August 2012


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Conflict, Corruption, Gender Discrimination—Some Lessons from an Internship in Indonesia

So Nasier

I feel so happy to have this unforgettable internship opportunity in Palu and Poso on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi that was hosted by the Coalition of Concerned Women of Palu, which is known locally by the Indonesian acronym of KPPA. Through this internship, I have learned so much—discovering various cultures and ways of life of different people; gaining an understanding about the conflicts in the villages and how the conflicts’ harmful impact affects all the vulnerable women and children; learning about gender mainstreaming and government budgeting analysis that can help to bring critical awareness of the burning issues to all people, especially women, so that some positive, radical changes can be made for their own communities to have a better economy; and experiencing and comprehending more deeply the social work activities that KPPA is doing as well as its networking with the government sector to assist poor, marginalized women and children living in grassroots communities to have a better standard of living. In addition, I have witnessed the value of pluralism, have learned more about climate change and have been exposed to useful ways to keep our environment clean and have acquired valuable practice as a facilitator with small English group discussions in schools. For me, most importantly, I have also learned methods of forming a children’s group through interaction with KPPA’s group Banua Ananggodi.

Regarding the conflict in Poso, it appears on the surface to be a religious conflict, but the root causes of the violence are political issues and a struggle over power of who is superior in this part of Central Sulawesi. These strains and stresses in society push ordinary people to fight and kill each other in the name of their God. Instead of reducing these tensions, the corrupt government escalated the conflict by supporting some combatant groups that are fundamentalist and very strict in their religion, thus creating conflict with other religious groups. As a result, many people died in Poso.

To be more specific, through my internship, I observed that KPPA is helping to bring women awareness of critical political and economic issues in their communities. They provide political schools for women in which they are taught ways and techniques to analyze government budgets. They try to observe, for instance, the allocation of all government money to ascertain whether the government allocates the money efficiently and wisely or whether corruption is involved in the use of public funds. If they find corruption, KPPA will help to take action, such as through demonstrations against this misuse of the public’s money.

KPPA also seeks to improve the lives of women and children in other ways. They help women and children who are victims of the conflict, for example, and they offer a variety of services for women and children that include being advocates for those who face various forms of oppression—trafficking, domestic violence and other kinds of oppression and child labor. KPPA also strives to raise awareness in the community about gender issues and through workshops and short training courses elevate the general understanding of people about political and economic problems. They work as well to provide all women with health care and to afford children an opportunity to be educated by joining children’s groups.

In addition, several workshops which I attended are useful for me as well, such as the training workshop for facilitators where I was taught, for example, that facilitators must try to encourage all participants to have creative and reflective thinking. Good facilitators are naturally skilled at giving clear instructions and of thoughtfully summarizing the ideas of the participants in a short, meaningful and understandable synopsis of the discussion, and they must be able to creatively handle any problems that may arise.

When I return to my own country of Cambodia, I will apply in my community what I learned and experienced through my internship in Indonesia. What is of particular importance to me is the process of forming and maintaining children’s groups, planning activities for them and being a group leader.

I also want to put into practice in Cambodia what I learned in Indonesia about responding to the needs of orphans as there are many orphans in my country. It is important to empower, encourage and support orphans to assist them to overcome the obstacles and problems they face so that they can enjoy a bright future.

As I described above, there is much that I learned as well about responding to the needs of women, such as gender mainstreaming that can help to bring critical awareness of important issues to all people, but especially to women, in order to create some positive changes for their communities. Consequently, I want to create some activities, such as short training courses and small workshops, that will work toward liberating women from oppression and at the same time help transform the poor attitudes and stereotypes toward women held by men in Cambodia.

Learning about conflict transformation in the Poso region is also a good experience for me as I now begin to understand more deeply and clearly about how to resolve conflicts more effectively and efficiently. I will thus create a small sharing activity about the process of resolving conflict by using conflict transformation. I am sure that many peacemakers are using this approach to resolve problems if they want to successfully achieve their goals.

To conclude, this internship and my time in Indonesia was a great learning experience for me through which I gained much knowledge, especially relating to how to respond to the issues facing women and children, which was the goal of my internship. Now the challenge is to put this knowledge and awareness into practice to improve the lives of people in my community and our society in Cambodia.

* So Nasier took part in the 14-week School of Peace (SOP) conducted by Interfaith Cooperation Forum (ICF) in Bangalore, India, as a Muslim participant from Cambodia in 2008. He lives in Battambang Province in Cambodia.