Welcome to Part 1 of our November 2023 Inspirational Interview with Tunggal Pawestri, a women’s rights activist from Indonesia and current Executive Director of the Humanist and Social Innovation Foundation (YHIS), a regional organisation based in Jakarta with a focus on Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Civic Rights in the Digital Age, and Climate Justice in the Southeast Asia region. Tunggal has served as a Steering Committee Member of VOICE since 2021 and holds the position of Independent Global Women’s Safety Expert Advisor for META, further highlighting her dedication to promoting women’s safety and empowerment in the digital space on a global scale.

Part 2 of Tunggal’s interview will be published on 6 November, 2023.

All photos are courtesy of YHIS. 

1. How and why did you join the movement to end violence against women (VAW)? 

In the ‘reformasi’ era of 1998-1999, I actively participated in the student movement, which provided me with invaluable opportunities to connect with diverse communities and grassroots-based organisations, including those focused on women’s rights. These engagements opened my eyes to various societal issues and the distinct impacts they had on different genders. It was during this time that I became acutely aware of the relevance and significance of women’s rights issues, particularly on violence against women (VAW) issues. My personal connection to these issues sparked the beginning of my activism and the movement as I committed myself to advocating for gender equality and working on women’s rights matters. Since then, my dedication to ending violence against women has been a driving force behind my continued efforts in this field.


2. Yayasan Humanis dan Inovasi Sosial (Yayasan Humanis) was established in 2018 “to promote humanistic values, amplify and connect voices that promote social and environmental justice and challenge power imbalances” which includes promoting gender equality. How did Yayasan Humanis come to be founded? 

Over the past decade, Southeast Asia has undergone significant transformations, leading to new avenues for political, economic, and social involvement. While these changes have brought benefits to many, they have also given rise to considerable challenges such as environmental degradation, increased intolerance, restricted civic space, and inequality. Consequently, numerous vulnerable groups continue to be deprived of their fundamental rights. Recognising the importance of a robust civil society sector and empowered citizens in fostering sustainable, fair, and just development, Yayasan Humanis was established. 

With the support of academics, journalists, prominent activists, and leaders from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), this organisation emerged as a local initiative spun off from the Southeast Asia hub of Hivos Stichting based in the Netherlands. Another driving force behind this endeavour was the ambition to shift power dynamics from north-led to south-led, reinforce local leadership, decentralise operations, and promote local ownership.


3. Could you tell us about how Yayasan Humanis’s approach to stopping VAW has developed since 2018?

Drawing from our past efforts in combating Violence Against Women (VAW), we have discovered and tried to improve our approaches in order to effectively eliminate VAW. Firstly, working with multi-actor initiatives: collaborating with rightsholder groups becomes imperative to establish safe and inclusive spaces, ensure access to public services and resources, and enable full participation in public life across all spheres. Additionally, it is essential to foster an environment that allows for the growth of inclusive and feminist leadership. Lastly, empowering women-led organisations to gain power and political influence is a pivotal strategy to challenge systems that perpetuate their exclusion.


4. Could you give us an overview of the work that Yayasan Humanis does to address sexism, misogyny, and VAW in Indonesia?

It is important to note that addressing deeply ingrained issues like sexism, misogyny, and VAW requires collaboration among various stakeholders. Therefore, we facilitate linking and learning forums of CSOs to enhance our understanding of those issues. Yayasan Humanis also offers capacity exchanges by conducting workshops, seminars, and public campaigns by targeting various audiences, including communities, government, schools, workplaces, and the media, to promote gender equality and challenge harmful attitudes and stereotypes.

Together with other organisations, we also push for the implementation and enforcement of laws and policies aimed at protecting women’s rights and ensuring justice for victims of violence, particularly the implementation of the Sexual Violence Crime Law. This involves lobbying for legislative changes and supporting survivors and service providers in navigating the legal system. Our efforts are reinforced by conducting studies to gather relevant data and evidence for stronger advocacy.

Lastly, to counter sexism in the public sphere, we maintain a resource and expert pool of women on the website www.womenunlimited.id


5. Yayasan Humanis incorporates ‘Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion’ (‘GEDI’) in all its programmes by setting “minimum GEDI objectives, targets and strategies” and including “at least one GEDI outcome focused on observable changes in behaviour, practice and performance.” What sort of impact has Yayasan Humanis’s work in GEDI had on Indonesia’s approach and wider attitudes towards VAW in general?

Firstly, the emphasis on GEDI has contributed to raising awareness about VAW and its detrimental effects. By actively promoting gender equality and diversity, Yayasan Humanis has supported fostering a more inclusive and equitable society, where all individuals, regardless of their identities, are valued and respected. This approach has challenged traditional norms and stereotypes that perpetuate violence and discrimination against women (including trans), thus leading to a shift in attitudes towards VAW.

Secondly, Yayasan Humanis’ focus on setting minimum GEDI objectives, targets, and strategies has encouraged the implementation of concrete actions to address VAW. We have worked closely with various stakeholders and rightsholders to develop and implement initiatives aimed at preventing VAW, supporting survivors, and holding perpetrators and stakeholders accountable. Through educational campaigns, awareness-raising initiatives, and capacity-building programmes, we have empowered individuals and communities to challenge harmful behaviours and practices that perpetuate VAW. These efforts have helped to shape Indonesia’s approach to VAW by providing a framework for action and encouraging collaboration among different sectors.