Formed to challenge the lack of women’s representation in the Indonesian government, the Balcony Faction has become a powerful platform for getting women to speak out directly to legislators in session. Protesting from the balcony of Parliament, Indonesian women are making it impossible for Parliamentarians to ignore their advocacy demands. Maria Mustika, Indonesia’s country representative for JASS Southeast Asia explains, “When we have Parliament meetings in Indonesia, citizens can’t join the discussions directly but we can listen from the balcony. We listen and we provoke them (the Parliamentarians) with noises. If they make the wrong decision or statement, we let them know. The women’s movement in Indonesia is doing this and becoming more famous or infamous with this kind of action“.
PEKKA, (or the Women-Headed Households Empowerment Program), a women’s NGO that organizes poor women head of households in Indonesia, is one of the women’s organizations in Indonesia that spearheads the Balcony Faction protests. PEKKA has been a partner of JASS since 2002.
Women in PEKKA and JASS agree that to challenge government policies and laws, one must start with challenging the Parliament deliberations. Oemi Faezathi, a community organizer from PEKKA, narrates how they strategize for the Balcony Faction protest action, “The Balcony Faction is not an everyday form of protest. We have to know when the legislation hearing or dialogue is scheduled. We prepare the women in the communities first by educating them about proposed legislations, for example, and the issues. In every district there is preparation. After that, we get the schedule of legislative dialogue or hearing.”
The Balcony Faction plays an important role especially when, as Oemi notes, “The bottom line is when you do Balcony, this is how we are exercise our rights as women.” And for Indonesian women activists, although they are literally at the sidelines in Parliament, their rebellious presence is putting their voices on front and center.