Empowering local women as gender champions in Indonesia

05 May 2021
Lasmita Nurana
Training empowers women in Indonesia to become advocates for women and gender equality in the environmental and development sectors.
Notes from the Field

Namira Arsa has come a long way in the past two years. Arsa transformed from being an administrator into being a gender expert. She is now leading gender work and conducting outreach training on gender equality in South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

While the Sulawesi Community Foundation (SCF) designated her to be its gender expert simply because at that time she was the only woman in the office, she has since grown into the role. 

“For them, gender means women,” Arsa said, explaining how she was worried about her new responsibilities. 

Working with RECOFTC’s Weaving Leadership for Gender Equality (WAVES) initiative opened the door to a new world for her. WAVES is a leadership training initiative implemented by RECOFTC. It helps people build their capacity to advocate for gender equality.

“I have more confidence in my ability to carry out activities since I completed the WAVES training,” Arsa says during a presentation at an online workshop in February 2021.

Namira Arsa from SCF.

After attending training in Jakarta and Bangkok in 2019, she started representing the SCF and travelling to rural communities across Bulukumba District to apply her new knowledge and skills. 

Discussing gender issues is still a new concept, she explained. Men in Sulawesi head most households and often view gender training as an effort to get women to rebel. So Arsa has encountered resistance from some communities. 

While the work is challenging, Arsa has found it personally rewarding.

“This program helped me find my passion,” Arsa said. “I decided last year to pursue my master’s degree in gender and development at the University of Hasanuddin.”

Arsa joined other leaders from WAVES at a workshop on 18 and 19 February 2021 to reflect on their achievements, lessons learned and chart the way forward with representatives from the Indonesian government, local organizations and partners in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Viet Nam.    

SCF shared plans to expand its efforts to make more communities aware of gender dynamics using the training provided by the WAVES initiative.

“The Sulawesi Community Foundation is now a role model for gender-inclusive activities,” Arsa said at the workshop. “For example, we empower female farmers from the Kahayya community to perform their initiative in sharing their harvest with marginalized communities affected by COVID-19.”

Along with Arsa, other gender leaders from Indonesia shared their experience at the workshop. 

Kusdamayanti heads the Center of Environment and Forestry Human Resources Education and Training (Balai Diklat Lingkungan Hidup dan Kehutanan or BDLHK) in Bogor district. She explained how she developed a training curriculum on gender mainstreaming and became a gender focal point and speaker at several activities for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF). She is now a Project Coordinator for Gender Mainstreaming Acceleration at BDLHK and received an award from the MoEF for her work driving gender mainstreaming and implementation in her department. She has inspired other units within MoEF to start gender mainstreaming.

Mardha Tillah from RMI.

Mardha Tilla from Rimbawan Muda Indonesia (RMI), a local organization based in Bogor, is now able to integrate gender issues in all her activities because of her participation in training provided by WAVES. 

“Rimbawan Muda Indonesia is gender-responsive, but it needs to be improved in some areas,” Tilla said. “Engaging with youth is one of them. Young people are quick to accept new ideas and act on gender issues. However, their energy and excitement could be better harnessed by the organization.”

The leaders of WAVES have mainstreamed gender into their jobs and some are working to integrate it into educational institutions in Indonesia.

“The WAVES initiative has helped me to encourage the University of Hasanuddin to include gender and social inclusion into courses for all faculty,” said Novaty Dungga, a lecturer at the University of Hasanuddin. “In the future, there will be more academics who understand the importance of providing opportunities for everyone to contribute to development regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion.”



The Weaving Leadership for Gender Equality (WAVES) initiative enhances leadership skills and supports the capacity of leaders to advocate for gender equality. RECOFTC implements WAVES with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). 

This story is produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its content is the sole responsibility of RECOFTC Indonesia and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. To find out more about this and other activities under the EU-funded Voices for Mekong Forests, visit the project page.