Sita Aripurnami, 28 years old, is building an umbrella/back-up organization, "Kalyana Mitra" (Good Fiends), for the women's movement in Indonesia.
Sita was born 28 years ago in Jakarta to an upper-class Javanese family. Her father is a prominent expert in Javanese and Indonesian culture and a columnist. She is a graduate of psychology from the University of Indonesia.
Sita is setting up a Center for Women's Information and Communication. This center bridges women's organizations, activists, and groups concerned with women's issues and tries to help them focus on and help with the real needs of most (non-middle class) Indonesian women.The center provides literature and first-hand research on grassroots women, publishes a substantial women's bulletin and paper, organizes regular discussions, works with policy makers, and plans as well as implements joint programs with other women's groups.
Over the last decade, a growing number of independent women's groups have appeared and begun to work on women's issues side by side with the women's development sections of various official organizations. Many work from superficial assumptions and don't develop a clear focus; some do develop an excellent framework and are making useful contributions, although only at the local level.Most seem to face a common problem; Sita feels that they generally lack (1) a full understanding of the actual position of women in Indonesia, especially of the majority of women who are not middle class, and (2) a common base on which they can start to communicate with and support each other regardless of their differences in vision.People bring their personal experiences and middle and upper class values into their work and at times fail to see the irrelevancy. Moreover, Sita feels that most women's development programs so far have focused heavily on economics and need to broaden their approach.
Sita proposes building a center that will help fill many of these needs of the women's movement. First, she plans a series of publications that will document the conditions major classes of Indonesian women are facing. Each analysis will be a careful, substantial analysis focusing on marginalized women in a particular occupation. (The first two studies deal with domestic servants and prostitutes). It will explain their economics, describe the sociology and other factors that make change difficult, and outline some of the ways through which organized women might help.Sita will make this core research, whose quality she assures by managing it directly, as broadly available as possible. Each study will be published in her women's bulletin. Probably as important, she plans to engage other women's groups through the center at each stage of the work. She will work with interested groups in designed the research, in executing it, and certainly in reviewing it.The approach to these baseline studies reflect the Center's overall approach. It is not a research office; it is a meeting place for and prod to discussion among women's groups. It also hopes to encourage many active collaborations -- hopefully towards steadily better targeted ends.Sita's agenda, like that or the movement, will change over time. However, some of the design questions she's asking herself as she launches the Center give a strong sense of her values and approach. Two of these questions now are: (1) how can men and women work together without falling into conflict with one another; and (2) how can the Center include in its work women who now hold senior positions in various government departments, in order to engage them in future efforts to change policy?