Promoting social justice through participatory approach: lessons from women empowerment projects in five regions in indonesia

Prasetyo, Dinar Dwi (2018). 'Promoting Social Justice through Participatory Approach: Lessons from Women Empowerment Projects in Five Regions in Indonesia' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


The idea of social justice proposed by Fraser (1996) argues that open participation spaces make it possible for every individual, irrespective of their social, cultural and economic identity to participate on an equal footing in society. Meanwhile, Chambers (1994a) who states that participation should be able to support the transformation of power relations among the participants by breaking hierarchies. Thus, participatory development is perfect for promoting social justice, notably through the elimination of misrecognition which, according to Fraser (1996: 26), "now means to change social institutions or, more specifically, to change the interaction-regulating values that impede parity of participation at all relevant institutional sites”. In this case, the participation processes should emphasise the involvement of oppressed groups and individuals (Young, 1990). Furthermore, since justice standards are a socially constructed reality and maintained by individuals, groups, organisations, and societies (Tyler and Smith, 1995), participatory processes provide a sphere where contestation of individual interests as well as collectivisation of justice standards, takes place.

From the above perspective, this paper aims to explore the promotion of social justice in a development intervention named MAMPU (Australia – Indonesia Partnership for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment) Project in Indonesia. The project aims to enhance the access of poor women to public services in the five themes of livelihood, i.e (i) access to social protection programs, (ii) employment, (iii) overseas migration, (iv) reproductive health, and (v) domestic violence and conducted in five Kabupaten (districts) in Indonesia (Deli Serdang, Cilacap, Timor Tengah Selatan, Kubu Raya, and Pangkajene dan Kepulauan). The characteristic of the sites varies from rural (Timor Tengah Selatan) to rural-urban fringe areas (Deli Serdang). From this variation, it is important to learn how the participatory approach is conducted, how the local specific practice of participatory approach could promote the values of social justice, and how the local contexts were influencing the debates of social justice and the process of the participatory approach.

Regarding its various topic of interventions, the paper can be considered as working within the multiple topics of the conference. However, the author deems the paper is closely related to the topic of urban governance, participation and empowerment. The research adopts the qualitative approach to collect and analyze the information. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with women at the household level, local religious and cultural leaders, and local government official. In addition, focus group discussion was held to see the dynamics phenomenon in community level. Furthermore, the data are processed through content analysis method.

In general, we found that the project successfully opened a space for communication within poor women which eventually strengthen their capability to voice their needs and interest of the public services. The project involves poor women in various activities which usually embodied as a forum providing empowerment and training on certain skills, such as public speaking and advocacy. The measure to also engage with other stakeholders, especially the elites, such as the public service provider and the religious and community leader is also crucial to raise their awareness and ownership of the problems. The local contexts were playing a critical role when the project utilizes traditional values (as social capital) to hold the discussion among the beneficiaries (marginalised groups) and the elites. In some regions, there are confirmed changes of social structure at community and household level which is indicated by the improvement of poor women participation in community decision-making process, the change in perceived gender roles between husband and spouse in the household, and the enactment of gender-sensitive local policies.

scroll to top