Indonesia is the world’s third largest democracy and an emerging regional economic leader. Unfortunately, this does not guarantee equal access to justice and prosperity. Women make up only 38 percent of the labor force, a rate that has been steadily decreasing while the percentage of female-headed households remains steady.
Because strong civil society organizations play a key role in representing their members’ interests to policy makers, a group of women from Deli Serdang in Northern Sumatera established the Association of Indonesian Women Unions (HAPSARI).
At the time, it was a small organization with a big mission: to promote economic opportunities for women to increase gender equity in Indonesia and better contribute to a more just and prosperous society. Today, HAPSARI actively promotes Indonesian women’s social and economic equity by educating women about their rights and resources available for economic empowerment, and providing members with opportunities to engage in public dialogue with national and local members of parliaments through public discussions.
Over the last two decades, the organization has grown to include 10 women’s associations in five provinces. Recently, HAPSARI partnered with Chemonics and USAID through the Indonesia Program Representasi (ProRep) to promote awareness of a state-run microfinance program—Kredit Usaha Rakyat, or KUR—that provides micro, revolving loans for small business owners. Using grant funds and international technical expertise provided by ProRep, HAPSARI is helping women access small business credits through the KUR. By training them to access these loans, HAPSARI is helping women to empower themselves economically.
HAPSARI also used grant funds to train 30 women in effective monitoring, evaluation and reporting methodologies. This enhanced organizational capacity will allow them to deliver sustained, high-quality policy analysis in the future which will help frame the debate about gender equity issues.
At the national level, HAPSARI organized a National Dialogue Forum titled “Ending Women’s Poverty” in Jakarta in early 2013. Participants included representatives from HAPSARI’s member organizations, from the national parliament and the House of Regional Representatives, and from the National Commission for Women’s Affairs. The conference provided a valuable opportunity for open dialogue between citizens and policy makers about economic and social gender equity.