This practitioner research, carried out by women’s empowerment organisation FAMM Indonesia, brings the voices of young women – a group consistently excluded from decision-making spaces about the allocation of local government resources – into the conversation about social accountability. Barriers to young (especially unmarried) women’s participation in public spaces include the prevailing view that doing so violates social norms, young women’s often low level of education, and family expectations. Many young women have internalised their marginalisation and lack the confidence to participate in community forums.
This paper describes participatory action research carried out in partnership with eight grassroots Indonesian women’s NGOs. Preliminary focus group discussions laid the foundation for a series of movement-building initiative workshops to strengthen rural young women’s leadership capacity, encourage critical awareness and develop their roles as community organisers. Young women’s social engagement can generate criticism and backlash, which may lead to their losing interest in public forums. As well as empowering participation in formal meetings, the research suggests that young women can overcome closed spaces through building on informal relationships and collaborations. And young women’s involvement in producing creative content (print, audio and multimedia) for use in community organising is used to strengthen their self-esteem and abilities.
The paper ends with a reflective conversation between Niken Lestari of FAMM and Francesca Feruglio of MAVC. They discuss the kind of capacity-building needed to enable young women to overcome barriers to their engagement in local governance spaces, and thus fulfil their own declared potential to contribute much more to the development of their communities.