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Pemberdayaan Perempuan Kepala Keluarga (Women-Headed Household Empowerment) was spearheaded in late 2000 as part of Komnas Perempuan’s initial plan to document the lives of widows in conflict-ridden areas, and the World Bank’s intention – through the sub-district development program (Program Pengembangan Kecamatan or PPK) – to address the pressing needs of widows of the conflict in Aceh in accessing much-needed resources in order to better cope with their economic hardships and traumatic experiences. This initiative was known as the “Widows Project”.  Komnas Perempuan then worked with Pusat Pengembangan Sumberdaya Wanita (PPSW) or the Women’s Resource Development Center to establish a National Secretariat (Seknas) for advancing the initiative, and requested Nani Zulminarni, the PPSW Director at the time, to serve as the Coordinator of the project. 

Through many reflections and intensive discussions with various stakeholders, Nani later proposed that the Widows Project be transformed into Program Pemberdayaan Perempuan Kepala Keluarga (Women-Headed Household Empowerment Program) or PEKKA for a more impactful and ideological endeavor by strengthening the position, role and responsibility of widows as household heads instead of merely focusing on their marital status. In addition, the program also seeks to promote social change by raising the dignity of widows who have long been stigmatized by society. PEKKA began carrying out activities in mid-2001, and the first women’s household head (Pekka) group was formed in early 2002 at Adonara Island in East Nusa Tenggara.

In 2004, PEKKA Foundation was established to organize women household heads into Pekka Groups to better facilitate them. As more of these groups are formed in many other parts of Indonesia, the Union of Women Household Heads or Pekka Union was formed in 2008 as an autonomous mass-based organization. In 2009, Pekka Unions from across Indonesia established the Pekka Union Federation at the national level that is expected to drive the Women Household Head Social Movement forward. The national-level Pekka Union Federation Secretariat was already functioning by mid-2018.


Why Must Women Household Heads be Organized?

At the time when PEKKA was formed in 2001, the poor population according to data released by the Indonesian National Bureau of Statistics (BPS) reached 37.87 million people or 18.41%, and 13% of households are headed by women. No data however is available to compare the depth of poverty facing female- and male-headed households. BPS data showed that since 1985, the proportion of women-headed households have steadily risen at an average of 0.1% each year; from 7.54% in 1985 to nearly double (14.87%) in 2015.


Trend in the Number of Women-Headed Households (BPS 1985-2015) (insert gambar)

The Community-Based Welfare Monitoring System (SPKBK, Sistem Pemantauan Kesejahteraan Berbasis Komunitas) survey conducted jointly in 2012 by PEKKA’s National Secretariat and SMERU in 111 villages across 17 provinces where PEKKA is operating revealed that one in every four households is headed by a female. Women become household heads for various reasons: husband’s death, divorced, abandoned by husband, unmarried, in a polygamous marriage, husband migrated for work, husband is unemployed or chronically ill. Meanwhile, Marriage Law No. 1/1974 only recognizes the male as family head, and this is reflected throughout the existing social, economic and political systems. As women are not formally recognized as household heads, they are discriminated against in their social and political life.  

PEKKA’s SPKBK survey also showed that 71% of families with the lowest level of welfare (poorest 40%) are headed by women. They assume headship at the age of 18 – 65 and responsible for 1 – 6 dependents. They work in the informal sector as farmhands, traders and craftswomen among others, earning an average income of only IDR 10,000 per day. These women lack formal education, where 57% of them are illiterate. At least 78% of women household heads who are divorced have been the victims of domestic violence, and only 41% formally register their marriages. 

The government’s National Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMN) for 2015-2019 underscored the fact that poor households headed by women have increased 1.09%, whereas those headed by men have fallen 1.09% in 2006-2012. The National Team for Accelerating Poverty Eradication (TNP2K) also found that the depth and severity of poverty is much worse for households maintained by women than men. The poverty depth among female-headed households only fell 19%, compared to 25% for male-headed families. A wide range of social protection and poverty eradication programs have been implemented, including those targeted at women as beneficiaries, yet access to these programs remain limited for women-headed households.

 Who are Women Household Heads?

BPS defines a household head as the breadwinner of a family or a person considered as the head of the household.

PEKKA describes a female household head as a woman who takes on the role and responsibility of a breadwinner, household manager and decision-maker ensuring the survival of the family. These women include the following:

  • Divorced women
  • Women abandoned by their husbands
  • Widows
  • Unmarried women with dependents
  • Married women, but their husbands for one reason or another cannot function as the household head

Married women, but their husbands do not always live with them either because the husband is working elsewhere or in a polygamous marriage

Jalan Pangkalan Jati V No.3, RT.11/RW.5, Cipinang Melayu, Makasar, Kota Jakarta Timur, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 13620

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