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Yayasan Holi'ana'a and the empowerment of women

On Nias Island, and throughout Indonesia, women lag behind in almost all sectors of life - education, health, politics, economics and culture. This results in endless poverty for women. Women become the poorest of the poor which means that the poorest among the poor are women.

Nias Island in North Sumatra, which consists of 4 Regencies and 5 Cities, is, according to a number of poverty indicators, classified as poor. According to data released by the Ministry of Underdeveloped Regions, all regencies on Nias island are included in 6 underdeveloped regions in North Sumatra.

So what are the disadvantages of women in these disadvantaged areas?

The Holi'ana'a Foundation (YH) has been involved in efforts to empower women in Nias Island since 2006. During this time YH has tried to observe and map the condition of Nias women who are lagging behind in various sectors, as follows:

Nias women, like other women in all corners of the country, have far higher health risks than men. The health risks are generally associated with reproductive functions inherent in women. Women are very at risk of lack of daily iron intake, malnutrition during pregnancy, miscarriage, infection, cancer, to death during childbirth. According to data from the Nias District Health Office (before the 2nd division into 3 districts and 1 city), the average maternal mortality rate (MMR) reported from 2006-2008 reached 282 / 100,000 KH. YH believes that there is still a lot of data that has not been reported considering that there are still many villages on Nias Island that do not have active means of health coordination. This existing data is still far from the ideals of the Millennium Development Goal, which is a maximum of 102/100.

In the context of Nias, women's health conditions are influenced by at least 2 factors, low family income and poor health services. The main source of family income is from rubber farming and raising pigs. The selling price of rubber is very unstable especially with the global crisis since 2008. Likewise, pig farming is not always successful because of the limited expertise of the community in dealing with diseases. As a result, the ability of families (women) to buy nutritious food is very low. This condition results directly in not fulfilling the minimum nutritional intake needed by a woman due to the complexity of her reproductive function.

Health services, a very critical issue, especially in remote areas of the island of Nias. Physical health service centers (puskesmas) have indeed been seen in a number of places built by rehabilitation agencies in the aftermath of the 2004/2005 disaster, but most of these facilities are still not fully utilized by local governments for health services due to limited operational funds and limited medical workforce. As a result, many women end their lives without the touch of medical services.

This condition has improved slightly with the Jampersal program which began in 2011, where mothers can give birth for free at the Regional Hospital only by showing their KTP, but unfortunately the Jampersal program cannot reach all women in Nias because it is generally only centered in the city. There are still many women who are too poor to reach the city to give birth for free because of the high cost of travel and living costs in the city during childbirth.   

According to the same statistical data, the involvement of Nias women in every level of education is much lower than that of men.

For example, we look at school participation data in North Nias Regency, according to the 2011 statistics, as follows:

Kindergarten: 181 males/180 females
Primary School: 13,212 males/11,760 females
Middle School: 4,186 males/3,406 females
High School: 2,280 males/1,793 females
Total population = 127,244 of which 63,061 are male and 64,183 are female

The data in the statistics are indeed not too perfect because it does not show how many school-age men and women are, but seeing that the total population of women is higher then the school participation data above is indeed questionable.

According to the latest observations, it seems that the graph of women's participation in schools has improved in line with the economic growth of Nias after the disaster rehabilitation (2005-2010). However, there are still many cases where girls are forced to not go to school because they have to succumb to their siblings and many girls are still forced to stop dreaming of going to school because of the expensive school fees.   

The orientation of the development of the economic sector is to make people independent. Nias women are one of the economic actors who have contributed greatly to the economic progress of the island of Nias. Nias women are highly involved in all the processes of producing major commodities, such as rubber, cocoa, coconut, rice and pigs. Women are involved starting from land clearing, hatchery, maintenance and harvesting.

