It was an amazing event and Rozana and I (and two others from Sisters in Islam (SIS) were privileged to be there and experience the boldness and courage of our Indonesian sisters. We all wanted to be Indonesians! (I proudly joined them in singing their national anthem!) This pix is of the closing ceremony led by no one less than the Minister of Religion who believes in equality! And hey, that’s me in the orange outfit chatting with our dear Nani (Zulminarni). The man in the middle is the Minister of Religion, on his right, a Member of Parliament (MP) who also happens to be the wife of the Sultan of Jogjakarta (an independent regency with a very popular Sultan and his wife who has always supported women’s rights. The Sultan hosted us to a welcome dinner when Musawah held an outreach strategy meeting there some years ago) and on the Minister’s left is Badriyah (Fayumi), the head of Alimat (the Musawah affinity group in Indonesia) who also headed the steering committee for this event. The woman in green next to the MP is Nyai Masriyah (Amva) who heads the Pesantren (Islamic boarding school) where the congress was held. She is an amazing woman in her own right, socking it straight to the men, wearing her feminism proudly and unapologetically on her sleeve.  And you should read the feminist poems she writes! SIS member, Norhayati Kaprawi has done a wonderful documentary on her for NHK (Japanese TV station).

Everyone is talking about equality and justice, including the Minister and the MP, and of course not least the women ulama. Some 500 of them, most of them religious leaders and teachers at the grassroots level. They had no qualms, no hesitation to declaring haram to child marriage and sexual violence. They were amazing. And that’s because they are so rooted to the ground and see the suffering of women and girls on a daily basis.  The Minister in his closing speech committed himself to pushing for legislative change to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18. Musawah is so proud that all our Indonesian friends who are behind this national congress are a part of our movement and the immense preparation and consultations they held and the feminist principles they used in working with the women religious leaders from all over Indonesia to prepare for this hugely historical congress. They started their gender training of grassroots religious leaders (men and women) some 20 years ago and this is the culmination of that persistent grassroots work.

And we should all be proud that they used the Musawah Framework for Action to justify each fatwa they produced – grounding it in Islamic arguments, lived realities, constitutional guarantees of equality and non-discrimination and human rights principles. Way to go! Nana (Kamala Chandrakirana), Nani (Zulninarni), Nur Rofiah. Faqihuddin AK, Kyai Hussein Muhammad were among the key brains behind this national congress and others involved in our Global Life stories pilot project were also a part of this. So it was a great reunion too to meet them all again. They really should be so proud of themselves.

A thousand kudos for inspiring us all, fellow Indonesian Advocates. I am attaching two photos of the moving opening ceremony where they had women religious leaders from different provinces standing on stage, one person (woman in green on the right) holding a Qur’an, next to her, a woman holding  a book of hadith, another the national constitution, another holding up CEDAW !!!!!!!  pledging their belief in equality and justice based on these sources, and nurtured by water (woman holding the jug) and a plant to nurture growth and protect the environment.  How cool is that!!!!

We all cried at the closing ceremony. You are really our source of hope, Indonesia! Nana, Nani, do share with us how you are feeling about this all. I won’t ask about next steps cos you should all still be basking in the glow of what you have collectively achieved. You deserve a huge rest.

Warmest hugs and many thanks for inspiring us all and giving hope that change is possible!