Magazine article New Internationalist

'They Told Us We Couldn't Count'

Magazine article New Internationalist

'They Told Us We Couldn't Count'

Article excerpt

'When the women first talked about setting up a group, the men in the village laughed. They told us we couldn't even count. They said we didn't know the difference between a 1,000 rupiah note and a 10,000 rupiah note ($1.25).

I didn't believe we could do it myself. I remember when Ibu Reni, the PEKKA facilitator, first came to talk to a group of widows and divorcées in the village. By the time she finished talking, there were only about seven women left.

I joined one of the PEKKA savings groups. I would put in 2,000 rupiah every month. You have to show that you can save money before you can borrow anything. If one member doesn't have enough money to buy rice, then they can borrow a small amount. Before the savings group, women often had to sell plates or other items from the kitchen to buy food when they ran out of money.

There are a lot of widows and divorcées in the village. I first got married when I was 17. Most of the girls get married when they are 15 or even younger. My marriage didn't last long. My husband used to hit me, he had another woman and he never worked. So I asked for a divorce. He gave me nothing even though, by law, women are entitled to half a couple's property.

I went to work as a labourer in the fields and on the roads, like most women in the village. We get paid less than men, earning 10,000 rupiah for a full day's work lifting rocks or carrying bamboo. Men get 15,000 rupiah for the same job.

When I joined the savings group I couldn't even speak Indonesian properly; I only spoke the local dialect. Like most other women there, I hadn't even finished primary school. I joined the PEKKA educational programme where I learned to write my name. Then we learned to read booklets in Indonesian about legal rights for women. After a while, I tutored other women who had just joined - I felt very proud.

There are many rivers near my village and the water is good. …

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