However, even though women are already so involved in the economic sphere, in general Nias women, especially those who live in rural areas, are still very far from independence when compared to men. Generally women are only involved in the production sector, such as labor. They have no land, they do not have good access to markets, there is no access to education and business skills and minimal access to capital.

On the other hand, Nias women mostly work in the informal economy, which does not have social security guarantees, such as agriculture. According to the statistics of the 2008 Kab .ias (before the division into 4 districts / cities), the ratio of women and men in the formal sector (in this case civil servants) is 1: 2.2 which means that women's participation in the formal sector is only 45 percent of the level male participation. This shows that Nias women are still far more economically vulnerable than men.

Encouraging women's involvement in politics is believed to be one surefire way to expel women from the long suffering they experienced. With the presence of the meeting in the legislative or in the strategic position of government, hopefully it can bring the aspirations of women so that these two bodies can produce decisions in favor of women's interests.

The presence of women in the legislature in the districts / cities in Nias before and after the division was still around the same figure, not exceeding a count of 4 or a maximum of 16%. Likewise in important positions in government such as echelon II and III. Rarely do women sit in echelon II and only a few in echelon III. This data shows the still lack of women there.

A 30% quota for women is an affirmative action policy to encourage the presence of women in the political sphere. Affirmative action is needed to overcome the competitiveness gap between women and men. Without this action, it will always be difficult for women to enter politics because culture has provided higher opportunities for men to have an education and experience more than women. This action demands the commitment of all parties to seek and promote women who meet the minimum requirements, to run for the legislative or executive, so that it can cover a 30% quota. This also applies equally in Nias.

Nias is one of the millions of tribes in the world who follow a patrilineal culture system or a culture that follows the lineage of the father (male). This system directly or indirectly makes women a second-class citizen in family or community life. This culture automatically grants privileges to someone born as a boy.

In patrilineal culture, boys are like little princes who are prepared to carry on the glory of the family, inherit family property and become strong tribal leaders. Girls don't get the same preparation. Girls are better prepared to be skilled and skilled at taking care of the domestic affairs of the family, and even to varying degrees, are involved in the preparatory efforts of their brother.

In the Nias community, as patrilineal adherents, such practices still occur. Families and communities treat boys and girls differently from childhood. Families and communities spend large resources and provide a large space for boys to process to be reliable leaders, and not to girls. There are almost no obstacles for boys to find and express themselves but instead, there are heaps of boundaries for a girl.

As a result when adults, the two children with different sexes have different independence, and obviously men become far more independent than women. This gap in independence will be even more visible when a boy becomes the heir to everything (catt; now some families have begun to make a transformation which also gives a portion of inheritance to girls).

Nias women depend more on the fate of their fate from men who come to woo their marriage. Furthermore, in married life women bargaining position becomes so weak because it comes with limited independence. Even when one partner has an accident (died), culture makes it very easy for a husband to find a replacement for his wife but there is almost no chance for women to do the same, except to be willing to separate from their children and leave the entire family inheritance.

The facts mentioned above which have been the basis of YH in planning and implementing efforts to empower women in Nias Island. YH is committed to making the issue of women's empowerment an inseparable part of its program implementation. YH himself ratified inpress no.9 / 2000 on calls to heads of government at every level to integrate gender issues in development or known as Gender Mainstreaming (PUG).

YH women's empowerment efforts have taken the form of interventions in various fields including:

Creating awareness of what gender inequality is, what its impact is on women and how misconceptions about culture and religion encourage gender inequality.
Conducted with various activities to improve business skills through training, comparative studies, and also capital assistance to encourage women's economic independence.
Conducted through counseling related to reproduction and also facilitation of coordination between women and health workers.
Conducted through various special training days and meetings for women that discuss issues of participation in politics and other issues surrounding women's lives such as Domestic Violence.
Conducted individually and with the Nias Women's Care and Children Coalition (KPPAN). The activities carried out varied from statements of attitude, dialogue with the government / legislature, talk shows and campaigns through print and electronic media.