25 Apr 2016

Islam and women empowerment

Dr Eka Srimulyani, Assistant Director II Postgraduate Program at Universitas Islam Negeri (State Islamic Institute) Ar-Raniry in Banda Aceh, saw a vacuum in field-based social research on women and Islam, in particular within the context of pesantren – Islamic boarding schools. With a bachelor and masters degree in Islamic studies, Dr Eka went on to pursue a PhD in International Studies with a specialisation in Asia-Pacific studies at the University of Technology, Sydney as Australia Awards Scholarship awardee in 2002. Her doctoral thesis was published in the Netherlands by University of Amsterdam Press under the tittle Women from Traditional Islamic Educational Institutions in Indonesia: Negotiating Public Spaces.

Aside from access to publication and dissemination on thoughts on the theme of women and pesantren, Eka also gained key understanding in women, Islam and local tradition. These knowledge proved tremendously helpful when she was involved in gender and economic empowerment of the local community programs, especially those involving women. Upon her return, Dr Eka had the opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge she gained into a practical application. Issues of women empowerment are very much relevant within the Aceh community in post-tsunami and post-conflict context. Leadership strengthening for women village groups and female village legislative members are among the programs designed to build their capacities in local context and local content. The programs benefited several hundred women from various regencies, empowering them with capacity building in leadership, conflict resolution, negotiation skills, public speaking skills and motivation. These programs were delivered through Australian Government initiative projects of Local Governance and Infrastructures for Communities in Aceh (LOGICA phase 1).

Through Local Governance Innovations for Communities in Aceh (Logica phase 2), Dr Eka was involved in the implementation of micro-economy empowerment programs.  To date, close to 2000 members of the community, most of which are women, participate in self-sustainable community groups spread throughout 9 regencies Aceh. The main beneficiaries of these programs were women of middle to low economic background, as well as marginalised members of community, including victims of conflict.

Grateful for the Australia Awards experience, Dr Eka endeavours to establish postgraduate partnership programs with the international academia so that others might benefit from the knowledge exchange as well. She has facilitated several international researchers and lecturers visiting Aceh to participate as guest lecturers at the Universitas Islam Negeri Ar-Raniry postgraduate department. Dr Eka has also facilitated collaborations in research with the Health Communication Resource (Australia) for the disaster preparedness in Aceh as well as with International Centre for Aceh and Indian Ocean Studies (ICAIOS), the British Institute in Ankara for an international conference, and a workshop with  Leiden University Centre for The Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS) and Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) of  Leiden University the Netherlands.

Dr Eka is currently finishing her research on female religious figures and ‘majelis ta’lim’ (religious study groups) spread throughout Moslem communities such as those in Aceh. Her postdoctoral research fellowship is based at the International Institutes for Asian Studies (IIAS) of Leiden University and is sponsored by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts of Sciences. A number of findings from this research have been presented at various conferences and seminars in Indonesia and overseas.

Dr. Eka was a finalist of Australia Alumni Award Indonesia 2012 for Research and Innovation category. In January 2015, she was appointed as Professor of Sociology at Universitas Islam Negeri Ar-Raniry.

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