Women and local governance in Indonesia : a case study of engendering local governance in North Sumatra : a thesis presented in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, Palmerston North, New zealand
The main purpose of this thesis is to explore the complexities involved in engendering local governance and to identify strategies to encourage gender equitable partnerships between stakeholders in local governance in Third World countries. Local governance refers to the dynamic yet complicated process of interaction between state and non-state actors involved in local level development processes. Considering the invisibility of women in local governance, this study focuses heavily on women's agency, that is, the way women redefine and reconstruct identities and interactions in engendering local governance despite the given constraints. The central argument in this thesis is that engendering local governance requires transformation of structures and processes of governing at the local level so that they recognise and are responsive to differences between men and women in their values and responsibilities. Relevant institutions should then integrate these differences in policies and in managing development at the local level. Fieldwork in North Sumatra, Indonesia highlighted how the interlocking of public and private patriarchy complicates the engendering of local governance. Both within and beyond the household there are constraints put on women that impede their participation in local governance. Analysis of case studies of perwiridan (Moslem women's religious grouping), SPI (Serikat Perempuan Independen/ Union of Independent Women) and women working in local government found that relationships at the household level significantly influence gender relations in local governance. Reproduction of images of 'good' and 'bad' women is one of the most effective instruments to subordinate and control women in North Sumatra, meaning that it is not easy for women to formulate and defend their personal interests. Women often experience severe threats of physical, psychological and verbal violence when they attempt to influence formal decision making at the local level. Based on a further case study of the implementation of decentralisation, this study also found that decentralisation does not automatically bring local government closer to women due to the interweaving of structural, cultural, and financial barriers local government faces in implementing gender mainstreaming policies in North Sumatra. The intertwining of gendered structures of local government and gendered construction of the community contribute to the marginality of women in service delivery and in public decision making at the local level. This study rejects the assumption that women are passive recipients in local governance since they contribute significantly in fulfilling household and community needs and interests. Through knowledge and understanding to construction of power at the local level, women creatively produce and use alternative strategies which are based on their sexuality and traditional gender roles in challenging and transforming gender inequity at the local level and in improving the quality of everyday life. By raising women's self esteem, confidence and solidarity in reconstructing gendered relations at the household and community levels, women's grassroots organisations open up alternative arenas for political expression for women which is crucial for the realisation of good local governance.