Henny Yudea (born 1968) is a health rights activist. Her main interest is developing traditional medicines, which she believes is an answer to the health problems of poor people. Herbal medicines can be made from ingredients which are mostly cheap and easily accessible to many. She works with hundreds of farmers, including women, encouraging them to plant herbs, and educates them in ways to develop medicines and secure a better future that stems from better health.
“I started my work in the late 1980s when villages surrounding Yogyakarta were going through hard times and the economic situation was not good. The government was so repressive that people could not express their opinions and views as citizens,” Henny Yudea recalls. As a young activist, she wanted to help people cope with their bitter situation and enjoy better lives. She joined Lessan, or the Health Study Institute, in 1990 as a field worker. “At that time, when a man was sick, he had to go find some cure. When he came back healthy, he no longer had anything left.” The situation prompted Henny and her friends to look for ways to provide cheap health services. “We witnessed unfair conditions, but we also saw a local capacity which was still untapped. Traditional medicines became our preference, because ingredients were easily available, and using these to cure people carries a minimal risk of side effects. And these medicines have been used for a long time by our ancestors.” Henny and her colleagues have worked in the area of traditional medicine for 15 years, conducting research and development on herbal medicines, opening health posts where people learn to heal themselves using ingredients found in their surroundings. Henny also helps women farmers organize themselves and she says working as an activist these days is not as difficult as it was in the 1980s. “However, people are still suspicious of NGOs. We are often accused of selling people’s poverty,” she says. “But the spirit and determination of the people we are working with really keep us going. Their wisdom in living truly gives us a good lesson in life.” Her hope for her country is that “Indonesia can be a peaceful nation with its diversity and with space for women to play an active part.”
Heath Study Institute (Lessan)