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Women’s Voice and Leadership (We Lead)

In 2019, JASS Southeast Asia and Hivos Southeast Asia along with our partner organizations (Fahmina, FAMM Indonesia, Mahardhika, Rahima, Rumah KitaB), supported by Global Affairs Canada, initiated a transformative journey as the We Lead consortium, dedicated to strengthening the voice and leadership of women in Indonesia.

My involvement with We Lead made me believe that the change is possible. We are changing knowledge systems, we are building safe spaces, and we are fostering enthusiasm among the women in our communities and gaining the strength to continue these conversations. This inspiration will only continue to grow. – Vevi, young journalist, Indonesia

The We Lead consortium challenges and counters the negative impact and influence of religious fundamentalisms on women’s freedoms. It is operating in 14 Indonesian provinces, We Lead consists of 7 women’s rights organizations made up of 200 community-based women’s groups. Co-led by JASS Southeast Asia and Hivos Southeast Asia and supported by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the core organizations are Fahmina Institute, Forum Aktivis Perempuan (FAMM Indonesia), Perempuan Mahardhika, Rahima, and Rumah KitaB.

In five years, the consortium has developed women-friendly Islamic narratives and regulations in Islamic institutions, and supported women human rights defenders opposing land grabs. The We Lead consortium is a testament to how women and girls in Islamic schools and rural communities are leading change, building communities, and creating solutions at the local, regional and global levels to achieve justice and equality.

What are WeLead’s objectives and goals?

Uses a three-pronged approach of leadership building, awareness raising and facilitation to enable women to access and reclaim political, physical, digital and cultural spaces that are increasingly dominated by conservative forces.

By supporting the growth of a committed feminist movement, they envision empowered women’s organizations that effectively engage with and challenge conservative groups and narratives that justify repressing women’s social, political and legal rights.

To develop an increased understanding and practice of intersectional feminism, they pay attention to how women’s overlapping identities — including class, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination.

They target a diverse cadre of women activists drawn from campuses, villages, religious groups, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups and young activists. In addition to the diverse and inclusive nature of our target groups, topics related to environment, labor, extractives and land, minority identities, sexuality and pluralism will be addressed.

Hear from the women of We Lead

I realized that, all this time, I had misjudged my LBT friends. I am grateful that I met and conversed with Cung.

Theresia Siti
Community organiser
Organisation: FAMM Indonesia

At that time, I didn’t have the capacity to recognize it as a wound, what its impact was, and how to heal it or to strategize a recovery. All I knew was that I was angry.

Dewi Aryanu
Community organiser
Organisation: FAMM Indonesia

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.

Vevi Alfi Maghfiroh
Young journalist
Organisation: Fahmina Institute

Never in my life did I think I would be able to interact so closely with the Dayak people. It turned out that they were not as frightening as their depiction in my family’s stories.

Community organiser
Organisation: Perempuan Aman-Lou Bawe

Even though I started my struggle and learning process on gender issues long before my time at PSGA, leading and controlling the direction of PSGA’s journey made me second-guess myself.

Mufliha Wijayanti
Lecturer at a State Islamic University
Organisation: Rumah KitaB

Our approach

A key assumption that underlies the program is that when women’s organizations and networks are more effective in advocating for gender equality and in addressing discriminatory beliefs and practices, they will be able to result in change that contributes to increased enjoyment of human rights by women and girls.

As an FPAR facilitator, I felt challenged to use methods that were not considered boring by the participants, such as games, funny stories, and meeting these women more often. I found that through these methods, I was able to build a well-developed relationship with them. ~ Theresia

In some of the classes on SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics) and sexuality in general, I always felt empty, always starting from scratch. The materials are very easy to understand, but what is difficult is understanding one’s own sexuality. ~ Dewi

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. ~ Vevi

Becoming an FPAR facilitator made me learn to appreciate every process; to always create a safe and comfortable atmosphere; to not patronize the participants, let alone dominate the conversation; to believe in the participants’ abilities and their stories, knowledge, values, and attitudes to be neutral; to be non-judgmental; to practice active listening; and to be empathetic and sensitive towards participants’ concerns and discomfort. ~ Yuliana

Witnessing how the facilitators and members of the We Lead network communicated, I felt like it was a humanizing pattern of communication. Without hesitation, I tried to imitate their ways, the way they ask questions, their tone of voice, body gestures, and choices of words. ~ Mufliha

Impact and results

Target outcomes of the program:

  • Improved management and sustainability of local women’s rights organizations in Indonesia, particularly those representing vulnerable and marginalized women and girls.
  • Enhanced performance of women’s rights organizations’ programming and advocacy to advance gender equality in Indonesia.
  • Increased effectiveness of national and sub-national women’s rights platforms, networks and alliances in advocating for gender equality (in policy, implementation), and in addressing discriminatory beliefs and harmful practices.

Read about the achievements of We Lead in Women’s Voice and Leadership (We Lead) 2019-2023.

Key Learnings

The diversity of FAMM Indonesia members greatly contributed to changing my way of thinking in interpreting life and the social issues surrounding it. ~ Theresia

For all human beings, anyone who has had the same experience of being marginalized, discriminated against, and is familiar with violence of various forms, there is no other choice but to empathize and build solidarity for a life that is far more secure, comfortable, equal, prosperous, peaceful, and healing. ~ Dewi

Now, I have the courage to express my perspectives, while in the past, I only had the courage to write them down. ~ Vevi

Through the reflection, I realized that I wanted to live a life that made me proud and fulfilled; I wanted to actively participate in helping other women in Lou Bawe; I wanted to keep being part of the FPAR, which would let me live my life. ~ Yuliana

Meanwhile, my friends and I must also face the challenges of resistance and negative attributions to gender justice and activism at all levels…It is important to consider strategies and the art of communication so that the idea reaches others. ~ Mufliha

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