INDONESIA: The WISE women of Jakarta 

The WISE project started its second leg in Jakarta on August 2nd and with only 9 days to train and create a video – it was bound to be a challenge from the start.

The women were all drawn from different backgrounds, ex-drug users, ex-sex workers, some were living with HIV, some were trans-gendered and some were living in poverty. This, combined with the time constraints made it important that the women bonded immediately.

Watch the film ‘Defiant Cry’ by the WISE participants in Jakarta:

Luckily, this time around I had a volunteer with me — Mel — who helped tremendously and who has written about her experiences on the WISE blog.

“This ‘volunteer’s blog’ has been a long time coming. It’s hard to shorten all my experiences with WISE in Jakarta to anything less than 4 pages, but below I’ve had a try…

I wanted to join Danielle for this leg of the project as I’d been one of the many people who fundraised for WISE back in Hong Kong. While the dancing, acting and flyering we did was a lot of fun, I wanted to see the project in action. Plus I’d never been to Jakarta before, so working on WISE sounded like an adventure with a positive purpose to me.

Who could resist that?

The 2 weeks of WISE have been nothing but beneficial. In the beginning we were 13 women and one man (10 women participating, Danielle, myself, our photographer Mar and our translator, Reza) who didn’t know each other. The women who attended the project came from different backgrounds, but all had been affected in some way by the poverty-related issues they had seen all around them. They wanted to learn film-making skills for different reasons; some wanted to eventually move into journalism, others were passionate about advocating a particular cause and others wanted to share their own experiences. None of them had had the opportunity to take part in a project like this before and although enthusiastic, some weren’t sure that WISE would be able to make filmmakers of them!

Of course, they were proved wrong. After all the trust-building games, practise films, interviews, coffee and a lot of late-night editing, the women’s film, ‘Defiant Cry’, had its premiere on the 12th August. It was shown to families and friends and members of the local community.

I may be slightly biased in saying it’s excellent, insightful and incredibly moving but go and watch it now if you don’t believe me! It’s also beautifully shot and edited. However, the film is just one result of the project. The women now have a laptop and camera left for them so they can continue to make films and put them on the internet, but the main aim is one of empowerment. I think this is best summed up by one participant’s stunned (and repeated) comment ‘I can’t believe I made a film. I’m a filmmaker!’

And as for me? I have many favourite memories of WISE. One was watching the footage at the end of each day, which was always interesting but got better and better as time went on. I also loved the discussions and team-building games, particularly the morning I ran the games myself, which ended with me and Danielle joining in. This meant being blindfolded and quickly learning the Bahasa for left and right! And, sorry to sound a bit emotional here, but from not knowing each other at the beginning we had a pretty funny, inspirational and emotional 2 weeks together. From fundraising to filming, publicity to premieres, it’s been quite a journey. So thank you to the WISE women of Jakarta, with much love.

The WISE project will now travel to Mae Sot, Thailand, to work with SAW. SAW helps the displaced, immigrants and vulnerable women, who left Burma to find jobs in Thailand. The women we will be working with have faced adversity and become the victims of human trafficking or have been lured in to the sex trade due to poverty. The women are sometimes domestically abused, raped and/or harassed.

Keep up to date with WISE via:

These pages are updated regularly and we like to encourage the women to interact with our fans on facebook. Leaving questions and comments shows these women that you care and are listening. There are also extra videos posted on these sites taken from the learning process. Early interviews with the public on the subject the group are interested in.

In 1999 The World Bank conducted a survey with people living on less than a dollar a day. They asked what was the most important thing to them. The majority answered, above food and water, that access to a voice was the most important thing to them. We are living in a time when this access is possible.

WISE is a programme with an aim to be the catalyst for change via communication — at a grassroots level, through viewing and discussions in local communities; and globally via the Internet.

WISE Jakarta was conducted with the help of LBH Masyarakat – a legal aid institute which provides pro-bono legal aid for poor and marginalised people. Its core work is to conduct community-based legal empowerment through regular legal and human rights education. LBH Masyarakat also undertakes public interest litigation as well as policy advocacy aiming to reform Indonesian laws. LBH Masyarakat is also active in building networks with local and international non-governmental organisations. For further info please see:

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-083-2010
Countries : Indonesia,
Issues : Poverty & adequate standard of living, Sexual violence, Violence against women, Women's rights,