Umi Lasmina, Institute for Press and Development Studies (LSPP) , Indonesia

In year of 1998 was a turning point for women in Indonesia as the people in the country faced difficult situation. The economic crisis was up high. It was a time for women’s movement to act in unity to fight injustice situation. Injustice in term of the women, mostly the mother has to deal with highest price of basic needs. Women had its way created a union action.

Women’s activists gather and chose strategy to fight against injustice by the government. High prices for milk and basic foods became a great concern for women’s activist. Most of them mothers too, they knew how difficult to fulfill the family needs with limited income they spent much money for basic needs. Within this year too, along with student’s movement, brought women into real action.

Women and mother started work in action with other women outside the house. Among them was a movement (a forum non hierarchical action later became institutionalized as organization) of women and mothers in Suara Ibu Peduli (Voice of Cencerned Mothers), and an already established women organization, ASPPUK (Asosiasi Perempuan Pendamping Usaha Kecil/Women’s Associaton for Small Entrepreneurs). Now, both organizations has thousands members of mothers. Both has significant role in the movement but low profile in media spot, especially in 2005. In compared their sister organization in women’s movement such as Kalyanamitra, Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity) and LBH APIK (Asosiasi Perempuan Indonesia untuk Keadilan/Legal Aid of Indonesian Women Association for Justice). These three organizations were well known by public as they were often has media coverage. Different from SIP and ASPPUK, those three organizations were not base member organization, and did not yet has massive members. Due to limited space of this paper, I will focus on SIP, and mention ASPPUK as a complementary of other quite women organization but has done great deal to empower women.

It was, then in 1998, where women’s activist using the motherly stereotype as tools protest against the government. In one prominent newspaper, Kompas, I highlight, how SIP has been coverage frequently to February-March. It was because of historical action that brought SIP into spotlight, I call it First SIP, as it was the beginning of SIP. The action protest by SIP for the very first time became a historical event of women’s movement. SIP became well-known in everywhere, their action has been covered in almost magazines and newspaper (Indonesia and abroad).

SIP and ASPPUK are big women’s organization with massive members. They performed quietly within the movement. Especially ASSPUK is far and quite from media spot. As it showed above. Though as organization ASPPUK is older than SIP, its characteristic was focus in economic since its very beginning, has created somehow internal activities of economic empowerment for its member.

Newspaper Coverage of SIP (and its activist) and Other Women OrganizationYear 1998 February-March, Kompas (National)

By the time of February-April 2005, when both SIP and ASPPUK already have thousands of members, newspaper coverage significantly change, on this I call New SIP. First SIP action to protest government and got public attention, and New SIP with focus economic empowerment. Though significantly difference between their performance 1998, and 2005. The spirit to empower women has not change. Surely New SIP keep their voices calm and work in community. Was/is this a strategy chosen by the organization, or part of motherly internalized stereotype of manage domestic areas, left politics to man? The answer lay in their action in their communities.Random news coverage SIP for

The Start to be Finished

In 1997 Indonesia was at the worse economic crises. It has great impact to women. All basic goods or foods were in highest price, especially milk. Devaluated Rupiah (IDR Indonesian Rupiah) to US dollar Rp 4.850 per US$ in 1997, went dawn to level Rp 17.000 per US $ in January, 22, 1998. The result was price of many goods with content of import product become higher. The impact was clearly for mother who had to deal to filled the needs for their family on daily basis. Almost everyday from January to March, we read in newspaper how high price of milk and medicine.

The economic situation then, brought Indonesia’s women movement to find its perfect time to spoke and fight for their concern. This time women from different organization gather together and started again to involve in fighting for change. Though still uncertain and an old type condition of politics and economy system, there were hope to change for a better situation.

