Laili Khairnur: Milestone of Social Empowerment Activist in West Kalimantan

It all started with a milestone of being a volunteer. Step by step to becoming a director. Her existence changes the organization character. With more perspective on gender. Terror and intimidation have become everyday consumption to her. Standing straight on the empowerment path is a bold standpoint of hers.

It is undeniable, education and family background create a person’s attitude and perspective. This condition forges a person to be as strong as steel or as soft as silk. So it is with Laili Khairnur, the Director of Gemawan Institute, a non-government organization (NGO) established by young people and campus activists in West Kalimantan.

Born into a family of educators in Sambas, her father named H Tajuin Eldest and her mother was Karimah Binti Satok, Laili is number four of five children. Two girls and three boys.

His father was a former principal of SMP 2 Sambas, a favorite school in Sambas. He was a member of Masyumi, an Islamic party. One of the pioneers was Muhammad Natsir. However, her father was active in Muhammadiyah as his choice of community organization.

This background made Laili know and interact with politics since she was a child. Her relative was political figure, Fachri Satok, the first speaker of the Provincial House of Representatives (DPRD) of West Kalimantan, her mother’s brother. Her family was closed with political issues.

In the past, Sambas was a district. It was small and far from any access. The capital city of Sambas was Singkawang. After the proliferation of administrative region, Sambas became a separate regency with the capital in the City of Sambas.

She rarely went to Pontianak. She studied at home more often.

“I learnt more and gained values from, dad,” said Laili.

Her mother passed away when she was 11 years old. Her mother’s death greatly affected the psychology and social space in the family.

 

The male parent played both public and domestic roles, as a father and a mother. It was such a difficult thing. Similarly, for his daughter. There were certain things that sometimes uncomfortable to discussed with her father, especially with regard to womanhood. For example, regarding the first menstruation.

There was confusion. To whom the story should be told. Finally, she told her father. The father was also confused of what to say. He only advised his daughter to buy pads.

Losing a mother figure was very difficult. Yet behind that, there are souls that strengthen and protect each other. This condition made her appear to lead.

“Take action on the situation,” said Laili.

My childhood experience in Sambas was very memorable. She lived at her grandmother’s house. Most of the living environment was below average. Many of the neighbors’ husbands who were also close relatives to her mother worked at PT. This was a call for workers in a wood factory. The wives must take the role as mothers and fathers to their children.

Seeing this condition, the father always advised the children to always share with their neighbors. In matters of food or anything. What this family eats, will also be given to the neighbors. Life cannot stand alone. Being care to other people is a must. About independence, she had been taught to be independent since she was a kid. The circumstances set the conditions.

“That’s why, every situation must be responded,” said Laili.

One day, the family moved to a quieter neighborhood. Most of the neighbors were Chinese. Different in cultures, religions and others. From there, she learned about pluralism. It made her open and make friends with everyone. Mutual giving among neighbors was something common.

 

Meeting Activism

Going to college majoring in Tarbiyah, IAIN Sunan Kalijaga, in the class of 1993, Laili got along and knew many people. One of them was a senior from Madura. She considered the person as a foster sister. In 1998, she joined her senior to go to Madura. In fact, in 1997, there were riots among communities in West Kalimantan. Many friends advised her not to go to Madura. It could be bad. Laili was just sure.

“If we do good, nature will also do good,” she said.

Arriving in Madura, someone asked. Where did she come from? She responded from Sambas. They were surprised and welcomed her arrival well. She was just fine because she was not part of the people who were fighting.

Laili also participated in various research institutes. She volunteered for a survey. One of them was the Yogyakarta Institute of Development and Economic Analysis (IDEA). At that time the chairman was Revrisond Baswir. IDEA is more concerned with issues of budget and corruption.

Laili once participated in a survey of voter trend at the Institute for Economic and Social Research, Education and Information (LP3ES). At that time, LP3ES was a big and respected institution. It had a publication from Prisma magazine. LP3ES was a barometer of economic and social sciences. Many intelligent people wrote in Prisma Magazine.

Laili completed her study for 5.5 years. It was not that she could not make it. She had finished all of her courses. When she wrote a thesis, she did not want to make an ordinary one. She made a thesis about literature study, in order to get an A. A quantitative thesis would get her only B.

She could defend her thesis well. It was scored over 80 points. She got a grade A. In her final grade, she got a GPA of 3.49. Not reaching cum laude.

After the thesis examination, there was a tradition of giving books to lecturers. The book was handed over when she asked for a thesis signature. So, when giving the book, the lecturer asked Laili. “Oh, have you ever been one of the volunteers at LP3ES?” asked the lecturer as he opened Laili’s CV.

The lecturers feel proud to have tested a student who had been connected with LP3ES. The lecturer asked Laili to sign the book that was given. “So, we exchanged signatures,” said Laili.

The book which was given to the lecturer was entitled Rethinking Islam, by Muhammad Arkoun. At that time, Arkoun was becoming a popular reading.

After college, she was confused. She had no activity. Laili returned to Sambas. A year of doing nothing. Finally, she wanted to take a master degree. She departed for the test to Yogyakarta.

While waiting for the test, she met several fellow activists. She was amazed. Her friends progressed a lot. There are many amazing activities.

Once, IDEA Yogyakarta held a national workshop of budget training. The participants were from all over Indonesia. There were no participants from West Kalimantan. Finally, Laili represented West Kalimantan. Her friends told her, there was an NGO in West Kalimantan. It was Gemawan.

He was at a crossroad. Taking classes or working in an NGO. If she took master degree courses, she would be two years behind. Meanwhile, the classmates were very advanced, in terms of activities and networks. She decided not to take the master degree scholarship, even though she had passed the test.

