After Women’s March Jakarta, here are 10 ways feminists can stay active

Kate Walton
After Women’s March Jakarta, here are 10 ways feminists can stay active
One of the Women's March organizers gives tips on how to stay involved and how to keep the momentum going in your daily lives.

So you attended Women’s March Jakarta on 4th March, held up your awesome poster to demand women’s rights, uploaded photos of other strong women to social media, and argued with friends on Facebook about the true meaning of gender equality. But what comes next? How can you stay active and continue the fight for women’s rights after the march?

Here are a few suggestions from the organizers:

1. Educate yourself about women’s rights in Indonesia and around the world

Most of us already know the basics about women’s rights and violations in Indonesia. We know for example, that in 2016, the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) recorded more than 320,000 cases of harassment and violence against women, and that many job offerings specify that they only want women who ‘look interesting’ (read: ‘look beautiful’). 

But did you know that Indonesia’s maternal mortality rate (the rate at which women die due to pregnancy and childbirth) increased between 2008 and 2012? This means more women are dying now each year than they were 10 years ago. Or that in some areas of East Java, such as Bondowoso, more than 50% of girls are married off before they turn 18? Or that 80% of women in Papua and West Papua are survivors of domestic violence?

We all need to improve our knowledge of the challenges facing women in Indonesia, and indeed the rest of the world too, so that we are better prepared to argue for women’s rights when faced with opponents – especially those who claim that women are already equal with men. 

Reading is a great way to build your knowledge and understanding. Good books on women in Indonesia include Susan Blackburn’s Women and the State in Modern Indonesia, Kathryn Robinson’s Women in Indonesia: Gender, Equity and Development, Michele Ford’s Women and Work in Indonesia, and Elizabeth Martyn’s The Women’s Movement in Postcolonial Indonesia.

For research in Indonesian, Jurnal Perempuan is worthwhile subscribing to. If you can’t afford to buy a copy of these books, please get in touch with me. For books on other countries, Tatler Indonesia has a few good suggestions here.

Films are also useful, and there are many excellent ones that illustrate women’s lives in Indonesia. They include Siti, about a sex worker at Parangtritis; Tanah Mama, about Mama Halosina, an indigenous Papuan woman living in the highlands of Jayawijaya; Pertaruhan, about female migrant workers, sex workers, and reproductive health; and Pasir Berbisik, about a poor woman who lives with her single mom, a jamu seller.

2. Join an organization or volunteer

One of the best ways to actively fight for women’s rights is to join a non-governmental organization (NGO) as a member or a volunteer. Organizations such as Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia (KPI), Solidaritas Perempuan, and KAPAL Perempuan work specifically on women’s issues, for example, while Hollaback! Jakarta focuses on sexual harassment, Arus Pelangi and Suara Kita on LGBT rights, WALHI and Greenpeace on environmental issues, and AMAN Nusantara on indigenous rights. All, and many other organizations, would welcome your involvement.

3. Attend events and meet new people

There are many events about women and gender issues held in Jakarta on a regular basis. Attending them is a great way to stay involved and to meet new people. Kinosaurus frequently holds film screenings, for example, while Komnas Perempuan often holds open discussions. 

4. Donate

NGOs and rights organizations often run on tight budgets, and programs are often dependent on the availability of funding from donors. This makes it hard for organizations to plan long-term and for sustainability, and restricts their ability to hold more frequent activities. If you can afford to donate to NGOs and other groups, especially on a monthly basis, this makes a huge difference to their work. You could donate to Indonesian organizations if you want to focus locally, or support women in other countries by contributing to organizations such as CARE, UN Women, or International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA).

END TO CATCALLS. A number of women called for an end to catcalling. Photo by Diego Mahameru Batara/Rappler

5. Talk to friends and family

After Women’s March Jakarta, many people who did not attend the march have attacked the movement, saying that women are already equal or that feminism is a Western import. They have clearly forgotten strong Indonesian women who fought for Indonesian women’s rights, such as Kartini, Tjut Nyak Dien, and Martha Tiahahu. (READ: Social media influencer gets flak for ‘ignorant’ comments on Jakarta Women’s March)

This shows the importance of discussing women’s rights and explaining what feminism is – a movement to achieve equality between women and men – to our friends and family members. Don’t be shy to argue with people and to reassure them that we fight for equality, not women’s domination.

And remember: the aim is to bring people over to feminism and to understand the movement, not to alienate them!

6. Oppose sexism at work, school, and in public

Unfortunately, sexism and gender-based discrimination remain all too common in our workplaces, at our schools, and in public. It is crucial that we stand up and call out sexist behavior. If you hear someone making a sexist joke, tell them it is not appropriate and explain why. If someone says a woman cannot do something because of her gender, remind them this is not true. Calling out sexism is one of the most effective ways to change culture.

7. Be creative

Write articles or stories; make art; make music; weave; make your own clothes – using your creativity is a great way to speak out about social issues such as women’s rights. Be political in your art if you can. Art reaches people in ways that other methods do not. An excellent example of this is Kartika and the Dissidents’ 2016 song Tubuhku Otoritasku (My Body My Authority), which focuses on women’s bodily autonomy and our rights to dress how we want.

8. Use social media for good

You don’t have to totally change the way you use social media – keep posting photos of your lunch, squeal about cute kittens, and talk about celebrities all you like! But also using social media to discuss women’s rights can be effective in changing the minds of your friends and followers. Retweet or repost event posters, for example, to boost their reach; complain to companies about sexist ads and tweets; and post about your experiences with sexism and misogyny to show people how common things like sexual harassment and discrimination are.

9. Support your sisters

If you see a girl or woman being harassed, help them, even if you only go up to them after the harassment has occurred and ask them if they are okay. If someone is being bullied on social media, stand up for them. If a female friend or family member needs to escape from a violent home situation, take them to an organization like Lentera Sintas Indonesia, Yayasan PULIH, or LBH Apik, or one of Jakarta’s Integrated Service Centers for Violence against Women and Children (P2TP2A), for help.

Supporting other girls and women is one of the best things you can do to fight for the fulfillment of women’s rights.

10. Join groups on Facebook

Join us on social media and at regular social gatherings and events to become part of the young feminists’ networks. Jakarta Feminist Discussion Group (JFDG) is a closed group that acts as a safe space for discussion and was one of the initiators of Women’s March Jakarta, while Indonesia Feminis is an open Facebook page that talks about sexism, women’s rights, and gender equality. Join us and make new friends at the same time. We hope to see you soon! –

Kate Walton is a Jakarta-based queer feminist activist and writer. She is the founder of Jakarta Feminist Discussion Group and the researcher behind the Menghitung Pembunuhan Perempuan project. You can contact her via email or on Twitter @waltonkate.

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