JASS SEA women from Cambodia, East Timor, Malaysia, Philippines, and Indonesia are in Bandung, Indonesia for a regional political planning focused on strengthening and amplifying the alternative agendas produced by grassroots organizing and young feminist mobilization with strategic alliances across Southeast Asia. The workshop provides a space for women from across the region to come together and share their experiences and strategies on women’s organizing.
The struggle against discrimination and injustice for women is not only a Timor Leste struggle but a struggle for all women of Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. This motivates us. When I have challenges and struggles in my personal life and my work, and I think I don’t have support and don’t have anywhere to go, I have JASS. JASS is my family. JASS is my home. -Yasinta Lujina, young feminist leader, East Timor
While problems such as violence against women and lack of reproductive rights cut across all borders, participants focused their analysis on women’s growing poverty and economic insecurity. Participants spent a day in the village of Subang meeting with a rural women’s cooperative organized by PEKKA. They told stories of their 8 years of organizing — today they have paralegals who accompany women to the police and courts and the profits generated from their cooperative have been invested in a women’s community center and radio program. The conversations were broadcast live! In the recent elections, they even backed one of their leaders. “Organize and be recognized,” said one of the women describing their mission.
The work being done by PEKKA and other cooperative credit union organizations like Pesada focus on education and training on financial management, providing sustainable economic alternatives for women. They are fundamentally different from micro-finance institutions, whose model places women as borrowers responsible for repayment of loans, and instead, in cooperative credit unions women are the owners and put the power and control over money directly into the hands of women. “This is not poverty reduction. This is not micro-finance. This is EMPOWERMENT.” –Dina Lumbatobing, Pesada/JASS SEA, Indonesia
Gathering again in the workshop on the last day, participants developed strategies linking grassroots economic and political empowerment to regional advocacy to influence the economic agenda of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). “The most important thing is to keep building our solidarity with each other. That’s a source of our power.” -Jojo Guan, Center for Women’s Resources, Philippines