People, students driven by its unrest and unresolved situation. Students from from all over Indonesia started uprising with mass gathering and demonstration inside the campuses. But not until SIP made an historical protest action in Bundaran H.I (Hotel Indonesia circle) on February 23, 1998, students took action outside campuses[1]. SIP action was a brave one. At the time the political situation is in high level and national security was uptight. The General People’s Assembly was to held General Assembly and would innagurate Soeharto again as president. The Commander in Operational has giving order in forbidding any demonstration of people gathering by walking in street a week before and after the meeting.[2]

It was SIP who dare took action in voicing women’s concern and care due to high prices of basic goods. They demand were simple, the government should pay attention on mother problem because of price raise for milk and basic needs. First Suara Ibu Peduli was then, a movement, not yet organization, but a name for action.

Suara Ibu Peduli as a name for action was chosen by one of the prominent woman activist, Taty Krisnawaty. It happened in early February 1998 at the meetings, to create action for women and about women’s concern. It was clearly target for the action was government and their policy. Almost all women’s activist from different organization participated in the meetings as individuals or as representative for their organization. The meetings was a secret due to Soeharto’s oppressive and unrest political situation. Tati Krisnawaty was an experience activist for labor and poor women who suggest to chose the name. It’s still unsure if they aware how it produced mothering reproduction system, and have psychological impact for women[3]. And everyone agreed mother was not a dangerous name, a domestic and apolitics figure. Mother is safe territorial for woman. As a safe territorial, many women have come and joined to help the action took place by SIP. This strategy used by activist to form SIP, First SIP.

The action of using “stereotype” went on. The women organizations were providing cheap price milk for poor mother. Resources fund for milk were came from donation from women’s entrepreneur and local philanthropist organization. As it look from outside as a apolitics organization, SIP could attract mother and ‘The Have’ women to come and joined the action. Though ‘The Have’ women did not joined protest action and only donated fund, it was act of free will and daring action. Many of these women did not want to be mention as donator in order to keep their name unrelated to ‘politics’ activities.

Police watched SIP protest action and arrested two leaders of action and one participant of the action. In this action, not many mothers join, but activists. The police arrested Karlina Leksono and Gadis Arivia, women’s and academics activist from middle class society and Wilasih activist and entrepreneur. Media coverage were from all over the world ready for them. Right before the action began in Bunderan H.I, there were already photographers from national and international media.[4] It was a blast. They were released after 23 hours detained in Jakarta’s Police Headquater.

In the eye of public, media displayed of police seize mothers and put them in truck were an anomaly behave. Within this context, Karlina Leksono, an astronomer and philosophy doctoral kept told the public in the media, how she felt as mother, and women with great concern about future generation nutrition, while the price of milk was so high how could Indonesia children have a intelligent brain.[5]

The historical protest action of SIP has great media attention. Though the chosen name for action was related to avoid police scrutinize, media too already using stereotype as effective vehicle of representation.[6] In Indonesia media has shown that stereotype of mother as a-politic, domestic and undisruptive. Those were means of reflection to the world and a means of expresses of value and believe[7].

Public side mostly at Karlina’s and friends, how could police arrest mothers, who peacefully spoken the truth about difficulty of the people and burden to fulfilled family needs. Many newspapers coverage comment statements from well-known person about disagreement with police act. Women’s Role Minister, Mien Sugandi even said that the police should not detain SIP activists.[8] Emil Salim, ex-Enviroment minister stated that he support moral action of SIP, that Dr. Karlina and friends action were driven by conscience not politics. [9] A scholar and lecturer from Law Faculty University of Indonesia, Harkristuti Harkrisnowo stated that SIP action did not disturbance public.[10] And more mothers come and joined in actions, which later on initiate by SIP. That became the turning point for women movement to embrace politics and shock the authoritarian of Soeharto’s Government.

The arrest and trial of SIP activists, has brought women’s activist together as well of support from prominent democratic activists. The story of trial, in court and outside court has been told in every newspaper and magazine. While in other part of place, student demonstration began to rise at the highest point. In this period, most people from Jakarta became supporters from student action. They donate money and food for logistic, then it was SIP too who manage and prepared, and gave it to students. It was mainly SIP activities till the end of 1998.

