Mega Sulastri, a member of the House of Representatives in Bengkulu Province, does not have any extravagant goals as a politician. Despite having served two terms as a female legislator from the Golkar Party, she aims to demonstrate that her abilities and skills are equal to those of male politicians. Mega clarified during a December 28, 2022 interview that she does not have any specific missions or women’s issues, but rather wants to prove that women can be just as capable and competent as men in politics, given her position in the DPRD.
Mega’s journey in politics began when she was offered to join a party in cooperation with the party owns banyan symbol right before general election in 2014. Her opportunity to go forward to become one of the representatives was highly possible referring to the requirements which mentioned that each part should have proposed 30 percent of female legislative candidates.
“Prior to the implementation of affirmative action, only a small number of women had registered. However, with the current availability of affirmative action, women’s involvement in politics is expected to increase significantly since they are being provided with greater opportunities and quotas,” she further explained..
After being recruited by Golkar, Mega admitted that she was given a political education. By this act, she targeted the voices of women’s groups in Bengkulu. “Everything was facilitated by Golkar including the knowledge of understanding and political education. To gain more votes, I took a personal and social approach to Women Islamic activity called “majlis taklim” and such so,” she explained.
Sefty Yuslinah, a member of the Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS) party, followed a similar strategy to Mega Sulastri by targeting women’s votes. She participated in and spoke at Women Islamic activities called “majelis taklim” to try to gain the support of female voters. She has been elected three times as a member of the House of Representatives (DPRD) in Bengkulu Province and has a particular focus on women’s issues as part of her mission.
“After being inaugurated, the Office for Women’s Empowerment, Child Protection, Population Control and Family Planning was the first thing I looked at, because it was the place where to go for the women’s issue. We highly encourage them to increase the official budget every year in order to be able to provide many advantages for women in Bengkulu,” she explained.
Similarly, Ria Oktarina, a member of DPRD (House of Representatives) in Bengkulu Province from Hanura Party, said that she has pushed for a progressive provincial government budget. One of them is the agricultural budget which is prioritized for Women Farmer Groups known as Kelompok Wanita Tani (KWT).
“Including the budget in the health sector which is intended for mothers and children, women’s reproduction, mental health, family planning and others. In addition, to the Vocational Training Center known as Balai Latihan Kerja (BLK) which strives to be able to accommodate activities for female participants such as cooking, fashion, sewing and so on. The budget must touch the needs of women as much as possible,” she explained.
Ria acknowledged that the rule that mandates 30 percent of legislative candidates be women had aided her, but she believed that this provision was not being utilized effectively for women’s benefit. According to Ria, the quota system was only being used as a theoretical requirement, and not due to a strong will among women. For instance, in some areas, women’s representation was very low, and even close to zero, such as in South Bengkulu.
The government’s efforts to encourage women’s representation in parliament began with the ratification of Law Number 12 of 2003 concerning Elections for the DPR, DPD and DPRD. Five years later, Law Number 10 of 2008 concerning the Election of Members of the DPR, DPD and DPRD required political parties to include at least 30% (thirty percent) of women’s representation in the management of political parties at the central level.
“Generally speaking, these two regulations become command dealing with the establishment of a minimum of 30 percent women’s representation of all candidates for members of DPR and DPRD,” said KPU Commissioner for Bengkulu Province, Irna Riza Yuliastuti.
However, she admitted that the rules regarding women’s representation in the management of political parties and legislative candidates are often interpreted differently. Women’s representation often stagnated at the beginning of the election process. “There needs to be political will over internal party policies to further encourage female candidates to spot a position and sit as members of the legislature,” said Irna.
The women candidate as members of the legislature in Bengkulu as it was explained by Irna, underwent significant changes after the policy regarding minimum quotas that was introduced beforehand. However, if you refer to KPU data, there not much has changed.
In 2009-2014 period, eight women were elected as legislative members of DPRD in Bengkulu. This number has decreased to seven people in 2014-2019 and 2019-2024 periods.
“The openness of democracy and the demand to meet the minimum number of women’s representation have made women candidates do exis and register themselves. Unfortunately, who make it to finally take the position and sit are just those the same people in common and have never changed. The final result of the election is not yet fully 30 percent consists of female legislative members,” she added.
Political parties are required to be seriously taken into granted
The 30 percent quota for women in DPRD Bengkulu Province has not been fulfilled yet, said an academician from Bengkulu University, Wahyu Widiastuti, due to the lack of seriousness by political parties to make women as legislative candidates. “In Bengkulu, people see politics as something bad and a thing more likely masculine therefore the women who want to go there are afraid of the stigma made by themselves. Not to mention, the working hours in the legislature sometimes takes time until even over the night due to meetings and this point make women feeling uncomfortable, especially women who have responsibilities at home,” said Widi who is currently a candidate for a doctoral program at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT).
A similar statement was mentioned by a senior researcher in the field of gender and development, Titiek Kartika Hendrastiti. According to her, the realization of affirmative action by political parties is just about the matter of fulfilling 30 percent requirements. “Because women who are smart are usually seen as complicated people who can make everything becomes more difficult as a bummer in the party. Thus, that the opportunities that exist and available, will be given either to the relatives or those who have money. Sometimes there are candidates who are defeated by money. That’s what happened in Bengkulu. Those who have money or connection to relatives,” she said.
Widi said, in the world of politics, women who seriously struggle from the grassroots and have the capacity are often hampered by their financial ability when competing in general elections. “In Bengkulu, money politics still plays a very important role. People don’t think about what the issue is, whether it’s good or not, SARA (ethnicity, religion, race among groups) or not, even whether they’re smart or not. Because voters who are pragmatic and the candidate background which is not strong enough makes the realization of affirmative action is far from 30 percent in Bengkulu,” she explained.
The patriarchal culture that is rooted in Indonesia, continued by Widi, also had a big influence. Women are prerequisite in any case. “You may do this (work) right after the housework is done. It’s a requirement and compulsory. As a result, not all of them want to take part in political parties because of their personal desires. It could be because the husband is no longer able to re-nominate, relatives’ factors which make it into a family dynasty business. In the end, it is not certain that they have the capacity, the regeneration system in political parties is also very bad, right before new elections, they just start about to look for new nomination and none of the candidates have experience because it is the quick product made in last minutes,” she explained.
Because of that, he is pushing for the formation of binding legal instruments so that affirmative action can run well. “Thus, there must be a pressure. In substance, Bengkulu does not represent women’s interests, because political parties work for power, not for constituents. Women who take part should be able to represent women. There is a clear vision and mission,” said Titiek.