Ratna Indraswari Ibrahim – Indonesia

She’s one of Indonesia’s most prolific short-story writers with more than 300 published. Plus novels, poetry and a basket full of articles. For these she’s collected several awards. When she’s not writing she’s pushing social and cultural causes. All this makes Ratna Indraswari Ibrahim worthy of respect; add to this her work practices. For Ratna is severely crippled and cannot write or use a keyboard; all her stories have to be dictated and transcribed. Duncan Graham met the determined author at her home in Malang, East Java … (full text, June 17, 2007).

Find her on the Indonesian wikipedia.

Selanjutnya! – Tempat Bercermin: Ratna Indraswari Ibrahim: Sudah lama kami tak bertemu. “Bertahun-tahun, Helvy, begitu lama…,” katanya saat saya rangkul. Saya menatap perempuan di hadapan saya dengan sangat bangga. Perempuan yang tak pernah berhenti menginspirasi saya dan mungkin banyak lagi perempuan di negeri ini: Ratna Indraswasi Ibrahim! “Mahasiswa-mu baru telepon setengah dua belas malam untuk acara pagi ini!” ujarnya. “Kalau bukan karena kamu, Helvy, aku tidak akan datang,” katanya pura-pura ngambek. “Sebulan setengah lalu memang sudah dihubungi. Habis itu tak ada kabar. Aku kira tidak jadi.” Saya rangkul lagi dia. “Maafkan mereka ya, Mbak,” kata saya mewakili 70 mahasiswa JBSI Angkatan 2003 yang saya bimbing bersama tiga dosen lainnya dalam KKL (Kuliah Kerja Lapangan) di Malang ini. Salah satu acara yang mereka adakan bekerjasama dengan Universitas Malang adalah menghadirkan diskusi mengenai karya-karya Ratna Indraswari Ibrahim, pagi itu. (on her blog).


Ratna Indraswari Ibrahim – Indonesia

She works for Bakti Nurani (named on mitra netra online), for the Entropic Foundation, and for Yayasan Pajoeng.

She says: “Conflicts and wars are awful because they disable more and more people in every sense of the word”.

Find her and her publications on goodreads; on National Library of Australia; on open Library.org; on Google Group-search; on Google Book-search; on Google Blog-search.

… For 13 years she chaired a Non-Government Organization (NGO) for disabled people, then founded an NGO concerned with environmental issues. She also works for Yayasan Kebudayaan Panjoeng, a cultural foundation to stimulate and preserve local history and the arts. Her once secluded 93-year old home in central Malang is now overshadowed by a hotel on one side, and a high school on the other. When prayers and public announcements are made on what must be East Java’s most raucous and deafening sound system, the mind hibernates for self-protection. It hardly seems the ideal environment for creativity, but Ratna resting on a bed in her library while she structures her next sentence to be transcribed by secretary and poet Ragil Sukriwul, doesn’t seem to mind. She has many visitors who bring her stories that may eventually find a way into her work. Then there are the students seeking the magic elixir: ‘Please tell me how to write.’ Ratna’s answer is blunt and direct: “Just do it!” So what sort of courses should they take? “Education is not the same as intelligence.” Relationships between the sexes are a major theme in her stories, with situations growing out of male domination of women in a society that’s overwhelmingly dogmatic and masculine, and often violent. Her female characters are usually semi-urban Muslims struggling with life and injustice, battling to raise families while maintaining a sense of self-worth. Their situations are real. Her popularity depends on her readers identifying with the characters and their daily lives. Surprisingly many of her admirers are men. There are two main streams of women’s literature in Indonesia, the traditional romantic novel (love lit) and the new kid on the shelves, sastra wangi (literally ‘perfumed writing’) but known elsewhere as chick lit … (full text, June 17, 2007).

On 1000peacewomen:  … Ratna Indraswari Ibrahim (born 1960) lives in East Java, Indonesia. At the age of 13, she was stricken with polio and other orthopedic diseases that permanently hindered the functions of her arms and legs. Her family encouraged her never to lose hope in spite of her disabilities. She writes short stories about discrimination against women that are published regularly in Indonesian newspapers. Ratna is also involved in local campaigns to improve accessibility for people living with disabilities and to save the urban forest in her hometown, Malang. Ratna Indraswari Ibrahim is a well-known woman writer based in Malang, a city in East Java, Indonesia, whose short stories are regularly published by Indonesian national newspapers.

