Courtesy of PEKKA
The Empowerment of Female Heads of Households Program (Pekka) initiated by the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) in 2000 is a response to requests from widows living in conflict situations across Indonesia.
Around six million families in the country are officially headed by women for various reasons, including divorce, abandonment and the death or illness of husband. (By default, the husband legally takes this role.)
Pekka currently has programs in eight provinces: Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, West Java, Central Java, West Kalimantan, West Nusa Tenggara, East Nusa Tenggara, Southeast Sulawesi and North Maluku. Funded by the Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF), Pekka brings empowerment programs, such as economic empowerment, life-long learning and legal empowerment, to these regions.
Pekka programs have attracted development practitioners and policymakers in Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Vietnam. Working together with the World Bank, Pekka recently organized a Knowledge Sharing Workshop involving a video conference with experts from other countries.
On the sidelines of the workshop, Pekka national coordinator Nani Zulminarni talked to The Jakarta Post about issues of women-headed households and empowerment. Below is an excerpt from the interview.
How did Pekka come up with its programs in the first place? What kinds of programs will Pekka add in future?
Our programs were developed in accordance with the condition and context in the field. Initially we decided to develop economic activities and programs because most Pekka members are poor and economic issues are essential to them.
*One of Pekka's economic empowerment programs is establishing micro finance institutions in communities. Pekka makes sure each member has completed three monthly installments before being allowed to take out a loan to start a business. Since members are poor and have no money, members use local resources, such as fruit, and sell them to markets. -Ed*
The Micro Finance Institutions help ensure the sustainability of Pekka programs in the area. In establishing these institutions, we are not linked to commercial banks because their interest rates are too high and the documents are too confusing for our members.
Our financial institutions are controlled by our members. When they make profits . they can decide by themselves which programs should be prioritized.
After the economic program is running well, other programs evolve in accordance with conditions in the field. Thus, programs in one region are not necessarily similar to those in other regions.
Of course, there are problems along the way. When we entered conflict areas, for example, in Aceh, we had to build collective community protection. We asked for help from the military, community members and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).
We explained our activities were harmless. It was important to make them understand our work. We didn't refer to *women-headed households' but instead *widow-headed households' because there were assumptions we were manipulating the women. It took us around two or three years to prove this perception was wrong.
In other regions, we sometimes work as peacekeepers. In North Maluku, for example, we had Pekka members coming from both conflicting sides. We then asked them to forgive each other and ease the pain.
In the future we will continue to facilitate mothers' needs, perhaps including health issues and other basic human rights.
Pekka can now be found in eight provinces. What are the future plans and targets?
We will develop Pekka in nine other provinces if we have the budget next year. We will focus on strengthening the movement of women as family heads, regionally or nationwide. We also hope that *Pekka* will be connected to other women's movements internationally.
We have asked for help from the government to replicate Pekka programs in other regions. The Office of the Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare has committed to open regional chapters of Pekka. We also work closely with the Office of the State Minister for Women's Empowerment.
What are the problems surrounding regulation?
There are regulations that should be amended to be in line with the idea of women becoming family heads. One example is the marriage law which deters women from taking the position of family heads, and *is biased against* women in general.
*Indonesian marriage law states that the husband is head of the family and the wife is the housewife. If during her work she neglects her children, the woman can be sued as the law states that the wife is "obliged to take care of the household." - Ed*
You mention about a draft law acknowledging women as family heads. Can you tell us more about it?
It is not a draft law but more about national policy. Basically, it is aimed at acknowledging and allowing affirmative action on this issue. We expect that all development programs to integrate with and adopt this policy.
How does Pekka involve the government in Pekka programs? What are the problems?
We facilitate *the government* in the establishment of multi-stakeholder forums consisting of various government institutions. In this way, *government* can work and help Pekka. We also approach local administrations so they can also be involved in Pekka programs.
I heard there was a Pekka member who was elected to become a legislative member. What are your hopes with the election?
This is part of our political empowerment. There were around 30 Pekka members vying for legislative seats in the April election, but only one Pekka member in North Maluku won a seat in the Regional Legislative Council (DPRD). We hope she can continue fighting for women's rights according to her capacity.
*The member's name is Sariba Nyong, a legislative candidate from the Regional Union Party. - Ed*
How does Pekka see activities like the Knowledge Sharing Workshop?
This was the first time Pekka held such a workshop. There are many benefits we can gain from these workshops, because they boost our confidence in what we have already achieved.
The acknowledgement and appreciation of JSDF has motivated us to improve our capacity and work harder. We also hope that the knowledge we share through the workshop benefits others.