A Pekka member feeds a rabbit. Pekka members earn money by breeding rabbits and selling carrot crackers. JP/Tifa Asrianti
Siti "Imas" Hasanah, a resident of Sukanagalih village, Cianjur regency, West Java, never imagined she could be financially and emotionally independent.
"I was a victim of domestic violence," says the mother of four.
"In 2004, I filed a report with the police and got a medical assessment. But I later recanted the report because I was afraid and unaware of my rights."
Her husband often beat her up after she delivered a child, a behavior pattern that had been recurring since the birth of her second child. After joining the Empowerment of Female Heads of Households (Pekka) in 2005, Imas learned her rights, got a divorce and fought for women's rights in the area.
"Now I assist victims of domestic violence. I don't want other women to experience the ordeal I've gone through. Praise be to God, domestic violence cases have been brought to the court and the perpetrators punished," she says.
Data from Pekka's Cianjur office shows a case of incest and another of sexual harassment in 2006, with the perpetrators being sentenced to 10 and 14 years in jail. Other cases have also been coming into the spotlight.
Having been divorced, abused or simply abandoned by their husbands, many women in CIanjur and across the country share Imas's experience. Around 400 Cianjur women now work for Pekka, particularly on empowerment programs, from economic empowerment to education and legal assistance.
The economic empowerment program involves establishing micro-finance institutions, producing and selling carrot crackers as well as breeding rabbits.
Pekka members sell the crackers to supermarkets or market vendors. One kilogram of raw crackers is sold to supermarkets for Rp 30,000 (US$3), while the smaller cracker package for vendors is priced at Rp 1,000. The rabbit breeding utilizes leftovers from harvested carrots, while rabbit droppings can be used as fertilizer to grow carrots.
The education program is one for life, and ranges from early child education to literacy programs for the elderly.
The legal assistance includes Sidang Keliling, a team of officials who go from place to place organizing trials in the community. Through this legal assistance, residents of remote areas do not have to go to the regency capital to either make birth certificates or file for divorce.
Taking place in the district office, this "mobile trial" handled 68 divorces and 108 birth certificates in 2007, and 185 divorces and 200 birth certificates in 2008.
Pekka Cianjur kicked off their programs in 2002. Having started in only seven villages with eight groups, Pekka Cianjur is now present in 10 villages with 18 groups.
It may seem like an easy feat, but Imas says that when Pekka started the work, many divorc*es and widows were reluctant to attend Pekka meetings because of the stigma attached to their status. But after a few years, Pekka was finally able to smooth things out.
With many achievements revolving around Pekka Cianjur, the members have one modest hope: to build a Pekka center so they have a place of their own.
The success of Pekka Cianjur is not separate from the support of the Cianjur administration. The wife of the Cianjur regent, Yana Rosdiyana, set up an organization called Community Service Center on Women and Children Protection (P2TP2A) to empower the community.
"Cianjur regency has around 2 million residents, and half of them are women. Imagine the strength we can gather if we empower both men and women," Yana says.
She seeks out the relevant government institutions, such as the health agency and education agency, to support Pekka programs.
Besides integrating their programs with the administration's program, Pekka Cianjur also has a Multi Stakeholders Forum based on the regent's decision letter. Members of the forum include the police, the judiciary, prosecutors, the farming agency and the industry agency.
The forum not only manages domestic violence-related cases but also provides the women with training and capacity-building to start their new lives.
First Adj. Insp. Dhomir, head of the local police's women and children service unit, says the forum has been able to resolve cases that could not be brought to court for trial. He cites the case of a 21-year-old woman who reported she and her child had been abandoned by her lover.
"The couple was not married, so we couldn't use the marriage law. The woman was not a minor, so we couldn't sue the man for adultery. Therefore we brought the case to the forum and it was later decided just between us that the man should provide for the child," he says.
Tohari, head of the village community empowerment body, says the men of Cianjur are equally proud of Pekka's achievements, because now the women are able to solve the problems.