|Leadership Profile: Saparinah Sadli, Indonesia|
"If you do something to women—for example, during times of war or conflict—you enrage their brothers and their fathers. Then there are riots. This happened in May of 1998 in Indonesia at the end of the 32-year Suharto dictatorship, when military forces gunned down four students, and the widespread student demonstrations that followed escalated into mass riots. The media reported that during the days of rioting, women were being raped, but the new government led by Professor B.J. Habibie, Suharto's vice president, disregarded the media reports and took no action to address the rapes. In July of 1998, a group of women academics and activists from religious and non-religious organizations went before President Habibie and presented him with the data on rapes during the riots that had been collected by the Volunteer Humanitarian Group. We asked him to apologize publicly on behalf of the government to the riot and rape victims and their families and to establish a National Commission on Violence against Women. But the President was not impressed. He reminded us that students in Tiananmen Square had been shot dead for protesting and asked us, "How do you know that the rapes actually happened?" So we asked one of the activists in the group to tell him about the women who had been raped who she had met and helped during the riots. Habibie was moved by her report. It reminded him of similar stories he'd heard from his niece, a practicing doctor. He agreed to both of our demands and made a public apology on behalf of the government that same afternoon. This experience showed me that we need more personal stories to convince people in our communities that violence against women is real, and escalating. The statistics are just the tip of the iceberg."
About Dr. Sadli
Trained as a psychologist, Dr. Saparinah Sadli began her commitment to expanding reproductive health choices for Indonesian women as part of a research team of Indonesia's National Family Planning Board in the 1970s. In the 1980s, as Dean of the Faculty of Psychology, University of Indonesia, she was part of the medical team that established Clinic Raden Saleh, a teaching hospital dedicated to providing quality reproductive health and psychological counseling services, including safe abortion services. In 1985 Dr. Sadli attended the UN Women's Conference in Nairobi, where she was moved by the thousands of participating women, and in 1994, she participated in the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. In 1989 Dr. Sadli was assigned as the Chair of the first Graduate Women's Studies program at the University of Indonesia, one of the leading universities in the country. The program represented one of the first opportunities for Indonesian women to discuss issues pertinent to their lives as women in a university setting in their own country. In 1994, as chair of the Women's Studies program, Dr. Sadli helped establish the Convention Watch Working Group, a group of academic, professional, and activist women dedicated to ensuring social implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified by Indonesia in 1984. Since 1999 Dr. Sadli has served as vice chair of Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission as well as chair of the National Commission on Violence against Women, an independent commission mandated to develop a conducive environment for the elimination of violence against women in Indonesia. She is also an advisor to the influential Jakarta-based Women's Health Foundation, which works to address various issues in Indonesian women's reproductive health.