“I Want to Bring Women’s Experiences Into My Work”

What is the connection between human rights, gender equality and environment?

This was the focus of The Raoul Wallenberg Institute’s recent workshop in Bangkok. The workshop was part of the Regional Human Rights Research Initiative 2019 in Asia, and researchers from across the region joined to strengthen their skills and knowledge on the different topics.

One of the participants was Kurniawati Hastuti Dewi, Senior Researcher at Centre for Political Studies at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). She is passionate about gender-related issues and tries to join as many workshops as possible to expand her knowledge.

She says that the workshop in Bangkok helped her understand how she can address women’s issues as human rights issues.

Dewi’s main research interest is women in politics. She holds a master’s degree in Asian Studies from the Australian National University, and a PhD in Asian Studies focused on the gender dimension of Indonesian politics from Kyoto University. To her, the gender perspective adds different aspects to political science research – a discipline focused on structures and institutions.

“In my field work, I discovered that the institutional approach is not always enough for understanding women’s perspectives,” she says, adding:

Politics is not just a system but a dynamic of relations between men and women and women and women. It’s more colourful.

The Responsibility as a Researcher

What really sparked Dewi’s passion for women’s issues and human rights was a lunch meeting with two other women in Makassar, Indonesia, in 2003, when she was doing research on bureaucratic reform and decentralisation.

“During the lunch, we discussed all that wasn’t talked about in the focus group meetings, for instance violence against women and what we can do to overcome this problem,” she says.

The other women also expected her to contribute with solutions through her research and writings.

Dewi says that, as female researcher, she felt awakened by that moment. She realised her knowledge was not enough to capture and understand the problems related to women’s needs, interest and life. Therefore, she started studying literature on gender and politics and “fell in love with the topic.”

“For me, the gender perspective is really eye-opening. It allows you to see the patriarchal perception and negative stereotypes that prevent women, especially from the middle- and lower class, from participating in the public sphere and gaining political positions,” she says.

“We should not ignore women’s contribution”

Dewi’s hope is to bring in more women’s voices in her academic writing and thus create a more inclusive society. She therefore dedicates her research to understand and document the rise of female political leaders of local Indonesian governments.

“We have to make sure that the democratisation process in Indonesia is happening in the right way,” she says.

We must consider the rights of women and children and we should not ignore women’s contribution and needs.

Not least, she also wants to use research to shed light on women’s issues in Indonesia:

“In Indonesia, we have many issues. For example, child abuse and violence against women. These things we sometimes forget to discuss because we just focus on the big picture and institutions.”


Photo Credits:

1. Josh Estey, licensed under CC BY 2.0

2. Kurniawati Hastuti Dewi

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