Voice, a grant facility for diversity and inclusion, held the “Knowledge Exchange: Influencing Unbound; Rightsholders Taking the Lead” in Masaka, Uganda. This learning event gathered community leaders from the ten Voice member countries in Africa and Asia, Indonesia included, to take a deep dive in answering questions around self-led influencing.

Voice Indonesia was represented by Publish What You Pay (PWYP) and its project partner, the Sedulur Kendeng community. Andri Prasetiyo (PWYP Project Manager) and Gun Retno (Sedulur Sikep indigenous leader) proudly took part and shared their experiences in advocating for the community’s access to productive resources while upholding environmental sustainability.

Specifically, under the Voice project, PWYP together with the community aims to facilitate the development and implementation of policies supportive of the conservation of the North Kendeng Mountains through culturally-rooted advocacy and sustainable development principles. Indigenous women are also empowered to claim their political space and fully participate in the advocacy. It highlights the importance of a community-driven change agenda which provided for rich sharing during the learning exchange.

“What is the strength of being self-led? Who drives the influencing agenda? How do you work with others while still maintaining ownership?”

These were some of the questions that stirred their discussions. One of the major reflections is that being self-led realizes changes faster as it provides for authenticity which also contributes to faster mobilization.

However, there remains a range of challenges from a personal to a community or organizational level, such as cultural barriers, limited access to information, conditions for sustainability, and systemic marginalization. Between advantages and blockages, what plays a significant role are leaders and community members—the rightsholders themselves— who are able to identify problems and opportunities and are empowered to openly talk about those.

According to Gun Retno, the experience has been valuable as it strengthened his belief in the importance of a rightsholders-led advocacy. He committs to continue this empowerment process within their movement and to apply what he has learned to the Kendeng movement.

Along this influencing process, he emphasized that it is as important to develop intergenerational transfer to ensure that the movement not just continues but more importantly, strengthens. The exchange with other groups and organizations about their struggles in their respective movements served as an inspiration for him as he flew more than 5,000 miles back to his hometown.

PWYP is a proud partner of the Sedulur Sikep community. The learning exchange further motivated the organization to continue nurturing this transformational partnership, pushing forward the advocacy with greater drive and a more united voice. **