Spotlight: From Personal Experience to Pioneering GEDSI Advocacy


Ms. Pipit Ratna Fitriani1 , SKALA’s GEDSI Lead and winner of DT Global’s Woman of the Year Award reflects on development and Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion in Indonesia.

Becoming DT Global’s Woman of the Year

Pipit’s eyes light up as she talks about winning the award. She was in North Kalimantan for work when she was informed of her nomination.

“I was so busy with work, my initial reaction was simply ‘Ok, thank you.’ I didn’t really internalize it.”

But she says that the award in fact recognizes the collective efforts of SKALA’s many stakeholders, including the team, senior leadership, the Indonesian government, the Australian government and SKALA’s many partners. She reflects that governance projects in Indonesia are evolving, with SKALA’s design and approach focused deliberately on including vulnerable groups in development. SKALA has three end of program outcomes, and its efforts and story revolve around people who are most vulnerable.

For Pipit, the DT Global Woman of the Year Award is a validation of this approach.

She notes though that while winning the award was never her goal, it is an excellent way to recognize and appreciate staff.  

She explains, “This award gives me more confidence. It has made me see the strengths in myself, and in how I can contribute to my team.”

Ultimately, the DT Global Woman of the Year Award is more than personal recognition for Pipit. It is a testament to the collective effort of the SKALA team and partners and a motivating force to continue striving for impactful and inclusive development.

Passion for GEDSI

Pipit’s commitment to Gender Equality, Disability, and Social Inclusion (GEDSI) is rooted in her own lived experience and has evolved throughout her career to align with some of Indonesia’s most pressing social issues. Her journey began in a family of nine, headed by civil servant parents under tight financial constraints. This background instilled in her a profound understanding of the struggles faced by many Indonesians, driving her to dedicate her career and her life to enhancing the welfare of vulnerable groups.

“My family’s struggle to ensure all seven children received a university education deeply inspired me. It showcased the pivotal role of education in transforming lives,” Pipit reflects.

This realization led her to pursue development practice with a focus on community development for her master’s degree. Pipit wanted to deepen her impact on social justice.

Early in her career at the National Commission on Violence Against Women2 , she realized the importance of engaging with the public in an open and transparent way, understanding that society needs this transparency and accountability from the state. At the Commission, Pipit did not interact intensively with international donors and was initially sceptical about working with international development partners due to their different operational approaches.

She notes that her perspective changed when she joined a DFAT-supported educational program as the GEDSI advisor, after gaining a broader understanding of social justice issues in Indonesia through her work at Solidaritas Perempuan3 and as program director at Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan4 . She also managed PNPM Peduli5 which focused on the most vulnerable including the urban poor, transgender, indigenous people and victims of severe human rights violations. This experience, particularly managing PNPM Peduli for five years, helped her realize the importance of systemic change.

“I realized that if we really want to promote change in the government system, we need to work through the system,” she says.

Since then, Pipit’s passion for social inclusion has only grown, fuelled by her roles at KOMPAK6 and most recently at SKALA. Her work has not only given her a deeper understanding of inclusion issues but has also allowed her to inform policy and engage in meaningful advocacy.

Her dedication is also evident in her volunteer work. She is actively involved in social networks and initiatives like the Ke:kini Ruang Bersama, a hub created to provide space and support for marginalized communities in Indonesia and foster social transformation. She also volunteers with the Perkumpulan Penyandang Disabilitas Indonesia (PPDI)7 contributing to disability awareness, women’s issues, and broader social concerns.

“If people only understand me through my professional work, they actually do not know me fully. I do a lot of things as a volunteer to ensure that I contribute to not only disability issues but also women’s issues and other social issues in Indonesia,” she explains.

Pipit’s story is a powerful testament to how personal experience can inspire a lifelong commitment to advocacy and change, influencing both national and international spheres. Her journey highlights the challenges and achievements in advancing GEDSI and underscores the continuous need for dedicated advocacy and strategic action in inclusion efforts.

GEDSI impact at and through SKALA

Pipit is particularly proud of how robustly GEDSI is integrated into the fabric of the SKALA program. Her work at SKALA builds on extensive experience at KOMPAK, where she worked for over six years, giving her a solid foundation in managing complex governance programs.

