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Women-led initiative to promote peaceful and resilient communities in Indonesia


On Indonesia’s Java island, women are at the forefront of overcoming the threat posed by radicalism towards peace and human security at the community level. Everyday women – diverse in age and background – are flourishing to become agents of peace, leading their communities to build peaceful and resilient societies.

These grass-roots leaders navigate deeply rooted patriarchal values and challenge gender norms, working towards community resilience, equality for all citizens, and respect for diversity within each of their villages – known as Peace Villages.

Stemming from initial interventions in 2017, UN Women partnered with the Wahid Foundation to develop the “Peace Village” concept, under which a village agrees to a set of commitments designed to prevent violence, promote tolerance, and advance social cohesion. Recognizing economic empowerment as a foundation for change, the Peace Village initiative promotes women's voice and agency, increases women’s access to economic opportunities, and builds their capacity to resolve communal conflict.

In Peace Villages, women also sit with their local government to explore and identify ways to promote tolerance and sustain peace in their village, and push for change in village government policy and processes. This community-based approach fosters mutual understanding, social cohesion, and peace in the village for all.

In particular, four Peace Villages in East Java are piloting approaches established on global human security principles to build resilience within the community.

Supported by UN Women and the Wahid Foundation under the Guyub Project, the villages of Prancak, Sidomulyo, Candirenggo and Guluk-Guluk evidence strong outcomes and impacts stemming from the empowerment and inclusion of women.

In those Peace Villages, women participated and led the development and implementation of the Peace Village Action Plans together with community leaders and officials, which form the foundation of progress on gender equality and sustaining peace. The stories of inclusion, empowerment, and leadership of ten women in Peace Villages reflect women’s essential roles as active agents of peace, and promoters of diversity in their local communities.



Located in the Sumenep region on Madura Island, Guluk-Guluk village is traditionally known for ongoing community conflict and tension, often related to local politics.

Through the Peace Village programme, women participated in economic empowerment activities that increased their standing and voice in their community, resulting in successful peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts.

Women and girls are now approaching the village’s political conflicts head-on, ensuring more harmonious and peaceful relationships within Guluk-Guluk village.



“The Peace Village programme has brought about more equality between men and women in our community.”

Much of Fadhilah’s life has been spent teaching young girls in one of Guluk-Guluk village’s Islamic boarding schools. Having grown up in the Sumenep region, Fadhilah was accustomed to patriarchal values and the everyday inequality faced by women. But this unequal power relationship has been gradually shifting in Guluk-Guluk.

Fadhilah stumbled into some Peace Village activities when the Wahid Foundation invited her to facilitate a women’s economic empowerment group – to bring women together to form collectives that produce and sell products or services. Fadhilah soon realized the potential changes she could bring to herself and the women in Guluk-Guluk village.

“When we spoke about the inequality, and how much of it was rooted in a lack of financial independence, I became very interested in the Peace Village concept and its activities.”

Initially, Fadhilah and the other women in her group received training on financial literacy and management provided by the Wahid Foundation.

This had a significant impact on how they managed their small home-based businesses.

Women in Guluk-Guluk often undertake household production and sales of food, drinks, and handicrafts.

Those activities bring additional income to their family unit.

The financial training equipped Fadhilah and other women participants with essential skills that they can apply to sales of household production, turning their previous non-profitable hobby into a business.

“The understanding and skills that the training provided started significant change for women in our community, as it was practical. When we used it, all of a sudden, we started making money. We have earned some money and gained financial independence, and the men can see the value in the work we are doing.”

This economic-based increase in equality for the women of Guluk-Guluk was, however, just the beginning of real change. From this starting point, the Peace Village programme expanded its reach and activities, and Fadhilah started to sense a strengthened unity and connectedness in the village.

Women in the village were also starting to become increasingly engaged in local governance.

Together with other women’s group members, Fadhilah later joined broader activities as administrators of the Guluk-Guluk Peace Village Working Group, aiming to engage more women into village governance and prevent violence and conflict in the community.

Growing from the realization of financial independence in the home and the wider community, women such as Fadhilah are now increasingly involved, engaged and empowered in many aspects of the community to contribute to harmonious and peaceful village life.



