Indonesia: Yusan Yeblo

Papuan women have to achieve something in their life. We are not talking about increasing only the quality of our health or our economic situation but, what's next?

— Yusan Yeblo

Yusan Yeblo (born 1951) is a dedicated social worker from Jayapura, Papua. Her enthusiasm and perseverance in helping Papuan women to have a better life has taken her through an exhausting three-decade journey. She has travelled throughout the islands and lived in remote villages setting up a vast network. Her decades as a social activist have been humbling, she says, but they have also enlivened her spirit and heightened her conviction that a change for a better Papua is possible. Yusan has been a commissioner of the National Commission on Anti-Violence against Women since 1999.

Yusan Yeblo began her social work in the early 1970s, at a Catholic mission near the border of Papua New Guinea. "When I first started my work, Papuan women had no rights at all. We lived in an 'uncle-dominated' world, when our uncles could stop us from realizing our dreams. They could stop us from working, from having hopes and they also decided to whom and when we got married," she says. Yusan worked in the remote areas, helping village women improve their skills. "We trained them to sew, to cook, to become nutrition workers or health workers." She also worked with farmers on the distribution of their cash crops to the capital town. In the 1980s, Yusan relocated to Jayapura, where she engaged women activists in discussions on the role of women and social activism, with particular focus on the dowry issue and the position of women in their culture. She joined Yayasan Pengembangan Masyarakat Desa (YPMD), an NGO based in Jayapura. Later, she founded Kelompok Kerja Wanita (KKW) or Women Work Group, to help give a voice to women on issues that relate to their own welfare. Yusan considers her work with the women to be apolitical but she recalls: "It was hard at the beginning, there were suspicions, because we were non-government. We started with our own resources, no money at all." One of the most senior social workers in the women's network in Papua, Yusan supports the other Papuan NGOs, especially those working on women's rights and violence against women. The outspoken Yusan speaks up at the annual meetings of the traditional council Dewan Adat where she challenges the way Papuan men perceive women and discusses roles women can play in development.

Yayasan Angganeta The Eastern Indonesian Women Health Network (JKPIT) Kelompok Kerja Wanita (KKW)