In the world’s largest Muslim country, and third largest democracy, IRI is working with Indonesian women to ensure the country is known for a new statistic: the number of women elected to public office.  On June 28, IRI officially launched “Winning with Women 2014,” a nationwide campaign designed to increase the number of women elected to district, provincial and national level parliaments in elections scheduled for April 2014. 

Funded by the United States Agency for International Development, “Winning with Women” was created to support Indonesia’s new electoral legislation which requires political party candidate lists to include at least 30 percent women, and to place women within every third candidate slot.  The legislation was adopted to increase the number of women elected to office across the country where currently women hold only 18 percent of the 560 seats in the national parliament, and often far fewer at the district and provincial levels.  

At the program launch in North Sumatra, 132 women candidates from 10 political parties gathered to discuss how to structure and launch their campaigns.  Meutia Fadila, director of Gender Studies at Medan University and consultant for the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment, talked to the women about the importance of women’s representation in public office and how women legislators can directly impact the needs of women and children through the legislative process.  Michelle Bekkering, IRI’s resident country director in Indonesia, encouraged participants to change society’s perception of candidates, to stop talking about the problems facing voters and instead, be their solutions.  Nelly Armayanti, Chairwoman of the North Sumatra Women’s Caucus seconded this saying, “Changes will only occur when women are in system, and women will only be in the system when women stand up.”

The launch also included workshops where participants could discuss how to draft campaign plans and timelines, how to identify campaign issues and target voters and how to develop and deliver effective campaign messages.  The launch concluded with an overview of Indonesia’s election law and candidate and campaign regulations conducted by Rajin Sitepu, a member of Indonesian Election Commission of North Sumatra, to ensure candidates understood the law and regulations to conduct their campaigns.  During that session, the candidates were particularly interested in regulations covering fundraising, how to address vote-buying and how to safeguard votes on Election Day.

The women candidates were especially motivated by the example of Darmayanti Lubis, currently the only woman member representing North Sumatra in the Regional Representative Council, who shared her experiences as a candidate in the 2009 elections.  Lubis offered the candidates useful tips on how to field negative criticism, how to garner support from male and female voters and the importance – albeit challenge – for defeated candidates to support the women who eventually were elected.

Participants left the conference with newfound motivation and skills.  Irmayani from the National Awakening Party, learned to capitalize on her youth and inexperience, creating the campaign slogan “A New Candidate for a New Medan.”  Participants all agreed that if elected, change would be felt not only in Medan, but throughout Indonesia.

“Winning with Women 2014” is launching in five target districts across the archipelago – Aceh, North Sumatra, South Sulawesi, East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara.  

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