Hivos International

Warrior for women’s and children’s rights in East Java

During the week of 8 March - International Women's Day - Hivos is sharing stories of some of the amazing and powerful women we support worldwide. This year's theme is: “Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.

Prominent Muslim feminist

Her full name is Farha Abdul Kadir Assegaf, but she is popularly known as Farha Ciciek. As a girl, Ciciek (pronounced ‘Chichik’) had to fight hard for what she wanted, knowing full well that the discrimination and “different treatment” she received from her patriarchal, religious family was just because she was a girl.

Her experiences growing up led Ciciek to become one of Indonesia’s most prominent Muslim feminists - a social justice activist and humanitarian who has fought tirelessly for women’s rights and to develop and promote tolerant and socially progressive interpretations of Islam.

In 2008, Ciciek moved to her husband’s hometown in Ledokombo Sub-district, Jember, East Java Province, where she witnessed problems such us school drop outs, unemployment, child abuse and drug addiction. Children were often left on their own because so many of their parents had to work abroad as labourers in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

Tanoker Community learning centre in Ledokombo

In 2009, Ciciek and her husband Supodiharjo, founded the Tanoker Community, a learning centre for local migrant workers and their children. In the local dialect, ‘tanoker’ means ‘cocoon’. Here children learn to read and write, play instruments and practise traditional arts like stilt walking. Tanoker is now the second home to some 500 children in Ledokombo.

The centre also helps their mothers earn money without having to work abroad. While the children are occupied, Ciciek provides local women with lessons in crafting - an activity they now call “Tanocraft” – which is  supported by Hivos Southeast Asia. They earn extra income by making and selling a wide variety of handicrafts. Tanocraft started in in 2016 and it is still running.

Sustainable Diets for All comes to Tanoker

Then in 2017, Hivos Southeast Asia embarked on another project with Tanoker, the Sustainable Diets for All programme (SD4all). It helps low-income communities in Zambia, Uganda, Indonesia and Bolivia improve their access to sustainable, diverse and nutritious food.

This was a natural match because Ciciek believes firmly in promoting healthy diets. For her it is an urgent matter, but not everyone feels the same. Food additives, fast food and highly processed foods have made deep inroads on the diets of Indonesians throughout the country.

Healthy food with natural ingredients

So Ciciek helps the women at Tanoker make healthy snacks with traditional recipes using natural ingredients commonly found in people’s gardens. The centre holds a regular ‘Happy Sunday’ for the children to play and cook together, receives visitors on the weekend and organises the annual Stilt Walking Festival. All these events offer visitors healthy, traditional snacks and dishes, and have handicrafts for sale, all made and produced by the Tanoker Community women and children.

Ciciek says the SD4all programme is totally in line with Tanoker’s own aims. “We’re very concerned about the eating habits of migrant workers and their families in the Jember district. They have limited incomes and tend to buy cheap, but very unhealthy food, such as junk food or processed foods loaded with additives. Children, in particular, are at risk from stunting due to malnutrition from an early age,” she explains.

Tanoker’s efforts are bearing fruit

At the 2017 Stilt Walking festival, Dr Yohana S. Yembise, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, invited Tanoker Community to share their skills for making healthy meals and handcrafted snacks (like cakes with a batik pattern) with the women in Papua, the minister’s hometown. And the regent of the Jember district pronounced Jember a “safe city” for children thanks to Tanoker.

“This appreciation really motivates us and makes everyone at Tanoker very proud and happy. But we cannot stop here. We must never forget that we build our nation through our children, and it is our responsibility to ensure they are well-nourished and healthy,” said Ciciek.

You can find out more about Ciciek here.

Hivos believes that all women and girls should have control over their lives and be able to actively participate in society, politics and ethe conomy spheres. We partner with frontrunners of change and social justice who fight for women’s rights and lobby for laws against discrimination and sexual and domestic violence.