- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2005

‘Welcome to politics’

A leading proponent of women’s rights in Indonesia got a hard lesson in politics when she ran for parliament last year.

Gefarina Djohan was deputy leader of her National Awakening Party, and her name was second on the party list. She campaigned tirelessly in her district, visiting the homes of 150,000 voters. She was confident of victory.

However, after the votes were counted, her party qualified for only one seat. And the party leader, a man who never campaigned in the district, went to parliament.

“My campaigning and canvassing were not enough. Welcome to politics,” Mrs. Djohan told a luncheon crowd of mostly female political activists in Washington yesterday.

“But like many women who ran and did not win, I have redoubled my work in the party. I prefer not to think of this as losing, but as an investment in my political future.”

She may have lost the election, but she won the respect of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), which presented her with the first Madeleine K. Albright Grant to further her work for women’s rights in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Mrs. Djohan received the grant for her leadership of the Women’s Political Caucus of Indonesia.

She credited the NDI for “helping us create something new in the world: an organization that cuts across every party, every region and every community, an organization to enhance the political participation of all women.”

Mrs. Djohan expressed faith in political parties as the “best vehicle, the natural vehicle” for dealing with the challenges.

“By definition, parties commingle interests. They find common ground. They express voices that may have no other outlet,” she said.

“Parties are not simply the path to power, but the path to shared power, the practical objective of women everywhere.”

Mrs. Djohan said the grant will help the women’s caucus “involve the mothers and daughters and sisters of our nation” in politics.

Mrs. Albright, secretary of state under President Clinton and now NDI chairwoman, said Mrs. Djohan and her caucus are evidence that women are advancing in an emerging democracy.

“Indonesia is … a society in the midst of a difficult but promising democratic transition,” Mrs. Albright said. “Along the way, it has had to endure financial crises, terror attacks, civil strife and natural catastrophes.”

She noted a “direct connection between the success of women in government and the quality of women’s lives.”

Mrs. Albright added: “Democracy is not possible unless women are treated as full citizens both under law and by practice.”

Three good points

As she awarded the first grant, the former secretary of state made an observation.

“We are presenting the first Madeleine K. Albright Grant, which delights me for three reasons,” she said. “First, my name is on the grant; second, it’s somebody else’s money; and third, it’s not called the Madeleine K. Albright Memorial Grant.”

Romanian visit

The new Romanian foreign minister has a crowded agenda on his three-day visit to Washington.

Mihai Razvan Ungureanu yesterday met with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and today he holds talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, before addressing the American Jewish Committee’s annual dinner.

Tomorrow, he meets with Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for global affairs, R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, and John Negroponte, the new director of national intelligence.

His visit “highlights Romania’s commitment, as a future member of the European Union, to the strengthening and consolidation of the trans-Atlantic relation,” said Romanian Ambassador Sorin Ducaru.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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