I just wanted to write a quick post about how inspired I am by many of the women I’ve met in Bali and Jogja. I have met activists ranging from public health and sexuality educators to documentary filmmakers and advocates for girls, to lawyers, environmentalists, wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters, teachers, sex workers, and small business owners. I cannot even begin to describe the impact these women have had on my time in Indonesia. I wish that I had both the time as well as the appropriate forum through which to honor them all, but that would take a lifetime. I’ve mentioned some of these women before, but they all deserve to be recognized.
So, let me share with you some of my favorite anecdotes:
1. On Friday, I was introduced to two women, one of whom is the leading (read: only!!!) public health and sexuality educator in Indonesia. Inna and Umi came to Taman to arrange a workshop on sexuality later this month. Inna told me all about her efforts to re-educate Indonesians in need as well as her work to organize a safe database through which women considering abortion (which is, for the most part, illegal in Indonesia) can explore their options, and find safe and clean clinics as well as emotional support. Here’s the link to her blog: abortus.blogspot.com/ as well as her organization’s blog: samsaraindonesia.blogspot.com/
2. When Angga and I conducted our mini research on the gendering of space in Pasar Kerenang (the traditional market) we were fortunate to speak to many great women. Bu Sri, the owner of her own warung, explained that she works at the market in order to supplement her husband’s income so her children can go to school. She works from midnight until 10 am, every day. When she’s not at work, she takes care of her children and the house, and, admittedly, never has any “me time.” Bu Sri’s story could be interpreted as sad, but she is extremely optimistic and positive. She loves her family, and that makes the work worthwhile.
3. As I’ve said before, all of the women at YKP (both employees and volunteers as well as beneficiaries, for lack of a better term) astound me with their courage, strength, and will for change. Their humor and kindness are nothing short of inspirational, and their stories motivate me to continue to question gender and power dynamics, specifically women’s agency. Although I wish I could share each story these women shared with me, for obvious reasons of confidentiality and trust, I cannot. Instead, I can say generally that the women of YKP are nothing short of badass. Many of the participants in the support group are or have at one time been sex workers, and their dedication to their families (especially their parents, siblings, and children) is steadfast in spite of trying and often horrendous work-related experiences. Others shared stories of assault and abuse, and confidently elaborated on how they were able to remove themselves from harmful home environments in order to protect themselves. Many of the women in the support group come from other parts of Indonesia, and they all frame their migration as both selfless and empowering.
4. The women and girls at Taman I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know radically defy popular understandings of the opposition between tradition and empowerment/agency. Women of all ages who appear to dedicate themselves almost exclusively to childcare and ritual performance (making offerings) also study full- time at university, hold jobs, and are leaders in their workplaces and at home. Girls as young as 8 are role models and supplementary caregivers to younger siblings (many of whom spend the day in Taman while their parents are at work, watched over by grandparents). Women who have lived through and survived acts of terrible violence voice their opinions on political, sociocultural, and familial matters. They acknowledge the horrors they have witnessed and experienced, however, these memories do not paralyze them.
As I said earlier, I could write forever about the women I’ve met here. But research calls, and I would prefer (selfishly) to go out and speak to more women rather than writing about it. More to come!