‘Aisyiyah’s community leader Syamsiah is featured in the Australian Foreign Policy White Paper27 November 2017
As a woman from Kaili Village in Bantaeng, South Sulawesi, who used to shy away from speaking up, Syamsiah has come a long way. Today, she is known in her neighbourhood as a cadre of ‘Aisyiyah, actively campaigning for women’s health issues. Her story has also now become a part of the Australian Government 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, which was launched on 23 November by the Prime Minister of Australia and the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Tourism and Investment.
“I have been wanting for a long time to dedicate my life to serve the community,” Syamsiah recalls, as quoted in the White Paper. “Then the MAMPU program started. It’s through MAMPU that I have the chance to do this,” adds Syamsiah, who participated in leadership training supported by MAMPU.
In the early days of her activism, she often faced rejection when she went door-to-door to raise awareness on reproductive health issues, including early cancer screenings. Now, not only has she gained her husband’s support for her activities in the community, Syamsiah has also participated in planning meetings with government officials (Musrenbang) in village and district levels to represent the poor people in her village.
As her confidence and leadership skills flourish, Syamsiah seems to be unstoppable. In her interview with MAMPU last year, she points out that many women were now keen to become members of Balai Sakinah ‘Aisyiyah. These women are more than happy to engage the community with their newfound knowledge, including educating fathers who are proud that their daughters marry early.
“They can say, ‘It’s not like that in my village, because we’ve had briefings about that. When our kids are married at such an early age, it can damage their organs,’” reiterates Syamsiah.
Syamsiah’s experience in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment embodies the spirit of improving women’s health and nutritional status, one of MAMPU key focus areas. In the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Syamsiah is featured as a community leader raising awareness and bringing about change to realise women’s reproductive health rights.
The 2017 White Paper is the first comprehensive white paper on Australia’s international engagement in 14 years. Empowerment of women is featured as a top priority of Australia’s foreign policy. The initiatives include development programs that work with partners to encourage women to be leaders in their communities and parliaments.
Read Syamsiah’s full story in the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper website here.