“Since meeting new friends who also have different religions, I am much more interested in diversity and tolerance, and more understanding of different ideas, beliefs and opinions.”

25-year-old Istibsyarah was aware of certain pockets of intolerance and fanaticism growing amongst the youth of Guluk-Guluk village.

As result, Istibsyarah wanted to experience more diversity outside of her village and address extremist ideology in her community.

Under the Peace Village programme, she immediately joined her friends, jumping into youth-orientated activities focused on tolerance and inter-faith harmony.

“Getting involved with the Wahid Foundation’s Youth Camp allowed me to make new friends from the city, who have different backgrounds and follow different religions.”

In 2020, UN Women and the Wahid Foundation initiated the “Peace Village Challenge” to engage youth to create innovative social projects to promote social cohesion during COVID-19.

The pandemic posed new human security threats where extremist groups spread misinformation online and perpetuate intolerance.

Noticing this trend, Istibsyarah took up the Peace Village Challenge coordinator role and initiated a Kongkow (“discussion” in Madurese) to invite young people from neighbouring communities to discuss local wisdom on peace and tolerance in Madurese culture.

“I was never particularly involved with adults in our village, but now I am confident to engage in community-based activities with all members of our village.”

Aside from delving into youth-based issues and outcomes, Guluk-Guluk’s Peace Village Working Group also links youth with the wider village social structures and formal village institutions and governance. Through the programme, the village’s youth are empowered to deliver their specific input and ideas within village forums and sessions, ensuring decision-makers and village leaders hear their needs and voices.

As a result, the adults of Guluk-Guluk are increasingly enthusiastic about engaging with and listening to youth groups in the community. The increased youth representation in the Peace Village Working Group will bring more positive outcomes for Guluk-Guluk’s younger generations.

Istibsyarah is one of the 24 youth champions across the four Peace Villages in East Java. The youth-focused activities have empowered her and other young community members to become creators of peace narratives in their villages.

Istibsyarah is one of the 24 youth champions across the four Peace Villages in East Java. The youth-focused activities have empowered her and other young community members to become creators of peace narratives in their villages.

Istibsyarah and her friends – old and new – hope that these activities can expand to address more challenges. Engaging more youth will enable them to play a more active role in creating peaceful communities founded on tolerance and diversity.



“While it began as economic empowerment activities, the Peace Village concept has now broadened into a variety of community-led efforts aimed at creating a more conducive environment for everyone to enjoy life in Guluk-Guluk.”

Hasanah has always been active in the community, engaging with environmental protection and women’s farming groups in Guluk-Guluk village for many years. When Peace Village activities began in 2017, Hasanah quickly took on a leadership role as she recognized the value of economic empowerment opportunities for women in her community.

Over the years, the programme broadened its scope, introducing Hasanah to new people and ideas. Her skills as a community leader then advanced, and she has been playing a trusted role in community conflict management and peacebuilding.

“In the Peace Village activities, I learned how to better resolve conflict and how to focus on building peace and harmony between people in my community. How I should respond to problems as they arise was a big part of what I learned.”

Village elections have traditionally been a time of high tension and significant conflict in Guluk-Guluk.

Hasanah and the Peace Village Working Group took action to de-escalate rising tensions in the community during the lead-up to the most recent ballot.

They convened meetings and discussions between the competing candidates and their supporters.

Finally, all key parties signed an agreement of peace and a set of peaceful behaviors they promised to adhere to during the election period.

As a result, the elections ran smoothly and peacefully for the first time in many years. All parties involved in the mediation accepted and supported the outcomes and election results without dispute.

As a result, the elections ran smoothly and peacefully for the first time in many years. All parties involved in the mediation accepted and supported the outcomes and election results without dispute.

As a result, the elections ran smoothly and peacefully for the first time in many years. All parties involved in the mediation accepted and supported the outcomes and election results without dispute.

As a Board Member for the Peace Village Working Group, Hasanah and her team are working on expanding the reach of their peacebuilding efforts. They have developed Kompolan Esto Damai (“Peace Love Forum” in Madurese) – a forum for community participation in the village. They also established a mechanism for early identification of conflict.

