Farha Ciciek (born 1963), an advocate of women’s rights in Islam, is one of Indonesia’s leading facilitators and trainers on gender and Islam. She works for Pesantren, an Islamic Boarding School, the Community Development Association (P3M) and Rahima, a women’s rights and Islam information and training center. In her 13 years of dedicated work, she has enriched the discourse on women’s rights in Islam and contributed to intercultural and inter-religious efforts in peace building and democracy.
"This was an important experience in my life. It was really interesting to see women of different classes and even political ideologies working together for one cause,” says Farha Ciciek, speaking of her involvement in the Volunteer Team for Humanity, a support group for rape victims, during the May 1998 riots in Indonesia. It was her first time working in a group where people from different religious, racial, ethnic and social classes, as well as political backgrounds, joined in solidarity for a cause: the Chinese-Indonesian women who were raped. Farha saw that this could not have been possible during the New Order of the Suharto regime, when government segregated people according to race, ethnicity and political background. She recalls how her work with the rape victims affected her emotionally and mentally, having to deal with first-hand, detailed information on what the women went through. "I was not strong enough," she confesses. But through this experience, she learned that women and men have different ways of resolving conflict. Farha began her career as a researcher, but in the late 1980s, she began working on gender issues in Islam. She is director of Rahima and a founder of the Puan Amal Hayati Foundation, an Islamic women’s crisis center. Today, as a leading facilitator and trainer on gender and Islam, she says, violence against women in Pesantren communities is "a substantial problem", especially because discrimination against women is contrary to the Koran, which stresses that Islamic tradition is pluralist and does not discriminate based on gender, race or ethnicity.
Pesantren Community Development Association (P3M) Rahima