Supporting women

Meet Beauty Erawati, Founder and Director of Oxfam's partner organisation –  the Association of Indonesian Women for Justice (APIK).

Beauty is quite simply one of the bravest women we know.

When she gets up in the morning, Beauty doesn’t know whether she'll be facing up against human traffickers, a corporate bully, or a machete-wielding thug. It sounds dramatic – but for this incredible woman, it’s all in a day’s work.

And she needs your help.

Our project with APIK is no longer guaranteed funding from the New Zealand government, as the overseas aid criteria has been changed. This means that many women and their children face a bleak future of fear, intimidation and wrongful imprisonment. Show your support for this amazingly brave woman in her fight for justice for women and children suffering violence.

Beauty Erawati is founder and director of one of Oxfam's key partners in Indonesia, APIK.

Can you tell us about your work with APIK?

APIK works in the West Nusa Tenggara (NPT) province of Indonesia, which has a population of four million living across two small islands with very different cultures and languages. We provide legal support for women and campaign for the recognition of their legal rights. A key issue we deal with is human trafficking as our province is a hub for the illegal trade. On average we deal with 140-200 cases a year, of which 99 per cent of victims are girls.

We combine legal aid, education and awareness raising, as well as research and advocacy in our work to combat issues affecting women, such as human trafficking. We also seek to establish a legal system in Indonesia that guarantees equity of treatment for women and men.

Can you tell us about your background? How did you get into this field of work?

I began my working life in a family planning organisation and later trained to be a lawyer. I was a victim of domestic violence from my ex-husband, and becoming a lawyer enabled me to defend myself. There are very few lawyers in NPT that are sensitive to women’s issues, so I represented myself in court in an eight-year long trial. My own experiences have made me want to help and teach others in similar situations.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

The present growth and development of Islamic fundamentalism all over Indonesia, and the influence of this movement on our government, is a major obstacle to woman achieving justice and therefore a major challenge in my work. Islamic fundamentalism has many restrictions on what women can do. For example, there are strict laws regarding the wearing of a jilbab/hijab or scarf for women, there is little protection for wives whose husbands are allowed to forcibly punish them, and curfews are imposed on women.

I face this challenge in my personal life also. I refuse to wear a jilbab and one consequence of this was that my children were unable to attend school for months as their teacher did not accept me. Fundamentalist groups have also attempted to close the APIK office and continue to threaten my life. While we could hire security, that is not going to be enough when there could potentially be100 people trying to attack the office and myself. The police tell me I should give up, however this is not an option for me. I will continue to do my work.

Can you tell us about a success you have had in your work?

APIK is the only non-government organisation in Indonesia developing policy on women’s rights, and we have achieved some great economic outcomes for women. One particular case is in Janapria sub-district, where almost 75 per cent of the population work as tobacco labourers.

One hundred per cent of the victims APIK supports in Janapria are women and 90 percent of them work as tobacco labourers. Most are solo mothers with two to four children, and their lives are very difficult. Women tobacco labourers earned less than their male colleagues, with a daily salary of 15,000 rupiahs (NZ$2) for women and 25,000 rupiahs (NZ$3.50) for men.

Oxfam New Zealand helped these women with a small capital (NZ $2000), enabling them to create a cooperative business and receive training and information about their rights. With encouragement, these women went on strike and put pressure on the tobacco company they worked for, demanding that their salary be raised to match the male workers. They also pointed out that the male workers worked shorter shifts as they stopped to smoke and drink coffee, while female workers never stopped. After six months of negotiations, they achieved success. Their salary was raised to the same as that for males and today male and female workers are paid equally.