Down in Economy Up in Spirit

Independently SIP continues bring out women’s right issues alongside food issue and milk. After a year of movement, SIP was institutionalized and became an organization under coordinated Jurnal Perempuan (Feminist Journal). Other activities such as micro economic and cooperative were to be made. The spirit of mother to get away from economic crisis was high. They were created activities such as exercised in streets together with music to get health and fun[11]. From year 1999 to now, SIP has its new kind of organization with women economic empowerment, New SIP. Economic empowerment began one of the works of SIP activities. More and more mother active in SIP. Mothers and women in the heart of Jakarta and surround city was begun its struggle. This mean, not only word “ibu” or “mother” as strategy to be safety from scrutiny by apparatus, but the mothers literally, works for the movement. Mother in this term is housewife. Then mother, now activists.

Other than SIP, before 1998, ASPPUK (Asosiasi Pendampingan Perempuan Usaha Kecil/ Association for women in small business), where activist worked with women’s in small business, working inline women’s rights issue and small business for women. During the students movement they participated providing logistic too. Until now, both organizations exist and has thousands women members (mostly mothers), ASPPUK members are in islands of Jawa, Nusa Tenggara, Sumatera, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and SIP members in Jakarta and Bogor (West Java). Compare to SIP, mother in ASPPUK, has worked as small entrepreneur and becoming activist after they joined the organization. SIP and ASPPUK, has similar goal in raising women economic empowerment, and they done similar method in empowering women’s economic. Both using micro credit base on solidarity, we called it saving Tanggung Renteng, or micro credit. This tanggung renteng has meaning that every group has certain members, from five to ten women where each person in group pay basic amount of money and if somebody need the money they could ask for loan, where everyone will pay together. They began the credit micro with fund collected and donation from philanthropists. With the very basic amount of Rp.500.000,- (Five Hundred Tousands Rupiahs equal 53 US $) New SIP has increase its assets for cooperation to millions Rupiahs.

SIP aims are to empower women in order to build democratic, and welfare civil society. From the fluid and temporary movement of mothers and women SIP growth to became an organization of mothers and women in community base and inherent with the needs of the communities. How to fulfill the communities needs are implementing in SIP programs.[12]. SIP activities to empower women and to help women to solved their economic, social and cultural problem independently. Within those concern, the SIP program are become a lesson learns for women to enhance their quality. Nowdays SIP running their program in 11 working Depok, Bojong Gede, Cibinong (West Java near Jakarta); Cilandak Rempoa, Kampung Sawah, Pondok Aren, Kalibata (South Jakarta); Tanjung Priok (North Jakarta), Tanah Abang (Central Jakarta), and , Condet (East Jakarta)

As SIP continuing its role as women’s organization with base member and activity base in community, their action too related in voicing the voiceless in community. SIP advocating women’s rights, children’s right in term of the most needed action, such as in education. For instance, SIP with mothers came and advocate mother of students where their school has policy could create burden, especially the poor student. The school (elementary) imposed student to pay some fund. The result of SIP influence was the school changed its policy.[13] Though most of SIP members did not aware or did not admit openly that their action was politics, it is truly politics in local context (their community).

Somehow, the journeys of mothers who become activists in SIP were unique and valuable. Compare to many activists, where their awareness of women’s rights, human rights, and politics has taken its consciousness since they were university students. The mothers in SIP, learnt and took a lesson while they were already and face many problem which they do not have name for it. As Betty Friedan in Feminine Mystique called housewife problem as a problem without a name. Unlike women in Betty Friedan’s book, which were middle class and educated women, most SIP members were housewife and mother from lower to middle class. And like in other country, as housewife-mother, women are facing the obligation as full time work, a lifetime contract, and good companion of husband.[14] It is wife who has to face double burdens, not double roles, as it was always euphymism by Indonesia’s New Order’s Women Minister.[15]

Mothers who involved in SIP activities found not only a place to share and exchange information and concerns, to find a way to know each other as women, and SIP become a Life University and Home of Hearts. SIP became part of their needy soul, if they did not come to the office (SIP headquater), they will not fill ease, when the come to the office they meet fellow mother and could share and discuss many things.[16] Women in SIP learnt and know each other deeply and will accept differences. Those processes have build critical thinking, empower them. SIP hope the School of Heart will grows and could be an alternative way to transform and change by women in community.


