Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Origin of Nasyiatul Aisyiyah: Organising for Articulating Religious-based Womanhood in Pre-Independent Indonesia

Siti Syamsiyatun


There is always a reason why people develop an organization; the questions to be raised are at least why and how people are organizing. The present paper attempts to investigate similar questions as experienced by Indonesian Muslim women who have organized themselves in an association called Nasyiatul Aisyiyah. This organization has evolved from a group of female students, Siswa Praja Wanita (Respectable Female Pupils), in a Muhammadiyah Standard School founded in 1991, to being one of the largest Muslim women’s organizations in Indonesia today. In this paper I am focusing my analysis on the organization’s development during pre-independent Indonesia and putting the phenomenon of Nasyiatul Aisyiyah’s growth in specific perspectives, namely social and religious. The data for this study is generated from both library and field research, the latter of which was undertaken in June-October 2003.

The rise of Indonesian feminism undoubtedly has always been associated with the publication of letters written by a Javanese priyayi woman Raden Ajeng Kartini, as a result of her correspondence with Dutch feminists and her exposure to Western feminist thought. While Kartini’s ideas are based in Javanese culture, another kind of feminist demand was articulated from a religious (Islamic) perspective emerging in the second decade of twentieth century Indonesia. This voice was made public by Muslim women who organized themselves through Sapa Tresna (Those Who Love) and Siswa Praja Wanita/SPW (Respectable Female Students) who later on merged their groups. SPW, later to become Nasyiatul Aisyiyah, undertook activities to cater for the needs of its ever larger audiences. Some of its most noticeable achievements have been providing education for women, even to reach those denied by the colonial and religious authorities of the time; and preparing women preachers who became the backbone of religious learning among women even until today. The organization also cultivated its special characteristics for leadership from religious values. However, this does not mean that Nasyiatul Aisyiyah ignored its cultural roots, in shaping the internal culture of the organization.

Key words:
Women, Islam, Organization, Indonesia, Colonial Period

Citation: Syamsiyatun, Siti. 2004. The Origin of Nasyiah: Organising for Articulating Religious-based Womanhood in Pre-Independence Indonesia." in R. Cribb (ed.). Asia Examined: Proceedings of the 15th Biennial Conference of the ASAA 2004. Canberra: ASAA & Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, the Australian National University. pp. 1-25.

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