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Jakarta Post

Triple-minority candidate from Yogyakarta on fire to fight for disabled rights in House

  • Bambang Muryanto

    The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta   /   Mon, March 4, 2019   /   04:59 pm
Triple-minority candidate from Yogyakarta on fire to fight for disabled rights in House Anggiasari Puji Aryatie, 39, a NasDem Party legislative candidate, poses with women from kampung Bausasran in Yogyakarta after she delivers a presentation about disaster risks. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)

Anggiasari Puji Aryatie, 39, carries a remarkable spirit as a triple-minority legislative candidate who has no political leverage or much money for her campaign. She is a person with a disability, a Catholic and a woman, a minority gender in politics, yet she gets a lot of support from people who believe in her.

During her campaign for a seat in the House of Representatives, she went from kampung to kampung in her electoral district in Yogyakarta, not to give money or promises but to share her knowledge about many things, among them disaster mitigation.

In a function hall in Bausasran, Anggi, a candidate from the NasDem Party, stood in front of 25 women to share basic knowledge about minimizing the risk of disaster. She stood before the audience, her laptop put close to the edge of the table to make it easy for her, a 90-centimeter-tall woman, to reach it.

Anggi has achondroplasia, a genetic disorder that causes her legs and arms to be shorter than most people's. Her condition led to seven years of activism for the rights of disabled people and, later, to her foray into politics.

In Bausasran, she said it was important to be prepared for disasters because they could make you impoverished or disabled. She also shared her knowledge about saving disabled people during a disaster.

“Someone has to be in charge to save the disabled people,” she said.

She ended her presentation with an expression of hope: “If you decide to trust me, I ask for your support,” she said.

She bade the audience goodbye and the women, wearing Muslim headscarfs, hugged Anggi. She did not give any money or use religion to attract votes.

As she visits many places in Yogyakarta for her campaign she gets so tired that her legs sometimes become blue because she cannot stand or sit too long.

She said NasDem approached her and she said yes because she wanted to fight for the rights of disabled people. Indonesia has a 2016 law on disabled people but in reality they still face discrimination of all kinds, especially in work and education, she said.

“With good education and jobs, disabled people will be more dignified and be less vulnerable,” she said.

According to a 2015 survey by Statistics Indonesia (BPS), an estimated 8.56 percent of the population, which at that time was about 250 million, had some kind of disability. It means there were about 21.4 million disabled people in Indonesia. Anggi said the number was increasing because of traffic accidents and natural disasters.

She said she is sure that she would become a better representative for people with disabilities, compared to someone without one, because she herself knew and experienced the bad treatment disabled people suffered. She had been treated badly during job searches, bullied at school and was even sexually harassed in public.

“Sexual harassment is a painful reality,” she said.

Such experiences made her an avid spokesperson for a bill on the eradication of sexual violence. With several women activists, Anggi attended an event to campaign for the bill at the State Islamic University Sunan Kali Jaga.

Mother’s role

After Anggi graduated from high school, her mother told her to continue studying. “My mother said if I was not smart, people would always look down on me,” she said. So she studied French literature at Gadjah Mada University (UGM), English literature at Foreign Language High Education LIA and theology at the Christian University of Duta Wacana, all in Yogyakarta. She then worked for several NGOs, some dealing with disabilities.

Anggiasari Puji Aryatie, 39, a NasDem Party legislative candidate, gives a presentation about disaster risks in  kampung Bausasran in Yogyakarta.Anggiasari Puji Aryatie, 39, a NasDem Party legislative candidate, gives a presentation about disaster risks in kampung Bausasran in Yogyakarta. (JP /Bambang Muryanto)

Arya Mahdi, one of Anggi’s campaign team members, said her fight to get a legislative seat at the national level was tremendous. She had to compete with dozens of other candidates to get one of the eight seats for Yogyakarta in the House of Representatives.

Arya said if she gets elected, Anggi could become “the mother” of disabled people. “Anggi’s mother took care of her; now she could be the mother of the country’s disabled people,” he said.

If she got elected, Arya said, she would be the first disabled person to sit in the House. Apart from being a representative of disabled people, Arya also touted Anggi as an inspiration to show that a good, regular person could become a legislative candidate. Most legislative candidates usually entered the House because they were already famous, for example, as TV celebrities, politically wired people, or rich from business.

Arya said the team ran Anggi’s campaign without much money. The money they had was from individuals who contributed because they believed in Anggi.

“A renowned photographer takes her pictures without getting paid. His usual fee is Rp 20 million,” Arya said.

Anggi also got a contribution from a businessman who loaned her a camera. He also allowed Anggi to use his outdoor ad facility for a month. Many have offered her expertise or money and she has support from a UGM student community.

“Even if she doesn’t get elected, what is more important is this campaign period could be the stage for Anggi to campaign about disability rights,” Arya went on.

An activist for disability rights from SIGAB, Joni Yulianto, said it was time for disabled people to sit in the House.

“Representation for disabled people can have an impact on decision making and can voice the aspirations of the disabled,” he said.