Seeing women as mother with territorial power in home, and women as activist with territorial power in public, I see SIP and ASPPUK has different yet significant role in using the motherly stereotype to for social change, gradually. It was in First SIP in the beginning of its platform of organization begun with then activists now the mother, and the New SIP with first then mother now mother-activist. The First SIP chose to voicing concern loud against government policy about price, national and outspoken, which was internally aware that was a political action, but masked it for public as moral concern of mother. This mother-activists has influenced type of struggle by New SIP. The focus now in community or internal and surround their living areas. This is a politics too. In context of in the spot of media highlight, First SIP, has used the media as way to disseminate and provoke the public about their concern as women and mother and New SIP, where leader and members mostly mother preferred to work silently, only if their feel it is necessary they will use the media as their tools for disseminate issue, as in election day. For my assumption, that the mothers in SIP still have to face a day to day work as wife (at home), it make them has to be practical, not to go beyond what their think they could, or could create a dangerous situation. And in order to keep their establishment of their works and continuing to work better they have to choose a method, a method to save and maintain the organization. If they open up their work too openly to public, it will be much more scrutinized, and to handle that it must be difficult, yet they do not prepare for such things.[17] New SIP not leave politics to male, but chose the political area where they could participate active, in community.
[1] Students demonstration/action outside campus for the first time was Bandung Techology Institute (ITB) in March, 1998., Kompas., March 1998.
[2] Kompas, Februari 22, 1998
[3] Chodorow, Nancy., “Family Structure and Feminine Personality”., Women, Culture and Society, Standford, (CA: Standford University Press 1974)
[4] I was participated in the action and tried to pull Gadis Arivia not to drag by the police to truck.
[5] Almost all Indonesia’s maganizes has interviewed Dr.Karlina Leksono, and what she said about her action merely as her concern as mother, not political action. (Gatra ,March 1998, D&R March 1998)
[6] Jones, Marsha and Emma Jones., Mass Media., London: MacMillian.,1999. p.106.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Kompas, March, 3, 1998.
[9] Kompas, February, 28, 1998
[10] Kompas, March 11, 1998
[11]. Ibu Maria, at the first anniversary of SIP., March 1999 Jakarta.
[12] www.suaraibupeduli.org access February,23, 2006.
[13] In informal meeting with one of SIP supporter.
[14] About wife and women has to deal as wife see Julia Suryakusuma, Sex Power and Nation, (Jakarta: QBWorld,2005) Susan Mausart Wifework why marriage really means for women (Melbourne :Text Publishing, 2001)., and Maria Mies and Veronica , Subsistance Perspective (Zed Books, 1999) Germaine Greer the Whole Women (London:Doubleday,1999), and for theoretical approach see Carole Pateman, Sexual Contract (California: Standford University Press,1988)
[15] Women’s Role minister in President Soeharto’s period government used term for role of women as double roles; at home (domestic) at work (public). Not until Reformation, this term has change and into mainstream to double burden, started to introduce male to involved in domestic works.
[16] As stated by Pujiwati, one of the SIP presidiums, in Diskusi Dua Bulanan 21 November 2002 Partisipasi Masyarakat dalam Pendidikan (Bimonthly Discussion November 21, 2002, Community Participation in Education),., www.cbe.or.id accessed December, 19, 2005
[17] In conversation with main supporter of SIP, Dinny Jusuf 2003


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