“Winning With Women 2014” Inspiring Indonesian Women Candidates

With nationwide elections approaching in April 2014, the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) “Winning with Women 2014” initiative is inspiring women candidates all across Indonesia to change the status quo in their country.  Through its year-long project, IRI is working with nearly 1,000 women candidates in five provinces: Aceh, East Nusa Tenggara, North Sumatra, South Sulawesi and West Nusa Tenggara who are vying for seats at the local, provincial and national levels. 

Although Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country, with more than 250 million citizens spread across 17,000 islands, women currently represent only 18.6 percent of legislators at the national level, 16 percent at the provincial level and 12 percent at the local levels.  Through its “Winning with Woman,” IRI is working with a core group of women candidates who committed to attending a series of workshops over a six month period and allowing IRI to evaluate their campaigns.  Participants represent each of the 12 national and three Aceh regional parties competing in the 2014 elections and range in age from 20 to 70 years old.

As 72 percent of IRI’s training participants are first-time candidates, IRI first sought to educate the candidates on the importance of women’s leadership in the public sphere and offer much-needed motivation for their endeavors through mentoring by women who currently hold elected office in their provinces.  Yoesoesi Afdal, a candidate from Aceh, noted that, “This gave us the strength and belief that women can win in the legislative election.”

IRI’s workshops include an overview of current election laws and campaign regulations by officials from Indonesia’s elections commission, along with information on how to safeguard votes on Election Day.  Over the series of workshops, IRI also prepared the women candidates to run effective, issue-based campaigns through courses on issue identification, message development and delivery, voter targeting, get-out-the-vote (GOTV) activities, fundraising and managing campaign teams. 

According to Sutinah Se from North Sumatra, “the IRI training is very good because it helps open our eyes as legislative candidates on how to conduct a winning election campaign.  Before I was very doubtful because of the perception that only candidates with a lot of money could win an election, but this training showed me a different perspective.”

From January to April, IRI is monitoring the project participants’ campaigns and counseling candidates as they conduct their GOTV activities.  During the April 9 elections, IRI will be monitoring the results in each of the five provinces to assess the success of women candidates based on the number of votes garnered and seats won across the provinces.  However, as Ema Hussein from South Sulawesi remarked, the real victory of the project is that it has created a new role model for candidates in Indonesia of “woman politicians who appear not exclusive, but inclusive, showing the attitude and behavior of a leader who is accessible to all elements of society.”

“Winning with Women 2014” is funded and supported by the United States Agency for International Development.

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