Building U.S.-Indonesia Mutual Understanding Since 1994

Indonesia’s Civil Society in Action

A robust nongovernmental sector is generally considered to be an essential ingredient in maintaining a successful democracy.  Three recent USINDO programs brought Indonesian civil society leaders or partners to the podium to describe the activities of their organizations.  This is one of three reports on these programs.

Gefarina Djohan
Chair, Kaukus Perempuan Politik Indonesia (KPPI)
(Women’s Political Caucus of Indonesia)

Gefarina Djohan, in Washington to receive the first annual Madeleine K. Albright grant on behalf of KPPI, provided a snapshot of her nongovernmental organization dedicated to increasing women’s representation in government.  Her organization is partnered with the National Democratic Institute.

Indonesia’s Constitution, as amended in 2003, stipulates that 30 percent of those nominated to be members of the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat or DPR) should be women.  Ms. Djohan’s NGO was organized, in part, to address the goal of increasing the number of women candidates in the elections of 2004.  She was able to report some progress, but there remains a long way to go.  However, a growing member base and network system makes KPPI an organization to watch in the future.

“We increased the percentage of women in the DPR but we didn’t reach our goal,” she said.   “Before 2004 8.8 percent of parliament members were women.  After the 2004 elections 11.9 percent of members are women.”

In the DPD however 9.4 percent of nominees were women but 21 percent of those elected are women.  The DPD (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah), a new body created by the constitutional reforms, consists of four members from each of the then 27 provinces.  While DPR candidates must be members of political parties, DPD candidates may not be.

Djohan has server, until the recent party congress, as deputy secretary general of the National Awakening Party (PKB), a party associated with the Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim organization, but she said that KPPI takes members from all parties and is not associated with any one.  Parti Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS), an up and coming party based on Islamist ideals, is on the executive board of KPPI, Djohan said.  “We have no problem with that.  More than 30 percent of PKS candidates were women.”

Within party organizations, she suggested, it was not necessarily difficult for women to get nominated but it was difficult to get elected.  Parties tended to put the women at the bottom of their party lists, with the result that women were the last to be chosen to fill the seats won by the party.  Their greater success in the DPD suggests that they fare better outside the party system, but the DPD is a new body with as yet undefined powers.

Djohan said the priorities of KPPI were capacity-building, advocacy, expanding a database and fund raising.  So far, fund raising has not been a “success for women.”  In response to questions she said that wealthy Indonesian women have not been good sources of funding because there are “too few” of them.  The concept of Emily’s List, a U.S. political organization that raises money for women political candidates, seemed as yet unfamiliar to Djohan, although she was scheduled to meet with them later in the week to hear about their fundraising techniques.

KPPI seems to be saving its energy to get women elected and to provide capacity-building skills for those elected.  It does not take positions on issues and does not partner with other issue-oriented bodies such as Komnas Perempuan, the National Commission on Violence Against Women.  The idea is to strive for leadership roles for women in the legislature.  “If women are decision makers, all policies can change,” she said.