In the Working Group, there are approximately 60% female members. The rest 40% male members welcome such women-led movements in a traditionally patriarchal society. For Hasanah, as a life-long grass-roots activist, the impact of the Peace Village programme has significant personal meaning – she herself and other women now feel more fulfilled and engaged in building a gender-equal and peaceful society than ever before.

“The women of Guluk-Guluk have become more creative. After they engage as a group, often for the first time in their lives, I can see this new type of happiness emerge. Maybe because they meet other women, and when they get together, new ideas continue to appear.”



Not far from Guluk-Guluk village in the Sumenep region, women in Prancak village share similar challenges as Guluk-Guluk – patriarchal culture often hinders their social and political life engagement.

Through the Peace Village program, the establishment of women’s groups formed a key driver for change, supporting women to increase responsibility and leadership across Prancak village and its institutions.

Now, women take leading roles in their neighbourhoods and village groups, working towards ending domestic violence, and increasing protection for women and children in Prancak.



“People in the neighbourhood looked down on me because I was a woman leaving the village, but all I wanted to do was get my Bachelor’s degree.”

Maria Ulfa is the only woman in her hamlet of almost 600 people who holds a university degree. Like other women in her village, she was forced by her family to marry not long after graduation, virtually ending her hopes of pursuing a Master’s degree.

Maria Ulfa is the only woman in her hamlet of almost 600 people who holds a university degree. Like other women in her village, she was forced by her family to marry not long after graduation, virtually ending her hopes of pursuing a Master’s degree.

Maria Ulfa is the only woman in her hamlet of almost 600 people who holds a university degree. Like other women in her village, she was forced by her family to marry not long after graduation, virtually ending her hopes of pursuing a Master’s degree.

This traditional norm in her village of Prancak forced her to accept that her role as a woman was to continue life as a housewife and mother. It was in this situation that Maria Ulfa began to witness more cases of domestic violence and sexual assault taking place in the community, which compelled her to act.

“Women don’t want to report violence or sexual assault because it is shameful. But I couldn’t just turn a blind eye, so I always got involved.”

Maria Ulfa joined the Peace Village programme with an interest in supporting survivors of gender-based violence and sexual assault.

She participated in capacity-building training on understanding women’s rights under Indonesia’s legislative framework.

From the training, she also realized the gap between the existing protection mechanisms at the national and community levels.

Now she’s trying to adopt community-based approaches to support women and children potentially affected by gender-based violence in Prancak.

“I now know where to take women who have been abused and who is the best party to report to. Because this is a small community, lots of people dislike me and my actions. But I don’t care because I just want to protect the women and children.”

Building on the work that Maria Ulfa and her women’s group have been undertaking through the Peace Village programme, it is now supporting them to develop the Women and Child Protection Unit, which was recently established in Prancak village.

At this early stage, the group participates in training and activities to learn protection measures to help the community’s women and children.

Maria Ulfa hopes that capacity-building activities on promoting women’s rights can continue through the Peace Village programme so that women have strengthened capacity to support each other in their communities.



“I had heard of the Peace Village concept, but never really understood what it meant. However, once I got involved, I learned many new things that I had never really thought about.”

The influence of the Peace Village initiative in Arifah’s village of Prancak is significant – to both the community and herself. The programme’s activities drove Arifah to be more engaged in her community. Recognising her organisational skills and understanding of the community, she was selected as the head of her neighbourhood – a position often reserved for men before.

In a region where child marriage is normal practice, Arifah utilizes her leadership role to prevent early marriage and advocate for girls’ education.

“Many of these issues can be overcome by parents understanding the rights and opportunities for their girls.”

One of Arifah’s first acts as the neighbourhood head was to organize parenting classes in her community.

Supported by the Peace Village programme, these classes proved beneficial for both the parents and their children.

The training led by Arifah provided comprehensible and culturally appropriate guidance on gender equality and children’s education for Prancak’s parents.

The community recognizes the importance of school for their girls, and many now want to prioritize their children’s education.

