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Building safe spaces to support young women’s participation in local governance in Indonesia

Date added: June 27, 2017

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Barriers to young (especially unmarried) women’s participation in public spaces include the prevailing view that doing so violates social norms, young women’s often low level of education, and family expectations. Many young women have internalised their marginalisation and lack the confidence to participate in community forums.

This practitioner research, carried out by women’s empowerment organisation FAMM Indonesia, (Forum Aktivis Perempuan Muda - Young Women Activists Forum) brings the voices of young women into the conversation about the allocation of local government resources and social accountability.

The Practice Paper describes participatory action research carried out in partnership with eight grassroots Indonesian women’s NGOs. Preliminary focus group discussions laid the foundation for a series of movement-building initiative workshops to strengthen rural young women’s leadership capacity, encourage critical awareness and develop their roles as community organisers.

The paper includes insights from a conversation between Niken Lestari and Francesca Feruglio, who managed FAMM Indonesia’s practitioner research grant.  They reflect critically on how issues of power shape young women’s individual and collective participation in village-level decision-making.

The practioners describe how they had an ideal concept of participation – to provide encouragement and facilitation to bring more young women to formal forums. But actually, when they started the research process, they found out that young women just don’t feel comfortable and useful in those forums. Also, the hidden politics in village governance means the invited spaces are only consultative, but have no decision-making power. So practitioner strategy is now focusing on how to strengthen informal relations and build informal spaces where decisions are actually taken.

Ultimately, capacity-building for young women needs to be be accompanied by the development of their economic autonomy and formal education. In this way, the opportunity to develop their economic skills is a motivating factor to get more involved in leadership capacity-building.

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