Fientje Jarangga is softly spoken, but she chooses her words determinedly and her sparkling eyes betray power. Resignation is not the answer to rape and abuse of women, she thinks. “It should not be hidden.”

Papua (Indonesia) has a tragic history of violence against women. Not only the military but also men in the domestic sphere are often guilty of abuse and mistreatment of women. Since women are hardly aware of their rights these facts remain hidden. The women’s network for which Fien is active, and that is supported by Mensen met een Missie, breaks the silence.

Speaking out about injustice is the first step towards change.

A secure environment

“Speaking out about injustice is the first step towards change,” says Fien. But only when women feel secure will they tell their stories. The women’s network brings women together in natural surroundings, where they practice traditional crafts together, feel secure and can start a conversation. And they meet women from other regions with similar experiences. “Solidarity is empowering,” says Fien. However, more is being done than facilitating mutual support. “We raise the awareness of women whose rights are trampled upon.” It not only concerns crimes that have been committed, but also rights that are not exercised and prevent women from active participation in society; the right to education and health care and economic rights.

“They do not exercise these rights because they do not know they have them.”

Bureaucracy

Women who suffer from serious trauma stand up and make a case for themselves and for others. Together they carve out a path through the complicated bureaucracy on a regional and national level in order to obtain subsidies. They also appeal successfully to governments for their rights. The contacts with deputies of the regional parliament in Jayapura have this spring resulted in new laws stipulating that local food may only be sold by local people. As a result women have not only taken back a chunk of economic independence, but their success influences other regions as well. “The law must be implemented in the greater region of western Papua. That is the next step. Through our network women in Merauke and other regions are informed that women in Jayapura have those rights, and they will start claiming them as well.”
Through our network women in other regions will hear that they have rights and will start claiming them.

Solidarity

The women of Papua women can also play an important role in society. “Women have that power, but often they are unaware of it. They have the capacity to rise above the differences and to focus on a specific topic that will improve the lives of their families and communities. The power of women expresses itself in solidarity.”

The power of women expresses itself in solidarity.

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