“We want our cities to be known for their natural beauty, prosperity and peacefulness — not for the recruitment of violent extremists,” was the resounding message from the members of the Girl Ambassadors for Peace (GA4P) in Poso, Central Sulawesi, and Lamongan, East Java, Indonesia. Between April 7 th and 11 th , the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) in partnership with the Asian Muslim Action Network – Indonesia, with the support of the NAMA Women Advancement Establishment conducted “refresher training” on the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and the supporting Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) resolutions, UNSCR 2250 and 2419 on Youth, Peace, and Security. The training aimed to increase the knowledge of young women on the necessity for women’s participation in preventing conflict, peacebuilding and preventing violent extremism. It also included lessons on women’s economic empowerment, focusing on the entrepreneurial projects the GA4P will undertake.
Launched in November 2017 with a training on leadership, peacebuilding, economic empowerment, media, social media, and theater, the Girl Ambassadors for Peace Program in Indonesia is now a network of 80 young women leaders who contribute to a strong youth movement for long-lasting peace, equality, and sustainable development. These young women have become significant actors and agents of change in Poso and Lamongan, areas which have been described, during focus group discussions facilitated by GNWP, as hotbeds of radicalization. Participants in these focus group discussions emphasized economic exclusion through the lack of livelihood sources is one of the reasons why young people join extremist groups. In response to this threat, the GA4P members have started their own socio-economic enterprises to support themselves, augment their family incomes, and help their local communities. The GA4P members produce and sell online 3D handicraft greetings and bouquets made of hijab, skin care products, banana fritters, and shaved ice. In addition, they are helping a group of farmers promote and sell their organic produce online. During the refresher training, GNWP invited a local entrepreneur to speak about her business and train the GA4P members in producing, promoting, and marketing hijab accessories. By collaborating with local businesses, the GA4P members are not only economically empowering themselves, they are also contributing to the economic development in their communities, which is an important driver of peace and stability.
As active members of their communities, the Girl Ambassadors for Peace have been advocating for greater representation of young women in peacebuilding and political-decision making in national, regional, and local arenas. On the national level, these young women have shared their valuable perspectives in meetings in Jakarta with representatives of the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, the National Agency for Combating Terrorism, UNDP, and UN Women. “I have the knowledge and confidence to lead myself and others. I’ve learned that women can do everything,” explained Ilmiyah, a Girl Ambassador for Peace from Lamongan. In their local communities, the young women have held meetings district-level leaders (such as Regent and Vice-Regent of Poso and Lamongan).
The GA4P’s advocacy efforts extends to visiting local schools to raise awareness of the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. Following the bombing attacks in Surabaya, East Java in May 2018, they wrote blogs and posted messages on social media expressing the zero-tolerance policy for violence in Islam.
Youth as humanitarian actors
The GA4P members in Poso were some of the first responders during the earthquake that devastated Central Sulawesi in September 2018. They raised funds by selling dumplings and clothes and from the earnings, they bought and distributed relief goods to affected families.
Youth must exercise their right to vote
Prior to the recent national elections, GA4P members held discussions on the importance of youth participation in elections, as young Indonesians make up 50 per cent of the eligible 191 million voters.
The Girl Ambassadors for Peace in Poso and Lamongan plan to continue and expand their work to include intergenerational community dialogues on early and forced marriage, another highly prevalent challenge to the achievement of gender equality.