Needed but Neglected: Women Activists as Vote Getters in Elections at the Local Level

Laila Kholid Alfirdaus, Rosihan Widi Nugroho


In the study of women’s activism in politics, the role of women’s activists as seen by the perspective of women’s representation tends to underline their role in political recruitment and decision making in governing system after the process of elections is completed. This perspective assumes that political process works in more advance level by providing channels for women’s activists to articulate their political interests and careers. However, this assumption can be misleading in society that political process is dominated by political elites. This has made recruitment and policy more central and salient for publicity and put activists at the grassroot level are less significant. The case in Semarang city in Central Java province of Indonesia has told us that women activists are made merely as vote getters in election without a clear long-term political compensation that is beneficial for gender equality promotion. In Indonesia women are relatively well-organized through community organization, as PKK (Family Empowerment and Welfare) and Traditional Market Association which are attractive to be capitalized by political candidates through their women’s activists as part of winning team or known locally as tim sukses. Network owned by women activists is seen crucial by politicians (political parties and candidates) to persuade female voters in elections. However, more often, in electoral phases, the involvement of women activists in this matter is limited merely for getting votes from their fellow female voters in their community. Although in this context grass-root women’s activists looks negligible, in fact, micro processes in election, as in political campaign and especially canvassing, can be a crucial phase for women’s activists to strengthen their bargaining position against elites such as candidates for legislative bodies to advocates their interests, once the candidates are elected.


women activists; vote getters; mobilization; participation; gender equality

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