Southeast Asia - Training Activist Leaders

“When I have challenges and struggles in my personal life and my work, and I think I don’t have support and don’t have anywhere to go, I have JASS. JASS is my family. JASS is my home.”
~ Yasinta Lujina, Timor L’este

JASS Southeast Asia (SEA) supports grassroots and diverse (LBTI, indigenous, rural/urban, young) women activists to the challenge norms, prejudices and taboos that prevent them from speaking out against inequality and poverty. Through ongoing political education, training and mentoring, JASS’ unforgettable and participatory processes build women’s confidence, leadership, political and communications skills by starting from what women know from their own lives, and because the safe spaces we create allow women to address difficult subjects.

Using JASS frameworks – especially the three faces of power - women analyze how power operates in both the public and private realm, and in visible forms (e.g. policy and governance) and less visible ways (e.g. how the “hidden” forces like religious conservatives and corporations impact womens’ rights and agendas), as well as invisible ways (e.g. socialization and what we believe to be true. As women are supported to analyze their lives and better understand their context and root problems, they begin to surface effective political organizing strategies to confront and address these problems at their root.

In the safe spaces that JASS SEA creates, unexpected and “awkward” subjects are often raised. For example, during many of these processes, women feel comfortable enough to raise questions and speak up about sex and sexuality. This topic is generally considered taboo across Southeast Asia, where the growing political influence of religious fundamentalists translates into pushback against those advocating for women’s reproductive and LBTI rights. A key element of training for young political facilitators, these opportunities spark vibrant conversations where women have the chance to discuss these challenges and to strategize on ways to confront backlash and violence.

Sustained training and mentorship over time supports women to:

  • continue their growth as activist leaders while empowering others with the confidence and information needed to demand rights and resources;
  • cultivate lasting relationships and define common agendas across boundaries of age, class, nationality, and movements;
  • build women’s collective citizen power to co-mobilize action in response to opportunities or threats, including organizing women around country-specific national action plans related needs and rights.

JASS SEA’s activist leadership training since 2007 at the local, country and regional level has engaged over 500 diverse young and grassroots women activists in seven countries: Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma, Indonesia, Timor L’este, Thailand, and the Philippines. Many of these women have gone on to leader their organizations while others have launched their own initiatives. These women are making a visible impact on LBTI organizing, reproductive health, economic justice, and land rights.

Related Regional Articles

Indonesian young women activists: safe space, solidarity, power

While the personal courage it takes to speak up is a crucial ingredient in the battle to address violence against women, progress depends on our collective power, more than sheroes and heroes. In fact, the collective and solidarity one feels from others is essential for being brave enough to cross the line. That’s why we’re honoring networks during these #16DaysofActivism.

JASS is proud to announce that Nani Zulminarni, a key member of our network and founding Regional Director of JASS Southeast Asia was presented with The Asia Foundation’s Lotus Leadership Award on June 18, 2014. This award honors Nani's leadership of PEKKA, an extraordinary movement of women headed households organized since 2002.

“When a woman goes to a police station to report domestic violence in Malaysia, the police ask questions such as ‘how many children do you have?’ or ‘do you love your husband?’ Then she is told to go back home,” says Manohara Subramaniam of JASS Southeast Asia. This situation is so familiar. It happens in Malaysia, in all countries of Southeast Asia and in many places across the globe.