[Highlights from the Field] The making of women’s peace builders in Indonesia

Dec 1, 2015

Image: Former refugee, Valentina, discussing her experience in conflict areas of Indonesia

Kupang, November, 2015 - Valentina is a former refugee who fled violence in East Timor in 1998. She relocated to a leprosy community in Lembata where she lived for years, before building a new life as an Indonesian civil servant for the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Body, in the East Nusa Tenggara Province.

She is one of the 25 participants of a recent workshop in the Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) province organized by UNDP’s Peace through Development of Disadvantaged Areas (PTDDA) project, which promoted the involvement of women in peace building and conflict prevention.

For her, the training carried a deep connection to her personal mission.  

“I do not want other people to have to go through a similar situation I had to struggle with as a refugee,” the forty-four year old woman said on the sidelines of the three-day workshop in the provincial city of Kupang.  The seaside city once hosted thousands of refugees like her from the neighboring East Timor, during the 1999 post-referendum violence.

Funded by New Zealand Aid, the PTDDA project has taken a preventive approach to building resilience through the development of peace building capacities and effective post-conflict dialogues at the grassroots, community and institutional levels. This project built on the successes achieved by its preceding project, Peace through Development (PTD).

To address post-conflict recovery and future conflict prevention, the roles and perspectives of all community members must be considered. Therefore, PTDDA has facilitated various training sessions to foster social cohesion by improving the capacity of both women and men alike.

A UNWOMEN report in 2015, finds that more than half of the world’s maternal deaths occur in conflict-affected and fragile states; while, conversely, women’s participation in peace processes increases the probability of these peace agreements lasting at least two years by 20 per cent. PTDDA has acknowledged these gender dimensions and believes that inclusive participation is fundamental to achieving peace and security.

NTT province was chosen for the training, as it had become a place of the displaced people fleeing conflict in East Timor region. Furthermore, the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection recently conducted an awareness campaign on the country’s action plan on Protection and Empowerment of Women and Children in Social Conflict.

Technical Analyst for Conflict Prevention of Democratic Governance and Poverty Reduction Unit of UNDP, Maja Suhud, said women play a central role in the success of their program because the inclusion of women in peace building initiatives and trainings is a means of equipping them with skills and knowledge to become advocates for Women, Peace and Security (WPS) issues.

“As women continue to face capacity and resource constraints, the inclusion of women in peace building makes them able to act as resource person and help in influencing government policies that impact the welfare and empowerment of women.”

Valentina echoed these remarks adding that women need to have greater access and improved opportunities to take a meaningful and active role in peace building.

The training addressed peace building and post-conflict situations by discussing strategies of advocacy, negotiation and mobilization. The event was commended as a great success, and the results from the pre- and post-test analysis can be seen in the info graphic below. 

In total, the project has trained approximately 100 participants in four provinces throughout Indonesia. Most of the trainers represent the influential voices of their communities such as religious and government leaders. The participants are expected to reach out to the people of their communities, as the areas in which trainings were conducted are also areas where potency for conflict remains high.

Other participants, such as a Catholic Priest, Melki, recounted a personal experience with violence and bloodshed, which pushed women and girls into hiding in the community. He added that the training has boosted his confidence to improve his negotiation skills to end conflicts.

“This training has made me more confident to influence other people in handling and preventing conflict in our village,” said the 36 year old Priest, adding, “Now, I have tactics.”

“Advocacy technique was the most useful part. Actually, I liked all topics but the way we practiced advocacy techniques has opened our minds. As a Priest and member of a local organization, this skill is very relevant to my field of work,” he added.

According to UNDP findings, between the years of 1998 and 2004, more than 10,000 fatalities were recorded in Indonesia; 90 per cent of which were closely related to ethno-religious conflicts. Although Indonesia has enjoyed political stability in recent years, peace building and conflict prevention remain a key concern for the government.

Conflict often results in major set-backs for communities in achieving political and economic development. UNDP’s PTDDA project will continue to promote women and men equally as agents of change against conflict by fostering social cohesion and promoting peace and security.

As stated by Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General in his 2010 Report on peace building, “ensuring women’s participation in peace building is not only a matter of women’s and girls’ rights. Women are crucial partners in shoring up three pillars of lasting peace: economic recovery, social cohesion and political legitimacy.”

For more information, contact @hilarygrantmyre on Twitter 

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