Event / Seminar

Published: 11/03/2005

Regional Autonomy has created a negotiation room which makes local governance more accessible for its stakeholders. Women Research Institute (WRI) conducted 2 stages of research to look at how the new negotiation room affects the definition of gender role in local governance. We view this gender role as a foundation for the stakeholders in the structure of local governance to design and implement various policy agendas. The first stage of our research reveals that most local governance use the definition suggested by gender mainstreaming policy, yet they do not turn it into program or real policy to implement this new definition. Based on this, for the second stage, WRI compared the daily experience of women with the gender assumption used by the government. 

The data collected during the second stage of the research shows that the experience of women has not been considered as an important factor in the making of local regulation. Women have not benefited from the government service optimally and have not been given adequate room to express their needs and ideas and show their potential. It’s an important step to fix this problem in order to improve the quality of local government service, the distribution of benefits for everyone especially women, and women’s participation in the implementation of local governance.


Activity Goals


This discussion is aimed at disseminating WRI’s research results especially to partner organizations that are also engaged in gender studies, women’s rights, and policy studies. The discussion was held on 9 March 2005 in Jakarta. WRI’s research results are expected to serve as additional information for workers in the fields of women’s rights and policy studies.


WRI’s Presentation

In this second stage of the research, WRI looked at several problems in the implementation of local governance.


Women’s Leadership and Participation in Local Political Structure


This problem is highlighted to see women’s status as citizen and actor of local governance. Indonesia proudly declares that women’s political rights are not discriminated and that women have been participating in general election since its independence. However, when viewed more closely, women’s involvement in politics is only limited to their rights to vote or be represented, but not to represent. There is disparity between the number of female officials and male officials in public bodies (legislative and executive). This disparity shows that there is also disparity of opportunity that limit women’s involvement in political public space.

The argumentation used to deny the fact that women have limited access to political public space is the fact that there are no written rules which explicitly hinder women’s participation. WRI’s research shows that even though the government has included gender mainstreaming consideration, yet it has not allocated enough budget and created program to implement this plan. The effort of the government to improve this condition, for example by requiring 30% representations of women in legislative candidacy, is hampered by the discriminative practice against women that is prevalent in the society. This discriminative practice hampers women in gaining the knowledge on public politics and receiving ample training on decision-making. This practice can be found from family to state level and women’s organizations are trying to find a way to correct this discriminative practice.

Public Policy and Its Benefit for Women


Women’s limited participation in the implementation of local governance results in local policy that has not accommodated women’s need. The ongoing transition to regional autonomy prevents local decision makers from implementing their new agenda immediately as they have to wait for the new structure to be fully established. This change causes difficulty in the advocacy of women’s issues at local level particularly in identifying the potential actors to join the cooperation in creating and implementing the new policy agenda which is more gender-sensitive.


On the other hand, there are several regions which utilize their potential to create local regulation that are more gender-sensitive. One of the examples is the discussion about the implementation of local regulation on the prevention and eradication of human trafficking that took place in Manado. This local regulation is an interesting case to examine as it illustrates how the local government responds to the gender needs by creating concrete policy.

In general, public policy created during the implementation of regional autonomy is still based on the New Order’s gender assumption which places women as merely housewives. One of the most obvious examples is the fact that local government does not make any regulation related to women’s health and the protection of female workers. Instead, the local government requires women who work the night shift to pay levy.

Aim of the Research

  • To see the kind of individual or collective acts done by women to influence their local governance during the era of regional autonomy
  • To compare the local level response towards the kind of acts done by women
  • To submit recomendation based on the results of data collection and data analysis. 

Research Methodology

Interview with 10 different categories of male and female respondents namely people from the executive body, members of the legislative body, NGO workers, member of mass orgnanizations and grass root society , religious leaders, community leaders, and businessman.