“So many parents in our village have joined the classes, and they always speak about the value of the new knowledge and skills they receive.”

As the neighbourhood head, Arifah was also selected to lead Prancak’s Women and Child Protection Unit under the Peace Village programme.

She continues to develop the Unit and advocate to the district Regent for its inclusion within formal policy and programming at the village level across the wider region.

These roles see Arifah leading not only the women of Prancak village but also numerous men, in a traditionally male-dominated society

Arifah credits her inclusive approach to her interactions with the community that she learned through Peace Village training and workshops as the key to navigating some of the gender-based challenges in her new leadership positions.

As Arifah witnesses the change experienced by Prancak’s women, she also reflects on her personal growth. From farming rice to representing her community at government forums where most leaders are male, the change Arifah has experienced is significant.

Like Arifah, more and more women in Prancak have become active in the community through the Peace Village activities.

Arifah hopes every woman in her village can take ownership and make decisions about their careers and life. She is now establishing a women’s forum to support members exploring and discussing how to achieve their aspirations.

“I’ve learned to use my voice. I’ve learned to advocate respectfully and softly, but to always have a voice. Now, I have confidence, as a woman, to use this voice.”



On the outskirts of Batu City, Sidomulyo village experiences poverty issues and low levels of education for many of its residents.

By engaging women and youth, the Peace Village programme focused on protecting women and children, as well as approaching the causes of community conflict.

Women are at the centre of the Peace Village programme – they participate in economic empowerment training, work with households to generate more income and avoid debt, and improve protection mechanisms and education opportunities for Sidomulyo’s children.



“I have always helped children who need me, but after engaging in the Peace Village activities, I am now more prepared to extend my support further.”

As a teacher at Sidomulyo’s local primary school, Azizah holds a lifelong interest in the welfare and development of the village’s children. Such an interest saw her participate in the Peace Village programme during its early years and become a leader of women and child protection efforts in Sidomulyo village.

As the Secretary of the Sidomulyo Peace Village Working Group, Azizah aims to bring positive change for women and children across the village. At the same time, in her own newly developed programme, she provides hands-on support for several neglected or abandoned children.

Azizah implements the Rumah Ayom programme from her own home.

The programme provides a safe refuge for children without parental care due to divorced, unmarried, or migrant parents.

Rumah Ayom provides them with a safe place to learn, rest and develop, and also takes preventative actions to improve the situation.

Many triggers of child neglect in Sidomulyo are financial. In her role with the Peace Village Working Group, Azizah also focuses on guiding parents through activities to improve income and increase livelihoods opportunities.

She hopes that parents can become more capable and prepared to take responsibility for their children through these actions.

More broadly, financial issues are also a fundamental cause of communal conflict between residents in Sidomulyo. Azizah has utilized the Peace Village forums to engage the community regarding debt and borrowing between households.

With increased awareness of debt avoidance, community members are invited to training and activities on work skills development and financial management.

“I tell them don’t go into debt. Go to work and make the money that you need – and that’s where we provide the activities to help them improve their incomes.”

Azizah has witnessed a significant change over recent years. She says that nowadays, the debt issue is almost non-existent.

Residents in Prancak are developing and expanding their working skills, living more peacefully within a more united community atmosphere.

While the challenge of protecting women and children remains, Azizah also hopes that interventions such as her Rumah Ayom can be replicated and refined to ensure a safer environment for all.

She has also witnessed a change in herself, and her capacity to approach conflict and tension in a more peaceful manner.

“I feel as if I am wiser in managing conflict. I don’t take issues to heart, and when things don’t go my way, I don’t get so upset. I feel very peaceful.”


07. MEY & DEWI

“The Peace Village has changed my mindset. I used to want to just be average, not to stand out. Now I want to act fairly and be a decision-maker, and I know who I am as a young woman.”

- Dewi

Mey and Dewi were both studying in university when they first got involved in the Peace Village programme in Sidomulyo village. After participating in a number of Peace Village activities, both women built confidence and began utilizing their newfound skills and knowledge to enact change in their community.

