Skip to content

By Vevi Alfi Maghfiroh, young journalist, Indonesia


I was born in Indamayu’s coastal region, and for me, my birthplace decides the kind of path that I have to walk on every single day. Since I was a child, I’ve known how hard it is to be born as a girl. 

After studying and serving at Pesantren Tebuireng (an Islamic Boarding School) for six years, I decided to return to my hometown, Indramayu. This was the turning point in my life, because I got to know and work on various issues such as gender studies, Islam, and community and media-based women’s empowerment.

The Starting Point of Change

Fortunately, six months after I came back to my hometown, I had the opportunity to attend a ”Women Writers” training in Bandung. This training was the starting point for me. I gained new knowledge related to a progressive perspective and method of interpretation called  mubadalah. I finally started writing articles on a variety of issues, especially articles related to  fiqh studies (Islamic jurisprudence)  and women’s issues in online media using the mubadalah perspective.

From this writing journey, I began the process of internalizing gender perspectives and women’s issues and started a literacy movement. This, of course, can’t be separated from the fact that a lot of parties engaged with me, influenced me, and sparked a new awareness within me about something that I had never thought of before. Apart from learning about the  mubadalah and about the women’s rights organization Fahmina Institute, I also had the opportunity to join the Women’s March in Indramayu. I began to understand various real issues that are faced by women and children in Indramayu District – which are very complex.

In 2020, I decided to create a women’s literacy community called Wadon Dermayu Menulis to gather Indramayu’s women literacy activists to convey their writing ideas, while also introducing the perspective that women’s knowledge and experience should be used as the basis for looking at various problems.

From Writing Articles to Facilitating Workshops

In 2021, I had the opportunity to attend the Youth Daurah Kader Ulama Perempuan (DKUP, Daurah Cadre of Women Ulemas or Muslim Scholars) training initiated by  Fahmina Institute and We Lead, a consortium composed of seven women’s rights organizations working in Indonesia. This was a good opportunity for me to improve my capacity further, especially in conveying ideas of gender justice. 

Participating in Fahmina Institute’s DKUP training served as an opportunity for me to strengthen the foundation of my knowledge of women’s rights, which was just recently built. Meeting with a lot of participants from various communities and large organizations that are engaged in women’s issues and empowerment made me more optimistic to be  istiqomah (not go astray) in following the path of this movement.

The gathering of young women, the Nyais (senior women ulemas), the Nings (respected women ulemas) from pesantren (Islamic boarding schools), and all parties who are feeling the same anxiety in a safe space gave me the strength and inspiration to be bold in taking another step. Throughout this training, the participants were equipped with various gender-just Islamic perspectives, methodologies, and Islamic knowledge that were enough to deal with my anxiety at that time.

Now, I have the courage to express my perspectives, while in the past, I only had the courage to write them  down. I started to become a speaker in several research forums, both online and offline.

For example, on 12 April 2021, I had the opportunity to be the featured speaker in an online workshop with Puan Menulis with the title “Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers do not fast in Ramadan, Qodho or Fidyah? This is the answer” via Instagram live @puanmenulis. In June 2021, my friends and I from the Wadon Dermayu Menulis community initiated and created the BMB Writing Intensive Class for female writers. I facilitated a Zoom session in which I taught them how to write popular articles. I was also invited as a speaker at the Women’s March in Indramayu in a session titled ‘Get to know Menstruation, Let’s go!‘ through Instagram live. 

I began to have the courage to attend and talk in discussion forums organized by communities and other movement-based organizations.; During the Tebuireng Pesantren alumni meeting, we discussed “Protection of Children and Women from Violence,” as well as at the Feminism Discussion Forum of Senyum Puan, Faculty of Law, University of Mataram. I was also invited to be a respondent at a women’s webinar titled ‘Sharia Practices and Traditions that Harm Women’ with the Middle East and Africa Women’s Alliance. I was also a presenter at the School of Islam and Gender Kopri PMII in Indramayu.

After that, I began to have the courage to empower and accompany victims of gender-based violence (GBV) in a case resolution through the Selendang Puang Dharma Ayu Foundation, which was established at the end of 2021 in Indramayu.

The Change is Here

Although my story of change may not be as special as what others have gone through and experienced, my journey with Fahmina Institute’s DKUP network through the We Lead program made me believe that the change is here. We are changing knowledge, we are building safe spaces, and we are fostering enthusiasm and gaining the strength to continue the process to bring more benefits to our communities.

I remember the messages of encouragement and guidance from our teachers at KUPI (Indonesian Women’s Ulema Congress). I always remember that Buya Husein used to say — that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Or Mr. Faqihuddin’s statement that we should no longer curse, mourn, and grieve over the past paradigm, but must turn it into strength. Take the good things and build upon them in accordance with the current era, for the benefit of all people. And the message that Ms. Nur Rofiah told us in all of her classes, that if we are doubting a certain religious view, it doesn’t mean that we are criticizing God’s revelation that is written in the Qur’an, but its interpretations that are dominated by men and are still biased against women.

Likewise, when we are doubting the scientific paradigm, it means that we are re-exploring the views of scientists and philosophers who are still predominantly men, making science gender-biased. When we are doubting the prevailing laws and regulations, we are actually concerned about the leaders, in which the majority of them are men, making them relatively insensitive towards women’s experiences and perspectives.

With my perspective strengthened and sharpened, and the safe space provided by the teachers in the KUPI network and alumni of Fahmina Institute’s DKUP training in the We Lead program, I am personally more confident in the value that I believe, live, and advocate for: the gender justice messages within the Islamic gender perspective. There are many things that we must continue to fight for as women, and we must strive to empower ourselves to reach the stage where we are able to empower others.

This inspiration will continue to grow, as long as we are connected by the same thread in the women’s movement safe spaces. From today onwards, I hope that I’ll continue to spread my ideas through writings, to convey various ideas using gender perspectives in various media, to initiate writing clinics, as well as to deliver them in various discussion forums. I’ll keep organizing social movements and facilitating mentoring for the local and bigger communities, both now and in the future.

Related Posts

Back To Top