Literature Reviews (Local Regulations, Books, Journals, and Other Publication Materials)

  • Criticism towards Women’s Political Participation Indicator and the Dichotomy of Public-Private
  • The government opens a wider participation space for women by regulating 30% quota. Even so, this quota only regulates women’s candidacy in legislative body instead of the final results in the composition of legislative body’s members. In their attempt to participate, women still face many obstacles that are originated from the understanding that differentiate between public sphere and private sphere and the gender ideology operating in the society. This affects women in determining their positions in public spheres. Women who are involved in public sphere often find themselves taking double roles as they still have to do domestic chores. 
  • Cultural values and misleading religious interpretation often hinder women’s participation in public space as can be found in local regulation. For instance, in Aceh, it is clearly stated that one of the requirements to be a geucik (leader) is the ability to be imam in prayer. 

Leadership reality in WRI’s research area shows pros and cons

  • The opinion that supports female leadership is based on the argument that a female leader will be more sensitive to problems and she is expected to be able to advocate women’s interests.
  • The argument against female leadership is based on these three points:

– Religious values that are textually interpreted
– Cultural values and the understanding of gender that hinder women
– Having a female leader does not necessarily guarantee that she will fight for women’s interests.


Women’s Roles and the Space to Express Their Needs

  • Women in the structure of descriptive decision making on the reality of roles women play in the research areas. For this, there are example of cases such as the case in Manado, the case of Kebumen regent, and the case of Bundo Kanduang in Solok. 
  • Women’s Civil Organizations 

Local women’s organization development is explained as a continuation of democratization movement at the national level after the fall of the New Order in 1998. The impact of regional autonomy can be seen in the change of the orientation of civil society organizations that are affiliated with the government such as PKK and BKOW. In Manado, for example, there is an organization that tries to create an alternative version of the dominant definition. In Aceh, Mitra Sejati Perempuan Indonesia-Aceh/MISPI (The True Partner of the Indonesian Women-Aceh) creates an alternative version of the Qanun of Sharia Islam.

Communal/Individual Space


Community is an alternative room to meet and discuss the everyday problem without having to change daily routines drastically. As an example is the community in Gianyar during the busy day of practicing the custom.


The individual anxiety to oppose the discourse in community or family is expressed by women to disseminate the alternative discourse in the scarcity of community/family space and as an initial step to go to public space discourse.


WRI proposes an alternative temporary offer for women’s participation which is coalitional politics, a broader alliance which involves women (and even men) from various background of ethnic, class, and ideology to advance the common agenda.



Policy on Public Service for Women in the Era of Regional Autonomy


Four years since the regional autonomy is implemented, one question remains. Does regional autonomy have something to do with the improvement of public service? In the context of regional autonomy, there are three points to be discussed on how far regional autnomy opens the opportunity in improving participation in the making of local policy. There has been a strong assumption that after Law No.22/1999 is issued, local government can independently govern itself and focus more on the needs of the local people. In general, we can say that there is improvement in participation in Java and Sumatera. In relation to the local dynamic−there are active NGOs and improvement in public participation during the process of policy making. At the same time, there hasn’t been any public participation improvement in policy making in the eastern part of Indonesia. For example, in Berau, there is no policy scheme which involves the public in the making of public policy.


In East Kalimantan, there have been efforts to involve public participation since 2-3 years ago. As an example is the dissemination of policy draft through the local media. This example cannot be found in the eastern part of Indonesia. There is no specific data on this, yet the general tendency best illustrates the condition. Will public participation involvement create an opportunity in the making of better public policy? In Surabaya, the policy on the improvement of public service is still very limited and only in the fourth year, we can see policy which improves public service. 

How far public service is improved since the implementation of regional autonomy in 2001? The findings show that the policy to improve public service is only a justification to say that the local government has sided with the public aspirations and needs. As an example is the one-roof public service. In reality, the public service is still rambling and inefficient. Is there any improvement of public service for women in the era of regional autonomy? In Kupang, we can see institutions that provide direct service such as demographic institution. Even though the number of women is high, yet the position of women is low. This shows the bureaucratic mindset in seeing the position of women. Because of this, in the next 5 years, the improvement of public service will still face difficult obstacle. Regional autonomy restricts the accommodation opportunity for women to get involved in the making of regional policy.

