Ratna Indraswari Ibrahim (born 1960) lives in East Java, Indonesia. At the age of 13, she was stricken with polio and other orthopedic diseases that permanently hindered the functions of her arms and legs. Her family encouraged her never to lose hope in spite of her disabilities. She writes short stories about discrimination against women that are published regularly in Indonesian newspapers. Ratna is also involved in local campaigns to improve accessibility for people living with disabilities and to save the urban forest in her hometown, Malang.
Ratna Indraswari Ibrahim opens her door to everyone who wants to discuss women’s rights, the environment and culture. "It is not easy for me to go out, so I offer my house as the gathering place," she explains. Stricken with polio and other orthopedic diseases at the age of 13, Ratna’s arms and legs are permanently damaged. Her mother encouraged Ratna to become a writer and taught her to be independent in spite of her disability. Aware that most women in society are unfairly treated from childhood, disadvantaged by the unequal distribution of work in the family, she uses discrimination against women as the main theme of her short stories published by national newspapers. Ratna has strong opinions about cultural perceptions and the state’s policy on accessibility for people with disabilities. She observes that people with disabilities are denied the opportunity to participate in public life because they are considered a curse to their family and community. Women and children with disabilities, especially from poor and uneducated communities, often experience harassment and sexual violence. She urges government to issue policies in providing adequate physical and social infrastructure for the disabled. Ratna began her campaign for the rights of the disabled in 1977 when she founded Bakti Nurani, an NGO that appeals to international organizations to provide wheelchairs for poor children with disabilities and meets with the local parliament on the issue of accessibility in public places. Ratna is also involved in environmental work through the Entropic Foundation that she helped initiate. In 1998, she set up Yayasan Pajoeng to work on cultural issues. With activists, artists and students who regularly meet at her house, she set up the "Forum Pelangi" (Rainbow Forum) to discuss women’s rights, the environment and culture.
Bakti Nurani Entropic Foundation Yayasan Pajoeng