Mu’arofah is a divorced mother of one who runs the household in Jangkar Village, Tanah Merah Sub-District, Bangkalan District. Her marriage only lasted 4 years. At the time, she was not working because local tradition dictates that a married woman should stay at home and tend to her duties as the homemaker. When she eventually divorced her husband, neighbors thought nothing of it because divorce is common in her family. Her parents have divorced five times. People would jeer her. Every time she leaves the house, people would assume that she was looking for a new husband, or selling herself to overcome her loneliness. To prevent her from feeling depressed, her brother took the initiative to put her to college. However, the gossip did not abate and instead became worse as she had to leave the house more often than before to attend lectures. It was only after she completed her studies and started to teach did her neighbors believed that all the while she had indeed been attending classes.
When PEKKA programs were introduced in the village, she was drawn to join the organization because many divorced women in her village could not read and write. As a learned individual who also teaches, she was inspired to help teach functional literacy materials.
The village head (known as klebun in Madura) does not think highly of Pekka groups, seeing them as weak organizations. He takes no notice of the Pekka community. He does not think that women household heads can amount to anything. However high her level of education, she will ultimately be relegated to household duties. The men on the other hand take charge of community affairs. Women household heads will never be able to help the community in dealing with cases of violence against women, in obtaining legal documentation (legalization of unregistered marriages, divorce certificates, family cards, identity cards and birth certificates), and health insurance.
The most notable change that she notices in herself is her increasing confidence in negotiating with the local government. Before, she had never dealt with the local authority and would never have the courage to meet a government official. After joining PEKKA, there were plenty of opportunities to learn. She paid visits to public officials, meeting and talking to them heightened her self-confidence in conveying the people’s aspirations and concerns to the government. Apart from teaching functional literacy, she now also provides materials on health, law, social protection and economics to Pekka group members and the wider public.
An unforgettable experience for her was the time when she first visited the local health office. She felt that the receptionist was having fun at her expense by making her wait long enough only to inform that the officer in charge of the social security and healthcare desk was not on duty. Before going home, she stopped at the canteen and came across several employees who were also there. She asked about the officer whom she wanted to meet and they said that he was indeed stationed at the desk. Mu’arofah then re-entered the office building accompanied by one of the employees at the canteen heading towards the social security and healthcare desk. The first officer on duty that she met at the time was Ibu Retno. Mu’arofah’s purpose of going to the local health office was to register Pekka group members for their BPJS PBI cards, hoping that the officer on duty could help her. As follow-up to the proposed list of BPJS PBI recipients, the SEHATI program was introduced and to date 50% of the 141 households put forward in the list have received their health insurance cards. SEHATI is a health insurance program launched by the Bangkalan local government.