JISRA Indonesia Documents Stories of Women’s Leadership in Building Peace

Caption: Group photo of all participants in the Workshop on Writing Documenting Women’s Leadership on FORB in Bandung (5/7/2024) (Doc. Fatayat NU Jabar)

Women have great potential to become agents of change in building a more inclusive and tolerant society. Recognizing the importance of this role, documenting women’s leadership on issues of freedom of religion or belief is important to increase understanding, strengthen advocacy, inspire future generations, build knowledge, and preserving valuable heritage.

“By documenting the stories of women who lead movements for freedom of religion or belief, we hope to contribute to the realization of a more tolerant, inclusive and just society for all,” said Neneng Yanti Khozanatu Lahpan, Program Manager of JISRA Fatayat NU West Java, when gave a speech at the opening of a Writing Workshop of the Documenting Women Leadership on FoRB event, with the theme ‘Women Spreading Peace: Women’s Voices, Voices of Humanity’.

“This workshop meeting is the first meeting, while the entire process of writing this documentation will be held over 8 (eight) months,” said Neneng. Each JISRA Indonesia partner institution, explained Neneng, was asked to send a minimum of 3 articles, assisted by a team leader. “The article contain of of best practice for women involved in the issue of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) during the implementation of the JISRA program,” she continued.

Documenting Women Leadership on FoRB was held in Bandung on 5-6 July 2024. The event, which was initiated by Fatayat NU West Java, and collaborated with Muhammadiyah, Nasyiatul Aisyiyah, and Mosintuwu Institute, was attended by 38 participants, 6 of whom attended online via ZOOM. Participants came from all representatives and affiliates of 10 JISRA Indonesia partner organizations/institutions, where each organization delegated 3 writers and 1 team leader.

Caption: Participants wrote stories of women’s leadership in the issue of freedom of religion and belief in Bandung 5-6 July 2024 (Doc. Fatayat NU Jabar)

According to the Chairwomen of the Fatayat NU West Java Regional Board, Hirni Kifa Hazefa, the source of peace is love, “So it is important that the work of women who contribute to peace needs to be brought to the surface,” she said. This workshop, continued Hirni, is important because writing requires skills and needs to be improved. “Even so, we don’t need to wait for perfection to start writing. We have to start, we won’t be good if we don’t start,” she said. She hopes that this activity can be a legacy of goodness for future generations.

Meanwhile, JISRA Indonesia Country Coordinator, Mutiara Pasaribu, said that women who work on peace issues have a lot of knowledge and experience through practice in the field and passed down across generations. “Documentation of the experiences and knowledge that women have is often overlooked. Through this workshop, we want women’s experiences to become knowledge products that can become a scientific reference for the development of women who work on peace and interfaith issues,” said Mutiara. She hopes that the results of this documentation will become a good legacy, which can be disseminated, regarding how women in Indonesia have become role models for the six other countries where JISRA implements its programs.

The workshop, which was held for 2 days, was facilitated by 3 professional writers and media activists, they are Susi Ivvaty (Alif.id, Association of Indonesian Oral Traditions), Iip D Yahya (NU Online Jabar), and Zahra Amin (Mubadalah.id). From this meeting, it is hoped that participants will be able to increase their knowledge about how to write descriptively, determine the lead or core of writing, and explore the meaning behind the facts.

Susi Ivvaty explained that personal story of changes experienced by someone are always worth telling. “There is a point in everyone’s life that I think is worth telling. So, a narrative storytelling style is needed that can attract the reader’s attention,” she said. According to Susi, writers must be able to write descriptive narratives using leads or terraces, which make readers curious and interested in continuing reading.

Caption: Susi Ivvaty (Alif.id, Association of Indonesian Oral Traditions) explains an example of writing an interesting descriptive narrative at the Writing Workshop of Documenting Women’s Leadership on FORB in Bandung (5/7/2024). (Photo by Farah/ @ecobhinneka)

Furthermore, writers of popular articles or serious features, explained Susi, usually hone themselves to combine the writing skills of a writer with the verification discipline of a journalist. She emphasized that accuracy is the most important thing for writing to be printed. She shared examples of a lack of accuracy that could have fatal consequences. “If it has been printed as a book, the writing cannot be edited, so we must not underestimate the discipline of verification and accuracy,” she said.

