Held at the Denpasar Legislative Council building, the discussion was attended by only three of the 30 invited women councillors. The three councillors were Ni Nyoman Sumiati of Karangasem, Tutik Kusuma Wardhani of Buleleng and Utami Dwi Suryadi of Denpasar.
Sumiati and Wardhani talked about their political journey to underline what they said was a prevalent discriminatory culture practiced by political parties and male politicians. Such a culture was one of the primary barriers preventing women’s participation in politic. “Male politicians still find it difficult to accept women in a party’s structure,” Sumiati said, admitting that at one point in her campaign she had to hire bodyguards to cope with the political pressure.
Similar discriminatory treatment was also experienced by Wardhani. Fortunately, prior to her involvement in politics she was an active social worker with an extensive network among NGOs. “I fought back [when I was discriminated against] and had the courage to do so because my NGO friends totally supported me,” she said.
Recently, Wardhani announced her intention to run for the position of Buleleng regent in the upcoming regional election. It was a brave decision considering Buleleng is known as one of the island’s political hot spots, where political differences often lead to bloody clashes.