institutions. These works were in the form of workshop, seminar, photography exhibition, and campaign. The team from the Bureau of Women’s Empowerment is currently visiting the refugees’ barracks to train women how to sew and cook so that women will have activities to do. The focus of the monitoring in the barracks is to ensure the stability of the barracks. Up to this far, the bureau does not have operational vehicles. The bureau also visited Aceh Besar where the facilities were very limited and even water was not available. In the formulation of local budget, business capital for the female refugees is proposed.


The Bureau also held workshop to gain people’s aspirations on socio cultural aspect where the gender team came to give inputs. The long-term plan for the reconstruction includes the psychosocial program, program on the improvement of women’s quality of life, psychological rehabilitation for the victims of conflict and the Tsunami.

Debra Helen Yatim (Yayasan Aceh Kita/ Our Aceh Foundation)
Social Reconstruction by Aceh’s Civil Society


Aceh people want to erase the memory of the past Aceh or before the Tsunami to start a new Aceh. One of the healing processes is done through arts. As an instance, Rafli used music as his traumatic healing method.


RPUK IDP refugees fled to the house of their friends and relatives. One household can accommodate up to 30-40 people. The natural healing was done through sharing their stories and memories of the death at night. The culturally sensitive healing supports people who then volunteer themselves to help the other survivors.


This healing is done by Aceh people through arts and discussion on happiness and sadness. The people of Aceh try to build their houses with the wood donated by international bodies. They can build their houses with the help of their neighbors and relatives. Ratna Sarumpaet who received tent aid also did the same. They also created their own gampong with a geuchik and a reading room for children.


The refugees who refused to live in the barracks could not receive aid because a permission letter from a barrack’s post is required. This is not a simple problem especially when it comes into contact with the army. Until today, the collection of categorized data on refugee is still a problem.

7 Principles of Recovery for Aceh People (7 initiatives to create women’s initiative)

  • Learning
  • Looking for job
  • Looking for role model in charismatic leaders.
  • Pursuing happiness
  • Being passionate again
  • Being strong again
  • Being confident

Alexander Irwan (TIFA Foundation)
Multiplayer Strategy in the Social Reconstruction of Aceh: Where are the Women’s Voices?


Alexander Irwan agrees that Aceh after Tsunami does not change much. Civil emergency, conflict between the army and GAM, and discrimination against women are still seen in Aceh. There are still several conflicting interests. The exploitation of Aceh by Jakarta and the North Sumatera by having the central control over the local decision making also does not change.


Inclusive and representative meeting to gather the people of Aceh is still very difficult to hold. Women representation in such forum to formulate their needs is also still far from successful.


It turned out that the people of Aceh do not hold regular meeting the way they used to have it. The last ulemas’s meeting was held in 1999. In this kind of meeting, we could actually see female tengku (religious leader). The ulemas in Aceh focus more on the future of Aceh. Their concern is about the peace-making process and the revision of the Special Regional Autonomy Law. They ulemas had joined the drafting process once, yet their inputs were revised in the final draft.


Reflecting on the experience thus far, we cannot force to have women in ulemas meeting. We still have to come up with a better idea on how to involve women organizations in the effort to encourage women’s participation in ulemas meeting.


The academician meeting was held under the monitoring of the regional police. However, none of the participant was female. The last Aceh women’s meeting was held in Medan to prepare for a bigger women’s meeting whose main aim is always to achieve Aceh women’s welfare. As an instance is the number of women in the parliamentary, which becomes one of the Gender Empowerment Measures (GEM). This is, however, is not a fixed indicator since it is possible to have an increase in GEM, but the HDI (Human Development Index) decreases. In Jembrana, the GEM decreased, yet the HDI increased because of the availability of free school and etc. The increase in the number of women in parliament is already an achievement, yet we still have to think about how to make this achievement positively correlates with Aceh women’s welfare.


The things that we have to do are: 1) fix the data on the poor which should include the information of the cause of poverty and are classified based on the sex of the individual since there is a possibility that the cause of poverty is diverse for each sex 2) make an allocation from the local budget for women’s welfare 3) advocate women’s participation in Musrenbang (development planning deliberation).




The changes that took place in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam caused by the Tsunami have destroyed all public infrastructures and facility as well as the welfare of the people. The reconstruction process becomes the agenda of the central government and international organizations. However, this is not followed by an effort to raise people’s awareness on the importance of their participation in the reconstruction of NAD and more importantly on the need to have a shared thought on the strategy for social reconstruction in Aceh.


Besides the Tsunami, people in Aceh had previously experienced problems related to prolonged conflict which led to poverty especially for Aceh women.


This discussion concluded that women’s though and interest should be incorporated in the concept of reconstruction in Aceh.

  • There is a need to redefine the political space since a shared interest has not been formed. Also, there is a need to create a network to support women’s needs. 
  • Women have to get involved to express their needs that cannot be expressed or understood by men.
  • The involvement of women should be integrated into the discussion of women’s welfare. When discussing the discourse of Aceh women’s identity, the main aim is always to achieve Aceh women’s welfare.
  • Women should get involved in the making of blue print so that the policy in education, health, and law is more accommodating towards their needs. We have learned from the experience that when women participation is low in the decision making process, we have to consider a legal product that will ensure the fulfillment of women’s needs. ***