A biweekly bulletin has for the past year been helping to transform the lives of women in Maluku's capital.
The 16-page gazette, called Koran Ibu (Mothers' News) , has been training poorly educated women to become journalists so they can bring attention to the often neglected issues facing women and children in the province .
“We train these women because they are the ones who really know the issues facing women in Ambon, because they are the ones who experience them, and we want to learn about the issues as seen from their perspective,” said Soleman L. Dappa, head of the Pelangi Nusantara Foundation, which funds the bulletin and provides training for its reporters.
Soleman told the Jakarta Globe that the women working for the newsletter used to study at the foundation's Community Learning Center (PKBM) in Nusaniwe subdisctrict.
“They were in the kejar paket program and now they are able to do something more to increase their life skills, such as journalism,” he said.
Kejar paket is the government-approved equivalency program that covers elementary school to high school.
The bilingual gazette , which was first published in January last year, uses both Indonesian and Ambonese.
“We want this bulletin to be close to the people, so therefore we are also using the local language,” Soleman said.
The women involved in the Koran Ibu program are assigned to different beats so the gazette can cover a wide variety of issues.
Ade, a mother of two who writes for the bulletin, told the Globe that she had reported on domestic violence and on how victims were taking control of their lives by enrolling in craft-making courses.
She said she had chosen to write about domestic violence because she believed it was an important issue for local women.
“Because the victims are not only the women, but also the children and the whole family,” she said. “Domestic violence is an issue that is very close to women in Ambon.”
Ade said she was excited to be working for the bulletin because she had always dreamed of becoming a writer.
“I have always had a desire to write a book,” she said.
Nona, another mother who works for Koran Ibu, said she had covered issues that affected the city's street children.
“Most of them are school dropouts and children with divorced parents,” she said.
Soleman said domestic violence and divorce had also recently become hot topics in other local newspapers.
“Reports about violence against women are likely to increase here,” he said, although he did not have any figures for the number of cases in the province.
The root of the problem, Soleman said, is generally either financial problems or infidelity on the part of the husband.
“A husband who suffers financial difficulties will sometimes choose to leave his wife and children instead of trying to find a solution,” said Lena, another of the bulletin's journalists. “And therefore, the children are at greater risk of dropping out of school.”
Another area Koran Ibu tries to focus on is education for women and children.
“I have interviewed some female legislators at the DPRD [provincial legislative council] and now see that education for women and children is very important,” said Mei, another contributor to the gazette .
“I hope women in the DPRD understand the needs of women and children here and that they can translate that into good policy that will benefit us.”
Soleman said Koran Ibu aimed to raise awareness and empower women in the region.
“We hope the rights of women and children will no longer be sidelined and that more people will become more familiar with these issues,” he said.