Her works convey strong messages about discrimination against women in Indonesian society. She says that her writing is a reflection on culture and the self. “Women are unfairly treated since early childhood. I see a lot of girls deprived of their playing time because they have to help with house chores. It doesn’t happen with boys,” she observes.

Ratna started writing short stories in 1975. “My mother had a large collection of novels and I loved to read them,” she recounts. Her reading intensified after she was stricken with polio and orthopedic disease which permanently impaired the functions of her arms and legs. “The infection started when I was about 10 and went on for about three years. In the beginning it was quite frustrating, but my mother supported me all the way,” she says.

Ratna’s family saw to it that she went to a regular public school until she reached college.She is highly influenced by her mother, who raised the family by herself after her husband died. “She encouraged me to read and write,” Ratna recalls, “and she was very independent.” Living with disability also made Ratna aware of how certain groups are excluded in the society. Families and communities tend to treat their members who are disabled as a curse and often prevent them from being seen in public. Children with disabilities have very little access to education, especially in poor and uneducated communities.

Ratna points out that in a patriarchal society, women with disabilities are often subjected to harassment and sexual violence.

She urges a change in society’s perception of the disabled and better government services in addressing the problem of accessibility in public places. She disapproves of the Indonesian government policies that are directed towards giving aid or training to persons with disability. “People living with disability are denied access to education and independence. They are perceived as being forever dependent on their families and are discriminated against in the provision of education, job training and job opportunities,” wrote Ratna in an article published by Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights.

Ratna has been working to promote the rights of the disabled since 1977, when she founded Bakti Nurani, an NGO working for persons with disability in Malang. She advocates for more accessibility in public places, which would enable persons with disability to be more independent and to participate in society. She participates in hearings at the local parliament in Malang to voice her concerns.

“I proposed to make Malang a pilot project for accessibility in public places. It should be easier to start from a relatively small city like this, where people know each other and cooperation is easier,” she says. She has also worked to improve the living conditions of persons living with disability in Indonesia.

She was invited by Mobility International, an organization promoting mobility for people with disabilities, for leadership training in the United States. In 1995, she attended the Women’s International Conference in Beijing and in 1997, she delivered a speech at the Women’s Congress in Washington. The international recognition she has gained has not made it easier for her to obtain assistance from the Indonesian government. “I can’t wait around for government support. I have to continue developing my network to be able to change existing conditions,” she explains.

Ratna doesn’t stop at promoting the interests of the disabled. “The problem of distribution of power is evident in many ways,” she observes. She was part of a group that founded the Entropic Foundation (Yayasan Entropic), which works on environment issues.

In 1998, she initiated Yayasan Pajoeng, an organization working on cultural issues. She is also actively engaged in a campaign against the relocation of an urban forest in Malang. With her colleagues at the Rainbow Forum, she facilitates discussions and meetings to make citizens aware that they are about to lose one of the most important elements of their environment. “If anything is worth changing for the better, we might as well start from our own home,” she declares.

Indeed, Ratna starts from her own home. Her door is open to anyone who wants to talk about women’s rights, environment and culture.

Her house is a meeting point for artists, activists and students who later formed the Rainbow Forum (Forum Pelangi). Many young people come to the meetings to develop their critical consciousness. Ratna has also helped initiate and maintain a journal called “Naswari,” which focuses on women’s issues and gender equality in the community.

Ratna lives in Malang with two assistants who act as her nurses and help her type her stories. She is determined to continue upgrading her knowledge by taking part in various workshops and seminars. She supports herself by writing, giving lectures and renting out rooms in her house to medical students doing internships in a hospital nearby. Ratna is known to be a creative, optimistic and cheerful person.

She believes that writing is a process that involves getting a lot of information and opinions from other people. Her assistants have benefited from her creative process. “I learned to write by listening and typing her stories,” says her assistant, Rini, who has helped Ratna develop a story based on her own experience as migrant worker. In 1993, Ratna received the Women with Achievement Award (Perempuan Berprestasi) from the Indonesian government. A number of her short stories have been chosen best stories of the year by an Indonesian national newspaper. (1000peacewomen).



Brawijaya University: PRASETYA online, english version;

Indonesian Literature.

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