To make the writing process smoother, Iip D Yahya shared tips that in writing there are 2 processes. First, the activity of writing and expressing ideas, and second, editing the writing. “If you write and edit at the same time, the writing won’t be finished. There’s time for the editing part, so now please just write,” he said.

Regarding writing block, or feeling stuck when writing, Iip suggested that participants look for friends who can provide input on the article that has been written. “If a complaint is submitted even though there is no answer, it actually reduces the burden on the mind. So writing block can be overcome by contacting friends who can provide feedback,” he said.

Writing activity, said Zahra Amin, is the art of arranging words and stitching writing so that it is readable. Just write first, as it happens, as best you can, and if necessary, add references,” she said. “The richer the data, the better we write, because there are lots of materials that we can sew into writing,” she suggested. According to Zahra, inner struggles are also important to tell. “How to build peace and how to build relationships with those who are different, or the story of ‘before and after’ need to be explored,” she continued.

Caption: Iip D Yahya leads a group discussion session at the Documenting Women’s Leadership on FORB Writing Workshop in Bandung 5-6 July 2024 (Photo by Sopi/ Fatayat NU West Java)

Kristina Damayanti, the youngest participant from Surakarta who is Christian, and is also active in the Harmony Division of the Sederek Eco Bhinneka Nasyiatul Aisyiyah Surakarta, expressed her impressions of participating in this activity. “I know more about the correct writing structure, this is the first time I have practiced writing a biography, previously I usually wrote stories, poetry and rhymes.In the future, the choice of words in the media will also be important, in order to attract readers,” said Damay, who is currently still in class XI student at an High School in Surakarta.

This is different from what felt by Ani Farhani, a Program Officer of the Peace Generation. As someone who usually tells stories, Ani revealed that it is not easy to express her experiences into writing. “But here we are given tips and direct practice. Here I also heard stories about the extraordinary activities of friends, tears came to my eyes just hearing the stories. Especially if it is stated in written form,” said Ani, who is currently managing the 21st Century Masagi Teacher program. This activity, said Ani, is very valuable learning and work to maintain peace.

After this training, Nita Andriani didn’t want to stop learning. Apart from this meeting increasing her writing skills, she as the Gusdurian Serang Banten Coordinator hopes to be able to develop them further. “Hopefully, I can write well and I can reflect on these activities in my organization, not just here, for example finding out about and highlighting the work of women figures in the regions,” she said.

Furthermore, even though in the Eastern Indonesian Time (WIT) zone, Usman Mansur enthusiastically took part in this meeting even though he only attended online via ZOOM. “I am happy to have the opportunity to learn and write stories of change through descriptive narratives that attract readers,” said this young man from Ternate, North Maluku. As Regional Manager of Eco Bhinneka Muhammadiyah Ternate, Usman continued, it is important for him to hear and learn stories of changes experienced by individuals and communities from JISRA Indonesia’s local partners from various regions.

Caption: A participant from North Maluku, Usman Mansur, took part in the Documenting Women’s Leadership on FORB Writing Workshop 5-6 July 2024 online via ZOOM. (Photo by Farah/ @ecobhinneka)

Meanwhile, JISRA (Joint Initiative for Strategic Religious Action) is an international interfaith consortium consisting of Mensen met een Missie, Faith to Action Network, Tearfund, and Search for Common Ground. The Arabic word Jisr’ means bridge, which symbolizes JISRA’s goal: to build bridges between different communities. The 2021-2025 JISRA program is implemented in 7 countries: Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Mali and Nigeria. The JISRA project aims to create a peaceful and just society, where everyone can enjoy freedom of religion and belief.

There are 10 partner organizations implementing JISRA in Indonesia, they are: Muhammadiyah, Nasyiatul Aisyiyah, Institut DIAN/Interfidei, Gusdurian Network, Fatayat NU West Java, Peace Generation, AMAN (Asian Muslim Action Network) Indonesia, Imparsial (The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor), Fahmina, and Mosintuwu. The JISRA Consortium in Indonesia has collaborated with various actors, partners, networks, youth organizations and faith-based women’s organizations to support, increase capacity and strengthen inclusive voices and policies.

(Dzikrina Farah Adiba)

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