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INDONESIA: Violence, Circumcision Among Problems Faced By NU Women

Fatayat Nadhlatul Ulama, the women's wing of the country's largest Muslim organization, reported that violence, early marriage and female circumcision are among the problems compromising the reproductive health of NU women nationwide.

Inequality in marriages, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions are also issues Fatayat NU encountered during reproductive health campaigns it conducted in villages in 11 provinces from 2005 to 2010.

Fatayat's programs focused on reproductive health and gender mainstreaming and awareness building in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the National Family Planning Agency (BKKBN) since 2006, as well as programs with its long-time partner the Ford Foundation.

The programs included workshops on reproductive and sexual health, and occasionally the organization held discussions on abortion and female circumcision.

It also handed out booklets on reproductive health education "for future brides and grooms".

These booklets contained information on subjects including sex, labor and sexually transmitted diseases.

Chairwoman Maria Ulfah Anshor said during her speech at Fatayat's national seminar in Jakarta recently, that the organization's struggles to empower the country's women had not always been supported by other elements within NU.

"Some *leaders in NU* still have a religious perspective that is gender-biased," she said.

NU, which claims 40 million followers in the country, bestows much of its authorities on male clerics, a mentality that Maria Ulfah said was largely founded on classic texts and conservative schools of thought.

Debate on early marriage, for example, has divided the NU, with supporters citing interpretations of Islamic teachings that disadvantage women.

Suririn, Fatayat's research and development division coordinator, said the organization would in the future take a friendlier approach to bridge disagreements between the leaders.

She admitted that in the past, Fatayat had felt a gap, or a lack of informal friendliness within NU, that resulted in tensions between male and female continents.

"Maybe we have not conducted enough silaturahmi *effort to maintain friendly relations* with the gentlemen of NU," Suririn said.

NU's executive board member Maidir Harun in his speech during the same event said that he supported Fatayat and told them "not to lose spirit" when dealing with obstacles coming from inside the NU.

Fatayat's programs have also been met with suspicion by members of the public.

"In one of the villages, the issue of gender equality was suspected of fueling rising divorce rates, we have also been accused of promoting sexual activities," Suririn, the coordinator of Fatayat's research and development department, said.

Suririn said that in some villages women had little knowledge of how to maintain their sexual health. "They do not know, for example, the effects anemia can have on pregnancy," she said.

Minister of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar, who attended the event, lauded in her speech Fatayat's programs and efforts in reaching remote areas. She said the programs would help empower the country to meet the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

SOURCE: The Jakarta Post

AUTHOR: Dina Indrasafitri

URL: Click here

DATE: 27/06/2010

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