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Women Improve Village Transparency through Advocacy on Freedom of Information

May 29, 2022

Transparency makes government affairs public for citizens. According to Indonesian Law 14/2008 on the Freedom of Public Information, citizens have the right to access public records and information about how the government functions, which encourages the authorities to be more accountable. However, few citizens understand their right to know how the government works and manages the resources entrusted to it. In addition, for those that are aware, the actual process to obtain public information is confusing and time consuming.

Preparation Pilot Project Mawar Desa in Serang

In the rural district of Serang (Banten), USAID MADANI Civil Society Support Initiative works with Pimpinan Daerah Aisyiyah (PD Aisyiyah) – the women’s association of Muhammadiyah, the second-largest Islamic organization in Indonesia – to spearhead advocacy for village government accountability through increased access to public information. This enables villagers to monitor the management of village finances, prevent the misuse of Village Funds (Dana Desa), and become anti-corruption activists.
District-level District Information Officers (PPID) play a central role in disclosing public information. However, it is located in the Serang District and out of reach for many villagers. Thus, PD Aisyiyah, together with the local multi-stakeholder forum Simpul Madani Serang, has advocated for clearer guidelines and procedures by supporting village-level District Information Officers.

In April 2022, the Serang District Information Office submitted the draft circular letter (SE Bupati) on the Freedom of Information to the Serang Legal Affairs Bureau for review and enactment. The circular letter encourages villages to establish PPIDs in their administrative areas and improve how citizens access public information. Anas Dwi Satya Prasadya, head of the District Information Office, said: “The circular letter is just the first step in boosting transparency in villages… I hope villages update public records on their websites so that the information will help citizens participate in developing their neighborhood.”

Women Improve Village Transparency through Advocacy on Freedom of Information

Women Improve Village Transparency through Advocacy on Freedom of Information

To improve oversight and control, PD Aisyiyah is mobilizing community-based advocacy groups called Madrasah Anggaran Warga Desa or Mawar Desa in short, meaning Village Budget School. Originally, PD Aisyiyah had established this women-led effort to focus on women’s empowerment and issues related to disadvantaged groups in village development. However, with the circular letter, they have added advancing freedom of information into Mawar Desa’s objectives. Group members are trained by MADANI experts on good governance, organizational management, village finances, and monitoring and evaluation. Currently, Mawar Desa is active in two of MADANI’s target villages. As a next step, the local government is supporting an effort to transform these groups into legal entities, which will both enhance and make more sustainable their program planning, advocacy work, and oversight capabilities.

PD Aisyiyah and other like-minded civil society organizations see the new policy as the Serang District government’s formal support for freedom of information. The circular letter is a important initial victory that aligns with local CSOs’ larger goal to further advocate for better access to public information, which can only succeed with the district government’s support.