Jakarta, December 5, 2008 — A series of trainings for women legislative candidates was held in four cities in November and December, 2008. These trainings, organized by The Asia Foundation in partnership with its regional implementing partners, covered candidates from the provinces covered by this program: Jakarta, Aceh, East Java and South Sulawesi. The first batch of the training was conducted between November 11 and 20, 2008. Each of the three day trainings was attended by 25 women candidates and addressed crucial issues the women need to know as they prepare for their campaign: how to target voters, how to develop an effective media strategy, and the finer details of the electoral system. Advancing Indonesian Women in Politics The reason for this program is clear: women in Indonesia remain grossly under-represented. Indeed, there are less women representatives today than 20 years ago. Currently, women representatives only constitute 11.8 percent of national parliament members. There are even fewer women in the provincial and district legislatures where political power is now concentrated in Indonesia.
In anticipation of the upcoming 2009 elections, the Royal Norwegian Embassy is supporting The Asia Foundation with a wide-ranging program that includes support for electoral law reform, building the capacity of women candidates, supporting women in politics to build their constituency networks, and helping women candidates develop sharp and focused media and voter education campaigns. These activities have been supported by public awareness-raising and voter education campaigns focusing on the importance of women’s involvement in the democratic process in Indonesia.
About the training “Preparing Women Candidates to Prepare for the 2009 Elections” was organized by The Asia Foundation and it regional partners, the University of Indonesia’s Center for Political Study, covering Jakarta; MISPI covering the province of Nanggro Aceh Darussalam; the Human Rights Center of the University of Airlangga covering East Java; and the Institute for Public Policy Studies (LSKP) covering South Sulawesi area. The Asia Foundation will trained over 300 women candidates under this program.
During the training participants focused in depth on important elements of an election campaign, namely women and political parties, the election system, and campaign strategy. Discussions about constituency-building and developing campaign issue were the most lively sessions as the candidates were pushed to articulate why they would be different and how they would attract particular segments of the electorate. Significant time was also allocated to assist the women candidates develop their political platforms engage voters and be responsive to voter needs. For many of the candidates, how to use the media effectively to market themselves, and the different tools in the media tool kit, was a new and unexplored issue for them.Â Participants now have a much sharper understanding of how to use the media to help them articulate and disseminate political messages. The new vote counting system and knowledge of electoral districts are two significant factors that will determine if a candidate wins or loses a sit in the national or local legislature. Therefore, it was very important for the women candidates to have an accurate knowledge and the appropriate skills to be able to mediate their way through their campaign in relation to these subjects successfully. Throughout, the training was interactive providing opportunities to simulate many elements of the campaign that candidates will face later on.
The three-day trainings were attended by a total of 92 women candidates. The women come from Indonesia’s seven largest political parties and some local political parties that have a significant number of seats at the local level. Almost all the women are political party activists who have not previously been elected to office. The trainings were especially well received by the women candidates who have previous experience of defeat and failure to secure a seat from the previous 2004 elections. Aside from their participation through these training sessions, The Asia Foundation will continue to provide support to the women candidates through constituent meetings and media campaigns.
The trainings were featured on Jakartaâ€™s Royal Norwegian Embassy’s web site.