Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Marwah Daud Ibrahim: Tipping the balance of power

Matheos Viktor Messakh , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Wed, 02/11/2009 10:33 AM | People

Marwah Daud: Courtesy of Marwah DaudMarwah Daud: Courtesy of Marwah Daud

Plenty of people, especially politicians, talk about inequality in Indonesian politics, but only a few can walk the walk.

Lawmaker Marwah Daud Ibrahim is not just walking it, but marching.

“My main concern as a politician is how to make people confident and believe that this nation is a big nation,” she says. “We are a great nation but we feel small; we are a rich country but we feel poor. It’s not enough to say that our inferiority comes from colonialism. As a nation we aren’t united in our dreams, ideals and aspirations.”

In 1994, after school dropout rates hit new highs, Marwah founded the Orbit Scholarship Foundation. In 1995, when people were rashly cutting down forests, she promoted the idea of establishing an “agropolitan” – an agriculture-based village of unemployed graduates – at the logging site in Bukit Sutra, South Sulawesi.

During the political upheaval of 1998, she was quietly visiting remote areas promoting the supply of energy and food based on local advantages.

Since 1996, she has been out and about in the country’s east, which tends to lag behind the west, visiting remote islands, and talking to people about how they can succeed. She also has traveled to educate women’s groups.

And in a political sphere dominated by men, Marwah is deeply involved in the fight for raising the number of women in parliament.

“We should be equal as a nation, regardless of our backgrounds. This is the first thing any leader must do.”

Marwah has always been positive about life and she wants to share that energy with others.
“God gives every one of us our potential and also provides all the chances. The success of this nation is the accumulation of the success of every single person in the country,” she says.

Thanks to her many contributions, Marwah was chosen on Nov. 5, 2008, by the Nation Integrity Council (DIB), a group of eight organizations, to run for president. Last year she was also chosen by the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) as one of the nation’s inspiring women.

She has since declared she will run for the presidency with or without the support of her party, Golkar. She has a dream for the country, which she hopes to share with all her fellow citizens: “Nusantara Jaya 2045” – a vision of Indonesia in 2045, leading not just Asia, but the world.

“A dream or vision is something between belief and hope,” she says. “You can get what you want if you have belief and hope as well as determination. God gives us the ability to dream and if you really do what you need to do, you can get what you want.”

Her own story demonstrates how she has lived this creed.

Marwah was born in Takkalala in South Sulawesi on Nov. 8, 1956, the second of eight children. From an early age, she demonstrated great academic prowess; while at school she dreamed of traveling the world, and developed an admiration for Benjamin Franklin because of his many contributions to history.

After graduating from high school with flying colors, Marwah decided to study communications at university, despite her family’s lack of money. She put herself through university thanks to a “Work Study Program” and then a scholarship.

When she later had the chance to go to the University of Pennsylvania to do a nondegree course, she decided not to return to Indonesia before finishing her doctorate, despite having funding for only one semester.

“When I first attended a class [in the United States], I knew this was the education system I needed. You already know that if you want achieve certain goals, you have to do certain things. We don’t have that in Indonesia.”

Through a combination of hard work, support from friends, scholarships and sheer determination, Marwah managed to get in the States both a master’s – after which she married Ibrahim Taju, her former colleague and activist – and a doctorate degree – the latter despite bearing two children and working two jobs at the same time.

The key to her success, she says, is not a brilliant mind but planning.

“I’m only being diligent and using my time systematically. Preparation makes perfect,” says Marwah. “My father said that if you want to wake up at a certain time just tell yourself and if necessary tell the pillow. Even now I always wake up early and never use an alarm clock.”

In 1989, several colleagues asked Marwah to become a candidate for the Golkar Party. Finally, she turned to politics in 1992 when she was elected as a lawmaker, a position she has held ever since.

Now, she wants to run for president to help advance the nation.

“It’s not about the position but about the authority to do more for the people. Many things I have done still have a limited impact. I imagine this can become a national program. Everybody is talking about poverty, but there are differences in how to go about it.”

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