Khazanah (Treasure) for Edition 48:
Gus Dur the Feminist
by: Ratna Ulfatul Fuadiyah

Title : Gus Dur in the Women’s Eyes
Editor : Ala’i Nadjib
Publisher q : Gading, Yogyakarta
Year of publication : 2015
Number of pages : xxx + 296 pages
Size : 24.5 x 23 cm


The book of  “Gus Dur in the Women’s Eyes” is an anthology or collection of writings on views and experiences of women of the figure of Abdurrahman and his struggle. In her introduction, Chair of PP Fatayat NU stated that the book publication as one of the efforts of Fatayat NU to always campaign the feminism idea rooted in the heritage of ideas and traditions of Indonesia.

This book is different from many other books that highlight the figure of Gus Dur. Many books have discussed Gus Dur as a scholar, stateman, pluralist, culturalist, minorities defender. However, not many books have discussed Gus Dur’s thoughts on gender equality and women’s rights.

Neatly, straightforwardly and plainly written from experiences of his family, relatives, friends, and those who directly interacted with Gus Dur, who came from different circles. From every detail of the story we can see that Gus Dur is a very active women’s rights advocate. In fact, he often acts as a guardian for Indonesian women who are still discriminated. He always tries to implement the idea of gender equality and women’s rights through concrete actions both in family life, society and state.

Among the interesting reviews about Gus Dur are revealed in Ala’i Nadjib’s writing on how he early establishes the role of partnership and equality in the family. The parenting pattern he applies, where father and mother nurturing and parenting together in midst of the mothering doctrine (the children are solely the mother’s responsibility, while father is a public worker). Gus Dur and Ibu (Mrs) Shinta Nuriyah did not hesitate to work together to do houseworks.

Gus Dur’s concerns are so great in reproductive health, and this is reflected by the experience of his family, as his wife Shinta Nuriyah told. From time of her first pregnancy to the birth of their daughters, while they were still teaching and living in pesantren, Gus Dur always took time for Ibu Shinta’s pregnancy check up. He also played a direct active role to take care of Ibu Shinta postpartum, even he did not hesitate to care for her and babies, to change and to clean the diapers. This is long before the government encourages the husband’s role and launched the Suami Siaga (Supportive Husband) program.

According to his children’s explanations, for Gus Dur equality in life is not just a lifestyle but rather coming from the same human spirit. Equality is not only in terms of gender relations, but equality before the law, the right of life and so on. Therefore, for him it is not difficult to understand the struggle against gender injustice.

In short, Gus Dur does not speak of equality in discourse, concepts or definitions, but he gives more concrete examples in all of his activities, in the way he relates to his family and places their positions, without any discrimination and domination. More precisely Gus Dur has become uswatun hasanah (good role model) for the family in implementing the values he understands.

Gus Dur’s concern for minorities and his defense for women is unquestionable. For him, his feminism is not only accepted as a discourse but also implemented in the form of programs within the NU and NU women’s organizations such as IPPNU, Fatayat and Muslimat. Among the programs are gender mainstreaming, strengthening health and reproductive rights, reinterpretation of Yellow Books on women’s role and position, strengthening of sexuality rights and others, as presented by Siti Musdah Mulia on the work of Gus Dur in the context of Nahdhatul Ulama.

Gus Dur’s very fundamental views gives birth to so many thoughts and initiatives in efforts to build gender equality and justice, and to improve the status and position of women. For example in rejecting violence against women including polygamy behavior, defending women workers’ fate and rejecting the Pornography Act. His rejection of the Pornography Act is based on his defense of women, rejecting female sexuality as a political tool.

Gus Dur’s support for women is started from his home and family, which he expands to support the struggle of Indonesian women in general. The seeds of his concern for emancipation, come from his grandfather, KH Bisri Syamsuri and the wife who founded the female pesantren in Denanyar Jombang,which designated for women in the late 1920s. Although initially received a tough challenge from NU figures, until now the pesantren is still standing strong and even become a model of some female pesantren in the country.

Since young Gus Dur always sees the struggle of his ancestors in arena of organizations and politics of Indonesia. Gus Dur’s mother, Hj Sholichah is a female movement figure, a member of DPR GR (House of Representatives). He gives full support to women activists, including his wife, younger sister, daughters, and companions in their respective segments of struggle. In a seminar, Gus Dur ever asked for permission to leave the meeting first because he would accompany Ibu Shinta during a rally at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout. Every time Ibu Sinta Nuriah had activities related to women issues such as book launching, Gus Dur was always present. For Ibu Shinta, it is the real support that not many husbands do.

Nunuk Prasetyo Murniati expressed her explanation of Gus Dur’s views on the issue of pluralism. According to Gus Dur, women are more pluralistic, making their analysis more powerful than men in understanding life. He described the village women whose family livelihoods are farming. According to him, the farming families have many children, because agriculture requires a lot of labor, to be given tasks and responsibilities in managing the farm and the harvest. These daily work habits shape their skills. The women in the village are given the task of maintaining water resources, soil fertility, choosing seeds, making fertilizers and providing food, as the village women are better understanding. This thinking is based on the reality of life that children are born from their mother’s womb and they eat since in their mother’s womb, so that village women are very well constructed, understood and skilled about food. Another reality of life commonly experienced by women is to nurture, care for, and educate their children. By having many children who have different traits and will, the women seek to understand the differences as well as to understand the situation of different (plural) societies.


These various stories will make us more familiar with Gus Dur, and imitate the values he instills to be applied in everyday life as well as in the struggle of the women’s movement. Especially from the anthology writing systematics from various facets: first part about Gus Dur and family, second part about Gus Dur and Nahdhatul Ulama, third part about Gus Dur and struggle in political parties, fourth about Gus Dur the nurturer, fifth about Gus Dur and his thoughts, sixth about Gus Dur in their memories, Seventh about Gus Dur in the memories of colleagues abroad, and last about Gus Dur in a cartoon. Through cartoon, children from Tanoker Ledokombo Jember describe the process of getting to know Gus Dur more than just as the Indonesian president.

This what makes it easier for readers to get information about Gus Dur, from various sides of life in the society. [] Ratna Ulfatul Fuadiyah


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