More Women in Village Development
The Paradigta Academy in Aceh aims to get more women involved in village development. Now the school has over 2,000 alumni in seven provinces.
Before, Cut Ratna Dewi would always tremble and break out in a cold sweat whenever she had to address a crowd. Even in meetings with fellow members of the non-profit organization Female-Headed Households Association (Pekka) in the Bireuen Regency, Aceh, she would also start to sweat, although she leads the Bireuen Pekka union, with 27 members.
Dewi, widow with three children, only later became comfortable expressing her views in public. Now, she actively participates in meetings in Gampong (village) Blang. Two weeks ago, she reviewed the use of the village’s 2017 budget and this year’s planned programs in one such meeting. "I had actually been wanting to be more involved in village meetings for a long time, but I’ve only recently been able to," the 42- year-old woman said.
In the meeting, she proposed several initiatives, among others forming a sewing group for women in Gampong Blang. She also recommended providing assistance for purchasing necessary equipment for the program. A sewing group, said Dewi, can help bring new life to women in the village, some of whom are school drop-outs.
It is also important to allocate at least 30 percent of the village budget to empowerment activities for the majority farmer community, she pointed out.
Dewi’s transformation into a self-confident person who is no longer afraid to speak in public began with her training at the Pekka Paradigta Academy in Bireuen. She and 30 other women from several villages were trained at the academy beginning last August. The academy provides structured training and education for women, both Pekka members as well as other participants. The academy aims to get women more actively involved in village development, for the advancement of women.
At Paradigta, Dewi receives intensive training so that she can become an independent and bold woman, one with the capacity to voice her thoughts. "My mentors there reassure me that we’re all still learning, so there’s no need to be embarrassed to speak up."
Paradigta’s classes are held twice a week at Pekka’s headquarters in Bireuen. The days frequently change from week to week, to adapt to the students’ availability, as most of the women work part-time, aside from being full-time homemakers. Dewi, for example, works as a seamstress. Classes start at 8am and last six hours.