He returned to Sambas. His father smiled when he was told, she did not take the master degree opportunity. Her parent had an opinion, as long as there was an acceptable explanation, it did not matter. Her parent gave advice, it was fine to work in private sector as long as she can manage her finance. Likewise, when she decided that she did not want to work as a civil servant. Why?

“I’m not happy to see uniforms. Uniforms are like restraint, “said Laili.

Working at Gemawan

Prior to starting a career as an activist at an NGO, Laili was a lecturer at Muhammadiyah University of Pontianak. After a year of teaching, she got an offer to be a permanent lecturer. The condition was she could not do any activities outside the campus. She was confused again, because she had to make a decision. She left her work as a lecturer.

“I prefer to look outside rather than be restrained,” said Laili.

One time, she contacted Yudhi, a member of Gemawan. She got Yudhi’s name from a friend in Yogyakarta. Gemawan was still “unstable”. Sometimes there were programs, sometimes there were not.

Laili decided to join Gemawan in 2000. She was a volunteer with a salary of IDR 150,000 a month. That was only spent for her travel money. She enjoyed that and was happy. In 2003, she came to Camar Bulan Hamlet, Temajuk Village. Falling from motorbike. Crossing coastal paths and getting caught by the rain were common.

Initially Gemawan had several divisions. Each division had its own office. In 2004, Laili created the Women’s Division in Gemawan. There was a 30 percent quota for the managing board to be women. Laili changed Gemawan, which was originally macho, to be gender-fair.

In 2005, Gemawan unified all divisions in one office. Merger brought its own advantages. Gemawan became more coordinated. Not too improvident in spending on office rental budget. Laili was appointed as the Director.

Initially, not many people wanted to be appointed as Director of Gemawan. The task was tough. The program was still low in numbers. The director had to develop the organization. Making money for the program. The same as a business. You had to find your own funds for the activities.

Then, how do you manage an NGO like Gemawan?

“There is togetherness in managing Gemawan,” said Laili.

If there is a problem it is always resolved together. There is a sense of kinship built. In fact, people in Gemawan when there are problems, they usually go to their friends in Gemawan, not to your home or family. To foster togetherness, there is a family gathering once a year. The whole family who wors in Gemawan, joined the event.

Togetherness is carried out in completing work. We have to help each other. Everyone is given an understanding not to do their own work. As long as there are things which can be helped, we must help each other.

There are family values applied. We know each other. The goal is to cover the shortcomings. Therefore, we must uphold each other. She gave an example. There are many NGOs or institutions, ultimately unable to survive due to internal conflicts.

As an important asset of the organization, staff are treated humanely. They skills are upgraded. There is an opportunity and justice given. Everyone gets an allowance according to their rights. For example, people are given the opportunity to improve their abilities. If there is education, everyone gets the opportunity. Rotate according to ability and need.

“We are trying to minimize conflicts with fair distribution,” said Laili.

Being terrorized and gossiped is a common thing. If people are not tough, they will resign. She believes that people at Gemawan are stronger than the terrorists. Yet, rules must be enforced. There are rules of the game that must always be upheld and respected. If the leader is good, the subordinates will do good. Leaders must be examples.

She always tries to be the first to come to the office. Unless there are activities outside the office or other important businesses. She tries to go home last. This is to show, leaders are like that. There is understanding among them.

Laili likes writing. However, right now, her time is spent handling various jobs at Gemawan. Within a day, she has to read all e-mails (e-mails) and reply to them. Editing and evaluating reports. If a staff job has not been completed, she must find solutions and strategies to solve it.

There is one thing that is unique to Laili. She is a good presenter. If you convey an idea, people will believe it. An ordinary presentation, if she does that, the results would be different. Her delivery makes people interested. Therefore, in various opportunities for presentation, she always comes forward. Not only presentations, she is also a speaker at various meetings representing Gemawan in various places.

The most memorable thing while becoming an activist was when the assisted communities were successfully defended. For example, when Sambas farmers whose land was evicted by the oil palm plantation of PT Wilmar Group. The problem was published at the international level. In 2007, Gemawan and Milleudefencie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) presented their findings in the field to the Netherlands. There were interviews with international media, such as, The New York Times, Reuter, VARA TV (Dutch TV), and others.

Initially, the international media were shocked and somewhat disbelieved. However, the data, photos and field findings made the media believe. A VARA TV reporter told Laili that when the news of PT Wilmar’s violation was published in the mass media, the World Bank’s stock meeting for investment was stopped. The meeting participants watched the news. They were shocked.

“This shows that Gemawan’s work was great,” said Laili.

It influenced the policy makers of a large institution, such as the World Bank. On the top of that, the President of the World Bank immediately sent a letter to Laili as the Director of Gemawan, and gave signatories to other complaints in Indonesia and other countries. It was because this was collective work.

Laili and other Gemawan members never thought the impact would be like that. All they wanted was that people’s land would be back and the forests would not be disturbed by investment in oil palm plantations. Anyone investing anywhere must respect local traditions, local community rights, Indonesian laws and regulations, and the environment. Because if this is not applied, it will give impacts on environmental damage and emerge social problems.

Even though she struggles with various books and empowerment activities, Laili does not really idolize figures. Every figure has advantages and disadvantages. They are only inspirations. She believes everyone can inspire others. Relatives, family or people around, can give inspiration. To her, everyone can inspire.

She gave an example. There was a mother who did not graduate from elementary school. She left school because there was not enough money. When she had a child, she wanted to send them to the highest school possible. There was a wish for the child’s success. There was a perspective of breaking the chain of helplessness. For her, it is very interesting. Changing something into reality, that requires a big strategy.

Source: Inside Pontianak

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