The Strategy for Maternal Mortality Rate Reduction in the Era of Regional Autonomy


Maternal mortality happens during the period of pregnancy until 40 days after delivery. Maternal mortality has not been taken seriously by the government even though this serves as an indicator whether the government is committed to women’s reproductive health or not. Up to now, there has not been significant reduction in the rate of maternal mortality because there is no clear government’s program aimed at reducing the rate. The current program has not explained in details what the targets and strategis are. A percentage of 11,1% of maternal mortality is caused by abortion, and thus the strategy needed is the strategy to overcome poverty and the low level of education. Moreover, culture also affects maternal mortality rate. For example is the eating culture where the father eats first, and then the kids. In this, the mother will eat the last. As a result, the mother will only eat the leftovers or even nothing even when she is pregnant. There is also religious and moral influence. Abortion is seen as a justification of free sex even though in reality, abortion is also committed by married couple. As an example, in order to join higher education program, a female police officer cannot have 3 kids.


There are regulation and field data that don’t match each other. There should be effort to change the abortion law that only allows abortion for medical purpose. There is a case when the wife works while the husband does not and the woman has to commit abortion because her workplace does not allow her to have kid.


In the era of regional autonomy, there is a chance to make regulations that are more pro-women. The quick replacement of regent also affects the continuation of program to reduce maternal mortality rate which often has to be started all over again. The factors that affect maternal mortality differ from one area to another. We cannot rely on the health agency alone. In fact, health decentralization has not included reproductive health and is merely about health in general. We hope that there will be cooperation between NGOs to influence the local government to issue policy that is pro-women especially in relation to women’s reproductive health.


Seven paragraphs of the Law No.33/1999 regulate women’s reproductive health. There are discussions on women’s rights at workplace, wage discrimination, and the fact that women are seldom made permanent workers because of their reproductive functions. This violates women’s rights. To overcome this, we cannot expect the central government to handle such problem by itself, yet this has to be done by the local government working together with NGOs so that the target to reduce maternal mortality rate can be achieved by 2015.


The Impact of Regional Autonomy on the Democratization Process in Indonesia. Has it involved women’s participation?


There are 2 points of view in viewing the ongoing reformation. In Indonesia, many still consider the democracy as the democracy of the villain. The impacts of regional autonomy need to be studied through in-depth empirical studies or research.


Based on WRI’s research report, we come to the conclusion that changes do take place, yet they are very small and that there is still discrimination against women. There are 4 factors that influence discrimination. In many other countries, decentralization wave still causes many problems. In Indonesia, the decentralization is still done half-heartedly since there hasn’t been any pioneer, the driving force of decentralization. 

Cultural values (such as kembali ke nagari), fundamental custom and religion, and the value of the New Order are several things that hinder women and result in discrimination against women. There is a need for political space reformulation to enable women to enter political space. When women cannot enter the political space, there should be another alternative space for women to participate in politics. There is a need to redefine the role of the state in relation to its responsibility in protecting the weak (including women).


  • We also have to consider that the high number of maternal mortality is because of poverty, low level of education, and limited opportunity for women in all fields. 
  • Health decentralization has not included reproductive health and is only limited to health in general. It is hoped that the cooperation among NGOs to encourage the local government to issue policy that will help women, especially in getting the access to reproductive health service. 
  • From the APBD, we can see the consistency of the local government in providing its public service. The article on local consultation prior to the determination of public policy needs to be addressed carefully. What can we do to improve our public service? Restoring public democratization agenda. 
  • To avoid women marginalization because of Law No.22, we need to present the profile of men/women in legislative body and the APBD profile to see if they are related with regional autonomy and whether they are improving or not. 
  • There is a need for political space reformulation to enable women to enter political space. When women cannot enter the political space, there should be another alternative space for women to participate in politics. 
  • There is a need to redefine the role of the state in relation to its responsibility in protecting the weak (including women).
  • The deliberation space in the village influences the process of policy making. With the redefinition of politics, women should not be afraid of politics since it actually covers something broader. 
  • Public space is not by default positive. It is influenced by the ruling groups and it is dictated by the interest of the most powerful group. ***