“I learned so much about handling conflict and being more tolerant. I realized that I had to be at peace with myself first, then I could work for peace in my environment.”
– Mey

Their experience growing up in Sidomulyo shaped how Mey and Dewi approached issues faced by women in their community. Many community members still see women’s role as caregivers at home – the norm that Mey and Dewi wanted to change.

To do this, they felt that they had to start changing the perceptions held by Sidomulyo’s women themselves. Through the Peace Village Challenge, the young women successfully conducted a workshop called Human Rights School, aiming to provide the women of Sidomulyo with information and ideas regarding their rights and opportunities.

“Young women here are often underestimated, but we are equal with the men, and our input was valued through Peace Village activities. This was the idea upon which we developed the Human Rights School project.” - Dewi

Mey and Dewi noticed increased conflict between children and their parents – particularly mothers – due to lockdown measures during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

They again turned to the Peace Village Challenge – this time to support alternative learning opportunities for the village’s children.

The Learning Garden project invited youth to learn outside their classrooms and homes and discover that learning activities could be fun and creative.

Children engaged with the natural environment and learned about human rights and values on diversity, tolerance, and peace.

“The children were happier, more relaxed, and friendly towards the teachers and their friends around them. It was a really significant change just from a small environmental adjustment.” - Mey

Mey and Dewi sensed more harmony among neighbours in Sidomulyo village since their engagement in the Peace Village programme.

The support of children’s wellbeing is expanded and strengthened, while women are taking a much more proactive role in resolving conflict and building tolerance in the community through the Peace Village Working Group.

For Mey and Dewi, the inclusion and engagement of youth – as the seeds of the community’s future – is imperative for peaceful and tolerant Sidomulyo, as well as for Indonesia as a whole.



Just north of Malang City, Candirenggo village has been constantly challenged to balance its diversity with its citizen’s more traditional beliefs and practices.

To counter an increase in conflict and disharmony over recent years, the Peace Village programme has empowered women in the community to become leaders and drivers of peace and tolerance at the village level.

Women’s groups have developed safe spaces for women to have a more profound voice in village affairs, while youth have also become more central to peacebuilding efforts, resulting in a more inclusive and harmonious environment for all community members in Candirenggo.



“The most meaningful thing I have learned is that women form a strong bridge for positive communication throughout our community.”

When the husband of Sendy’s neighbour was arrested on terrorism charges, Sendy noticed her neighbour was hardly sighted outside of her home, most likely because she felt too embarrassed to engage with the rest of the community.

“She was really finding things hard because of this. She had no money, no means of support, but she also didn’t want to help herself as she felt such shame due to her husband’s situation.”

Sendy didn’t hesitate to convene her women’s group to step in.

By getting her neighbour involved in Peace Village activities, such as receiving financial support for their home businesses, Sendy witnessed her neighbour gradually reintegrate and re-engage with her community, becoming an independent and active community member.

Through peacebuilding activities delivered through the Peace Village programme, Sendy and her community also drove the establishment of a working group for handling violence cases towards women and children and a village hotline for those affected by gender-based violence.

“With increased engagement and opportunity, women became more confident to take action to address domestic violence.”

Such action addressing domestic violence was appearing in varying forms.

Through the Working Group, women realized that they could gain the knowledge to address domestic violence cases, giving them the power to maintain peace in their families and community.

Women’s groups were also invited to engage in formal forums and meetings undertaken by the village government.

These results culminated in the opening of the Ayu Candira Gallery – a community space for women’s empowerment in Candirenggo village.

Step by step, the role of women in the village took on greater meaning and quickly became a valuable stream for communication between the community and its government representatives.

The Peace Village’s peacebuilding and livelihoods activities have provided a foundation upon which Sendy and the other women of Candirenggo can continue to grow. Opportunities for the community’s women will only continue to emerge when they are empowered to become more independent, as has resulted from the programme’s efforts within the village neighbourhoods.

As challenges will always arise, the women of Candirenggo aim to ensure sustainability for their women’s group, regardless of external changes in community or government.

It is this secure, safe and empowering space that Sendy envisages for all the women of Candirenggo and its surroundings.



“I just want our community to live together, in peace.”

