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Indonesia Women Headed Household Program (PEKKA)

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working women

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Pekka activity map

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Started in 1999, the Program for Women Headed Households in Indonesia (better known by its acronym PEKKA in Bahasa Indonesia), supports about 6,500 rural widows in over 300 villages, 38 subdistricts and across 8 provinces (see map for PEKKA's geographic distribution of activities). The program focuses on village level capacity building and microfinance activities, and social and economic empowerment. It has a special program for widows of the tsunami victims in Aceh.

Prior to PEKKA, no development project in Indonesia had ever worked with widows, especially in areas of large-scale conflict.  The link between widows and poverty is well-known. Loss of an adult male is economically devastating to already poor families.  Not only are families instantly plunged into poverty, but poverty becomes the fate of future generations, with children being pulled from their schools by mothers unable to pay school fees, and needing them to work for family survival

Pekka Widows

The widows at Tampoek Blang, who have been active at the PEKKA program, are now productive income earners for the family.

In order to help the widows break free of the poverty spiral, the Ministry of  Home Affairs and the World Bank thrashed out the basic principles of a program that might conceivably reach widow-headed families which developed the following parameters:

The project would have to be conducted by non-governmental agencies, who had the experience and tools to work with the widows. The project should focus on overcoming their isolation and organizing the widows into self-reliant groups. The project would require to be more patient than most development projects usually are. The widows themselves would have to set the pace, not some pre-determined implementation plan or disbursement table. And last, the project should have a strong documentation program so that the lessons learned could be shared and replicated.

PEKKA picture of Amina in AcehThe PEKKA program broke barriers right from the beginning. The Ministry of Home Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Commission on Violence Against Women, one of the country's national human rights organizations, to co-manage the program and ensure that the rights perspective received equal treatment with the project's development goals.

Becoming a widow can condemn a family's next generation to a life of poverty. But this is one poverty cycle that can be reversed. Helping widows maintain a stable economic foundation that can provide them and their children with a reliable income is one of the most effective anti-poverty measures.  Surveys show that the poverty spiral has been halted.  No child of a PEKKA member  has been pulled out of school since the project started, and in most groups, school enrollment increased. PEKKA micro-credit groups mobilize member savings before receiving outside funding, so that by the time the grant funding arrives, members already have their home businesses up and running.

PEKKA aims to provide far more than just funds to help women. It aims to empower them by teaching them vocational and leadership skills then, encourage them to add their own savings to small loans. PEKKA encourages women to save funds before applying for micro-credit loans of up to US$100 for farming, animal husbandry, tailoring and trading activities. It provides vocational and leadership training for members, literacy and book-keeping classes and health education. PEKKA also has a social fund for older women and those who cannot work and gives scholarships to their children. There is a separate rehabilitation program for widows of the tsunami.

PEKKA's biggest benefits, however, are less tangible. They are about the widow's newfound confidence and pride in themselves. This shows up in unexpected ways. Several of the widows groups have turned down the micro-credit funds, saying the money should be used to help widows elsewhere because they can now stand up for themselves in village budget meetings.

As of August 2005, a program was launched to empower marginalized women to defend their legal rights and reduce violence and discrimination against women. The program  will be implemented by PEKKA in coordination with Indonesia's Justice for the Poor Program. A specific program to improve access to justice for women is necessary, as women’s rights are often ignored at the local level.

PEKKA Program in Aceh

The PEKKA program is significant in Aceh, a region which has a large number of widows and deserted women, following three decades of conflict. For example, the women built and renovated 25 houses themselves for members in Bireuen whose homes were swept away and damaged by the tsunami. In Tampoek Blang village, Suka Makmur sub-district of Aceh Besar, the women outnumber the men 6,000 to 5,000. PEKKA began work in Tampoek Blang in 2002 and introduced the social fund in 2004. 

Today, there are two self-help groups in Tampoek Blang, namely the Bantimoh with 34 members and the Bungong Seulangah with 21 members. This accounts for all the widows in the village. The program includes 307 members out of 2,922 households in the subdistrict.

More information: News/Events/Feature Stories:

  Three Widows Get a Second Chance Through PEKKA(September 2006)
Chasing the Dream (March 2006)
The Widows of Tampoek Blang (March 2006) | View the Story in Photos 
Aceh Women Build their Own Homes (August 2005)
Women's Legal Empowerment Program Launched (August 2005)
 Aceh Widows Begin the Task of Rebuilding(February 2005)
 Indonesia: Photographing Poverty and Exclusion (May 2004)

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