“You are a divorced?? So, how can you possibly be the coordinator of this national program if you can’t even look after your own husband? Look at you, your husband divorced you”.
This sentence was expressed very blatantly and insultingly by Pak Kecik (the Village Head) at a meeting with members of the women headed households (Pekka) in a village in Kecamatan Idi Rayeuk, Nangroe Aceh Darussalam, when they found out that I was a divorced widow with three children.
It hurts, of course. In the past, I didn’t believe that people in general would look down, despise and tend to blame women who became single parent due to a divorce. But my status as a divorced and my job as coordinator of an empowerment program for women headed households, a majority of the members being widows, have proven that these things do happen. Being a widow is a disgrace, because the status of a widow means that she had weaknesses as a woman and a wife in her marriage. People never want to look at the various factors that were the reasons, as well as the condition of the women who became widows. People tend to judge them and cruelly put a bad label on these widows. It is no surprise that a lot of women work so hard to make their marriage work, in spite of the violent and unfair treatments they had to endure …
… Wherever they come from, whatever the reason they end up as a widow and become the head of their family, there are these similarities that unite them in a bond. Poverty is what they experience every day. If we look directly into their life, we will be surprised that after enjoying our independence for more than a half century, we still find members of this nation who live in extreme poverty …, far below the poverty line set by the authorities of this country. They are also united as victims of injustice/unfairness of a system of values and laws that put women as something that deserve to be treated as if they are worth nothing.
Various forms of violence also mark the life of part of them, either domestic violence in households—physically and psychically – as well as violence by the state and the society, without them ever knowing and realizing that it was violence and that they have the right to be freed of any form of violence. And we see in these stories that they were also united by their desire to safe their family, safe their children, as to put anything at stake.
Space, time, and the opportunity to be treated as human beings are the things that they desire and expect the most of all. We clearly notice that most of the stories written by them are always ended with their very high appreciation for the Pekka program, which actually contributes only a little to the changes in their life, i.e. by giving them the space, time and opportunity to gather, to share their love and stories, and to build a common force for a better life… Read entire essay PDF >
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