The Human Impact

Election day, a time of hope – and concern – over Indonesian women’s rights

Tri Widayati is the first woman in her family – and her village too, she thinks – to find employment. At 18, soon after graduating from high school, she left her small village in Klaten regency in Central Java for Bekasi, a satellite town of the capital, Jakarta.

“Every woman in my village, once they get married, they just stay at home and look after the children,” including her mother and sister, Tri said.

“I wanted to come here for self improvement. If I had just stayed in the village it would be the same old life and there’d be no progress,” she said, sitting in the office of a workers’ union in Bekasi.

It was the end of March and I was in Bekasi to speak to female migrant workers employed in hundreds of factories here. I wanted to get a sense of how they live and work, what they thought of the imminent parliamentary elections and where they see Indonesia heading on women’s rights.

The polls, taking place today, April 9, are the fourth since Indonesia emerged from three decades of dictatorship under President Suharto in 1998. Presidential elections are due in July. The pictures of party leaders and presidential hopefuls in voting booths remind me of the numerous women I interviewed during that visit.

Votes for cash, beer and bricks in Colombia’s upcoming elections

In Colombia, it’s easy to tell when election season is in full swing.

Potholes are suddenly filled with cement, stretches of roads are paved and local officials rush to inaugurate often unfinished public buildings. It’s one way to show that public funds have been well spent under their watch as a way of helping the political party they represent to do well at the polls.

Election campaign posters and pamphlets stuffed in postboxes say “no to corruption” and “public funds are sacred”.

Yet election-rigging scandals, allegations of election fraud and vote-buying are an all too common feature of the political landscape in Colombia.

    •