Taking it to the next level: Linking and learning in practice
– By Zack Lee, Roving Regional Grants Officer – Asia
Admittedly, Linking and Learning is not the most tangible components of Voice. We’ve explained the hows and whys but I’m sure it will not be enough for some. This is why it always tickles me to discover someone who immediately understood what it means and its potential. One of those is Dewi S. Tjakrawinata, the co-founder of YAPESDI from the Let’s Speak Up project.
Aside from her current advocacy on persons with disabilities, Dewi has been a long-time women’s rights activist in Indonesia. She previously co-founded two other organizations, including the CEDAW Working Group of Indonesia where she managed to include women with disabilities into the movement. Earlier this year, the organizing committee of Jakarta’s One Billion Rising (OBR) event contacted her to write stories and do a monologue about women with disabilities facing violence and sexual abuse. It was the first time the OBR included women with disabilities to participate in the movement.
Women and girls with disabilities in Indonesia experience multiple dimensions of discrimination. Many Indonesians still see women primarily as child-bearers and family-raisers. Women with disabilities who are unable or considered unable to raise a family are considered “useless”. Families view girls negatively if a disability hinders them from performing household chores. Both women and girls with disabilities are more vulnerable to gender-based violence with reports showing family members, relatives, or a local community member as the perpetrators. Some women with intellectual disabilities do not even recognize the abuses they faced due to the lack of sexual education. Persons with disabilities are often thought to be unable to pursue a criminal case, further limiting their access to justice.
While writing the stories, Dewi started asking herself a lot questions:
“I could write “stories”, a lot of stories about women with disabilities facing discrimination, violence, etc. But who will do the monologue? I have no problem talking in front of a crowd but reading a monologue about women with disabilities? I didn’t think it would be appropriate for me to do so.”
She tried to find women and girls with different kinds of disabilities who can perform the stories she was writing. She remembered meeting Siti Rodiah (see photo below wearing black) at the Linking and Learning Kick-off event last year. Siti is a young deaf activist from Gerkatin Kepemudaan, a partner from the This is Our Story project. Dewi asked Siti if she could do the monologue about the deaf woman and Siti said yes.
Dewi shared this story with other Voice Indonesia partners as an example of what Linking and Learning can be. It can be the seeds of a community coming together, collaborating on new projects even without Voice. It can be the opportunity where different groups can address the intersectional nature of discrimination and marginalisation. It can be the space where we learn new skills, strategies, and methodologies from each other. And as Dewi said, it can be the extra pair of “hands on whatever project you have”.
You can watch a video of Siti’s performance below or you can read the story in both English and Bahasa Indonesia. You can also read the other stories Dewi wrote and other women with disabilities performed.
Duniaku sunyi, sepi , senyap tidak ada musik indah bahkan senandung Ibuku ketika aku bayipun aku tidak pernah tahu. Tentu saja aku tidak mendengar ketika orang itu masuk di tengah malam buta. Tahu-tahu aku merasakan tubuh yang berat menindihku. Aku meminta tolong tapi hanya gumam yang tidak jelas yang bisa keluar dari mulutku yang kemudian malah disumbat oleh mulut orang yang berbau asing. Aku meronta tapi tubuhku terlalu ringkih. Baju ku ditarik dengan kasar dan tubuhku kemudian ditarik ke bawah dan kami bergumul di lantai kamar tidur ku . Aku ingat film yang pernah aku tonton bersama teman-teman di panti. Dan aku merasa seperti dipukul oleh gada yang berat. Ini kah yang selalu dikatakan kakak Dwi? Diperkosa itu menakutkan, sakitnya luar biasa karena bukan saja fisik tapi terlebih perasaan. Aku marah, aku meronta lagi tapi aku sudah kehilangan tenaga dan asa.
My world is silent, quiet. Silent with no beautiful music. I’ve never even known my mother’s cheers even when I was a baby. Of course, I did not hear the man blindly coming in the middle of the night, a heavy body suddenly resting on me. I cried for help but only an unclear murmur came out of my mouth, further gagged by the mouth of a stranger. I struggled but my body was too fragile. My shirt was pulled roughly. My body pulled down. We wrestled on my bedroom floor. I remember the movie I had seen with friends in the orphanage. It felt like a heavy hammer hit me. Is this what Dwi’s brother always said? Being raped is frightening, the pain is extraordinary. It is not only physical but more importantly, emotional. I was angry, I wriggled again but I’ve lost energy and hope.