Aisyiyah is the women’s association of Muhammadiyah, which is the second-largest Islamic organization in Indonesia. Aisyiyah Sumedang, which works to address women’s and children’s issues, saw firsthand the limits of how women were participating in village development. However, since early 2020, they have worked closely with the multi-stakeholder Learning Forum INSUN Madani on activities that push for more transparent use of village funds and engage women in Sumedang through the Madrasah Anggaran (Budget School) initiative. Sumedang’s village budget is large, around $100,000 per year per village, but is mainly used for infrastructure such as roads or village administration rather than being allocated to improve basic services.
In October 2020, Aisyiyah Sumedang and INSUN Madani established the Kader PINTAR program (which stands for Kader Perempuan Inisiatif, Tangguh, dan Responsif or Active, Resilient, and Responsive Women Cadre) as a local solution to influence the use of the village budget. They started out by establishing groups of 10 women at MADANI’s two pilot locations and trained group members on village governance, and how to optimize women’s role for the benefit of the village, as well as on skills for conducting surveys and problem mapping. Robi Iskandar from INSUN Madani hopes that the Kader PINTAR group members become pioneers in women’s leadership in villages. “Our work is to prepare the cadres so they can play a more direct role in the village budgetary process.”
Members of the Kader PINTAR mapped out obstacles that women face in development and identified two main issues: the lack of confidence among participating women and how village administrators conduct citizen forums during the evenings, which proved to be unfavorable for women, who in these relatively conservative communities often have homemaking duties and would face stigma being out at that time. These barriers exclude women from contributing their ideas and leave men to make decisions for the village. To circumvent these shortcomings, Kader PINTAR proactively collected information on citizens’ aspirations by reaching out to residents in their homes.
After collecting women’s inputs on their needs and priorities, the Kader PINTAR members conveyed them to the village administrators through the Village Development Forums (Musdes). This approach has provided government decisionmakers and other local stakeholders a new understanding of the issues that residents of their areas are facing and how it is currently affecting women in addition to men.
A top priority conveyed during one of these development and planning forums was the need to address stunting. With the help of Aisyiyah Sumedang, the Kader PINTAR in Kadakajaya Village, one of the pilot sites, advocated for a greater budget allocation on this issue. The government responded positively and inserted the issue into the Village Government Work Plan (RKP Desa), as well as allocated 24 percent of the village funds in the local budget (APBDes) for fiscal year 2023 to address stunting.
With their new knowledge on village governance and budgeting, the Kader PINTAR will continue to hold the village government more accountable and ensure it is responsive to community needs. Using a collaborative governance approach, they are coordinating with the Village Council, community elders, and religious leaders, to actively involve them in providing oversight on the effective use and management of village funds.
Meanwhile, the Sumedang government was so impressed with the outcome in the two pilot locations they have committed to replicate Aisyiyah’s innovative solution and bring the Kader PINTAR approach to neighboring villages in 2024. Despite challenges such as limited government funding, the move had the support of the Sumedang Agency for Village Community and Empowerment.
“We look forward for more women willing take an active role. I believe their contribution will help village governments serve the community better through effective planning for a more sustainable development,” said Ms. Lili Rahli, Secretary of the Sumedang Agency for Village Community and Empowerment.
Aisyiyah Sumedang, for its part, has committed to train Kader PINTAR members in the new locations, in collaboration with the Learning Forum and the village governments. The increase in women’s participation under Aisyiyah Sumedang’s leadership in the planning and oversight of rural development is an important milestone for both pilot villages. Aisyiyah Sumedang’s collaborative governance approach has fostered trust among key stakeholders, paving the way for expanding their networks within the communities and with CSOs, local government, and the private sector, and will continue to promote better public services and improved welfare for poor households in the future.