Indonesia’s NU welcomes women to top leadership
The Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) is an Indonesian Islamic organization dedicated to the rebirth of the Ulama. Its estimated membership ranges from 40 million in 2013 to over 90 million in 2019, making it the world’s greatest Islamic organization. NU is also a nonprofit organization that helps reduce poverty by supporting schools and clinics and organizing communities.
The NU was established in 1926 by Ulema and businessmen to protect both conservative Islamic customs (as defined by the Shari’a school) and the financial concerns of its members. NU’s religious ideas are “traditionalist,” in the sense that they allow local customs as long as it does not violate Islamic principles. The Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Islamic organization, is termed “reformist” since it follows a more precise reading of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
For the first time since its founding almost 100 years ago, Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the world’s biggest Islamic organization, has admitted women into its highest leadership positions. More than 150 people, comprising 11 women, were elected to NU’s standing committee for a five-year term.
Alissa Wahid is the daughter of Gus Dur, the late Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, who headed NU for a decade before entering politics. She is one of the women named to the most senior positions in February. She told Al Jazeera that the move was “about time and inevitable.” Still, it was also the product of a continual process and conversation regarding women’s responsibilities within NU, which has 90 million followers.
The selections show how NU Secretary-General Yahya Cholil Staquf, who was elected in December, intends to reform a group formed in 1926 and has long been seen as a defender of religious diversity in the archipelago. Before his election, Yahya gave a speech at the publication of his book, “The Big Struggle of NU,” in which he urged that NU must collaborate with other Islamic societies and religious groups to form a better society. He believes that they are all in the same boat on Earth, looking for a new kind of civilization that will benefit all of humanity.
Women have long had an essential part in NU, leading the organization’s strong female wings, Muslimat (for women) and Fatayat (for young women), as well as a variety of other social activities. In 2017, NU women also organized the first-ever Indonesian Women’s Ulema Congress, which issued a landmark fatwa mandating that all political parties take a stand against child marriage. Alissa, who is also the general director of a non-governmental group that supports Gus Dur’s principles and beliefs, believes that having women on the council would help NU enhance women’s wellbeing across the archipelago.
She expressed her optimism that they will be able to abolish negative behaviours towards women because NU now has women in positions of leadership to advocate for these concerns. According to Badriyah Fayumi, a Muslim leader named to the Awan (a group of intellectuals who assist NU’s Supreme Council), the presence of women on the leadership boards is an illustration of NU’s progressive Islam attitude.
The treatment of women distinguishes moderate Islam from ultra-conservative Islam. Women are seen as objects by ultra-conservatives, who regard them as reproductive robots. Still, women are seen as subjects by moderate Islam, who see them as individuals who can develop this civilization with males. That is why women must be included in the leadership structure alongside males.
Yahya reaffirmed this sentiment on a recent chat programme on Indonesian network KompasTV, emphasizing the importance of women in the organization’s future success. They’re desperately needed in NU, and their skills and positions are essential to the methods I’m considering. Women’s viewpoints should start to have a more substantial influence on the organization’s policy now that they are in a more prominent position. Climate change was discussed during NU’s previous national convention, according to Badriyah, and significantly how it will affect women and children. Women on the centreboard don’t merely exist; their presence has significance and purpose.
In recognition of its political support among leaders of Southeast Asia’s largest market, Russian and Ukrainian envoys to Indonesia are wooing the country’s largest moderate Islamic party, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). Ukraine’s ambassador met with Yahya Staquf, the newly elected NU head, last week. The Russian delegation arrived at NU’s Jakarta headquarters the next day.
Bintang Puspayoga, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, stated in a press release a few days back that the role and ability of women in the sector are critical and should be developed. She emphasized that women’s economic engagement in Indonesia has increased dramatically. She said that Indonesian women contributed 61 per cent to the market in the micro, small, and medium business (MSMEs) segment, with nearly half of MSMEs, founded and managed by women. This demonstrates that women’s employment and economic potential is critical not just for everyday lives and family resiliency but also for the nation, according to Puspayoga.
She expressed her gratitude on behalf of the Indonesian government to IWAPI and AACC for assisting women entrepreneurs in investment, trade, and commerce. Many women have been monetarily empowered and have embraced leadership roles, according to Puspayoga. She emphasized, however, that many women are still unequally empowered. Inequality in the labour market, she explained, is one of the reasons impeding women’s economic empowerment, according to UN Women.
She noted that discrimination might shape restricted access to specific industries or salary discrimination. A gender disparity in the labour market not only lowers women’s earnings but also lowers their social prestige, putting them in a vulnerable career position, especially during economic downturns.
Edited by Prakriti Arora