While many of us have acquired the right to express our opinions loudly, some, especially women, still struggle to be heard. As one woman stated: “I know that there are many women in my sub-village who do not have the courage to speak in the village forums but have very good ideas. With (this) SMS program I can freely share my concerns”. This is what the “Our Voice” project was about: using a technological innovation to break barriers by empowering Indonesian women to influence decisions that have a direct impact on their lives.
The project used innovative SMS-polling technology allowing residents of the Indonesian village of Tunjungtirto to share their views on a number of key issues linked to village governance. Five survey rounds were conducted between October 2015 and June 2016. People’s reaction exceeded expectations: the response rate rose consistently over the course of the survey rounds, and hit an impressive 76% response rate among women and 75% among men.
For women, who have been reluctant or discouraged to take part in traditional face-to-face consultations with authorities, this was a big change. Their views conveyed through the SMS survey, are finally being heard and the traditional perception of what can and cannot be said in a public forum is being altered.
Moreover, the survey influenced tangible changes in people’s lives: the village government undertook new initiatives in the integrated health posts such as changing the method used to calculate the cost of supplemental food for babies and new ways to organize waste management. The project has been so successful that the village authorities institutionalized the new platform by launching their own SMS Centre to collect opinions from all villagers on a variety of topics: a big step towards more open, transparent and responsive governance at the local level. Other Indonesian villages have now also become interested in this experience.
“Our Voice” was the result of the collaboration of the Parliamentary Centre with the Women and Youth Development Institute of Indonesia (WYDII). It competed against over 240 proposals, and won the top prize at the Grand Challenge for Development 2015.
To watch the project video, please click here.