Samsidar (born 1965) was trained as an agricultural engineer specializing in plant diseases. On assignment at a people’s coffee plantation development project in Central Aceh in 1991, she saw that the farmers did not have the means to process their own crops. So she organized credit unions with the village women. She has since become involved in women’s issues, such as violence against women, reconciliation initiatives and trauma healing. Samsidar is Secretary General of Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence Against Women.
It has not been a small leap for Samsidar, an agricultural engineer trained in plant diseases who organized credit unions for women in Aceh, who has ended up running the affairs of the National Commission on Violence Against Women as its Secretary General. From being a small collective scale enterprise, the credit unions evolved into a space for women to share experiences and discuss issues regarding their families and communities. It also enabled women from different villages to interact. Facing pressure from local authorities, Samsidar established a network of volunteers to found a legal body for the credit unions. She also helped organize an Aceh Farmer Society Union. By the end of the 1990s, despite the national government’s decision to end Aceh’s status as a Military Operation Region, the armed conflict intensified in Central Aceh. Samsidar worked with several women’s organizations to document cases of violence against women: In 1995, she founded the Aceh Gender Transformation Working Group and she also served as chairperson of the Executive Board of Flower Aceh, a women’s organization focused on violence against women. In 1998, she founded the Aceh Women Volunteer for Humanity to support women survivors of the armed conflict and in 2000, Samsidar and her colleagues organized the Aceh Women’s Congress which produced a resolution demanding that the Indonesian government put an end to the violence in Aceh and bring the perpetrators before the courts. Samsidar travels around the country to facilitate meetings and training seminars on women’s rights and to document human rights violations at local and national levels. She has been appointed by the National Commission as Special Rapporteur on Women’s Human Rights in Aceh.
National Commission on Violence Against Women