Halimah joined a local neighbourhood women’s group to be more involved outside of her home in the community and participate in livelihood training that could support her small cake business. The group began as a space for members to learn about opportunities for improving economic outcomes. It has transformed into a place for the women of Candirenggo village, such as Halimah, to support their wider community actively.

“Most of us have traditionally just worked taking care of our homes, so I really wanted to be part of something more. I wanted to grow.”

Initial activities in the Karya Wiguna Gunda women’s group focused on handicraft, sewing, and cooking.

Halimah recognized the value of such an opportunity for women to increase their contribution to their household finances.

Economic empowerment was only the beginning for the group, with the women then approaching other community challenges.

They now approach domestic violence and other household issues through their tight-knit group through support from the Peace Village programme.

“Sometimes, there can be arguments and disputes in the village. But our women’s group now gathers often, and we know each other better, so conflict between women has decreased.”

The group provides Halimah and others a safe environment to discuss their issues, voice their opinions, and mediate conflict. Previously, small and personal issues for women could often be amplified and protracted as details leaked out into the wider community.

The establishment of the women’s group through the Peace Village programme countered this by providing an open space to talk about the issue and solutions. The group also gives survivors of domestic violence a refuge to turn for help.

The establishment of the women’s group through the Peace Village programme countered this by providing an open space to talk about the issue and solutions. The group also gives survivors of domestic violence a refuge to turn for help.

“So many of the women have increased self-confidence. We are always invited to activities and discussions in the village now, as our input is valued. We have the confidence to deliver our ideas in front of everyone.”

More than just a training and support mechanism, the group is now actively engaged in shaping outcomes for Halimah and other women in her neighbourhood. They are increasingly taking part in village planning and decision-making activities in Candirenggo, and are now included in government annual planning meetings to represent women in their village.

As for Halimah, her hopes are simple – for her, her family and the community of Candirenggo.

“We hope to just live in peace with our families, without the problem of domestic violence. We want to handle it properly and to eliminate gender-based violence in our village.”



“After participating in Peace Village activities, I have become very engaged in championing women’s rights and equality, and I have realized that I am a feminist.”

After finishing university in 2018, Andromeda felt a little unsure of what came next. For young women in Candirenggo village, career and lifestyle opportunities are sometimes limited, requiring women to either leave and try life in a larger city or settle down and start making a family.

At these crossroads, Andromeda – or Andro as she prefers to be called – was invited to participate in the Peace Village activities being implemented in her district. Andro and two of her friends joined the programme’s Youth Camp, and this experience led her to become one of Candirenggo’s leading young voices on women’s issues.

Many of Candirenggo’s youth don’t engage in community activities as they are busy working, leaving a gap between the youth and the wider community.

Through the Peace Village Challenge activity, Andro proposed a project about mental health for women and children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal succeeded, and Andro and her friends then delivered a course focused on supporting the mental health of Candirenggo’s women.

The two-day event received positive feedback and appreciation from the women of Candirenggo who participated.

“We made a class about decreasing stress during the pandemic situation, and then a lesson on how to make aromatherapy candles to help with stress reduction, which the women in the village really enjoyed.”

The further Andro and her friends engage with their community, the more opportunities they identify to support other women and youth. More recently, with Peace Village support, Andro and six other young people have launched a social media campaign for Candirenggo named Local Female Project (@localfemaleproject).

The social media accounts address an array of challenges faced by Candirenggo’s women, including ending domestic violence and countering misinformation, as well as profiling other women leaders from around their community.

“I’ve learned about our rights in our community – that we actually have a say. I’ve also learned about how our village works and the processes I can use to be more actively engaged and improve women’s rights in my community.”

Women’s involvement in village activities in Candirenggo has increased significantly. Young women like Andro are taking a more active role in spreading ideas of peace and gender equality. Peace Village has changed how village processes are undertaken, ensuring a stronger focus on equality and participation of women and youth in sustaining peace.

Increasing youth participation at the village level is Andro’s priority to ensure that continuous voices from the youth are heard and that diverse and engaged youth groups bring refreshment and regeneration.

With support of the UNTFHS under Guyub project in Indonesia

Produced for UN Women by
Satu Bumi Jaya