She acknowledges that establishing GEDSI as a core program pillar at SKALA was a strategic move that helps the team to ensure that GEDSI is not an add-on but a central element in all areas of the program. At SKALA, she leveraged lessons learned from KOMPAK to enhance how GEDSI is addressed in the program implementation strategy.

Pipit notes, “If we really want to make the project strong, implement GEDSI on all fronts, we need one pillar for that.”

Implementing this approach is not just about meeting legal requirements but about genuinely creating an inclusive environment. Pipit helped spell out these commitments in the SKALA GEDSI strategy, demonstrating a clear plan to operationalize SKALA’s inclusion values, including practical steps like setting a recruitment quota for people with disabilities, choosing inclusive office locations, selecting appropriate vendors, and setting up the office environment with GEDSI considerations at the forefront. Doing so helped ensure that these principles are ingrained in SKALA’s daily operations and decision-making processes.

“It’s not about being tokenistic, you know? We actively want to recruit people with disabilities, so we really need to think through how the work environment should be inclusive.”

Pipit praises SKALA for providing facilities like a multifunction room, which supports inclusivity by offering a space for various needs, including breastfeeding and for people with disabilities to rest as needed. She points out that such facilities benefit everyone.

Also, the SKALA team committed to the inclusion of GEDSI coordinators at sub-national levels of SKALA’s program structure so that local contexts are addressed and to improve the timeliness and relevance of SKALA’s response to local needs. Pipit also fosters an environment of collaboration and support among GEDSI coordinators, encouraging peer-to-peer support via WhatsApp to share advice and tips, thereby enhancing collective problem-solving and intervention strategies.

Further, she says that strong support from senior leadership within the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is essential for the success of GEDSI initiatives. The Australian government’s commitment has led to substantial financial support for GEDSI, making SKALA a leader in GEDSI resourcing in development programs in Indonesia.

Collaborating for Impact

Pipit’s role as SKALA’s GEDSI Lead also enabled her to support the integration of GEDSI in broader governmental interactions.

She states that “The support by SKALA has contributed to the finalization of a gender inequality index and contributed to gender tagging in financial reporting systems with the Ministry of Finance.”
These efforts are crucial in ensuring that developmental agendas at both national and sub-national levels include essential GEDSI considerations.

Pipit emphasizes the significance of gender tagging in public financial management, particularly the work the SKALA team are doing collaboratively with the Ministry of Finance and with local governments. She notes how timely the work is as it aligns with the Government of Indonesia’s new long-term development plan and the new gender equality framework. And she underscores that by working together with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Bappenas from the start, the aim is to integrate gender tagging comprehensively into planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting processes.

Pipit is optimistic about expanding from gender tagging to disability tagging.

“Once we have a full cycle in gender tagging, we can move to disability tagging. This is our strategy. We don’t push, let’s do it together, because we know it is very delicate, and different considerations apply.”

She explains that starting with gender is strategic as it is better understood by local governments, whereas disability awareness in Indonesia has only significantly increased in the last eight years. Pipit says it is crucial to involve disability networks in the process. This involvement is essential to making development planning and budgeting processes more inclusive and responsive to the needs of the vulnerable. Pipit also notes that tagging provides insights that can help enforce and monitor GEDSI regulations more effectively.

She sees the collaborative development of the gender tagging instrument with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Home Affairs, and Bappenas as a masterpiece. Monitoring and evaluation of the instrument are planned in several Indonesian provinces. She notes the importance of documenting the monitoring process to support the Government of Indonesia in mainstreaming GEDSI at the local level, to showcase achievements, identify areas of improvement, and to inform future GEDSI tagging efforts.

Overcoming challenges to GEDSI

In her role at SKALA, Pipit found that one of the most challenging aspects was initially raising awareness among the internal team about the importance of fully understanding and integrating GEDSI issues into their work.

She stresses, “It’s really GEDSI. So, you need to understand these issues and the approach if you really want to make SKALA work.”

Building stakeholder capacity presents another significant challenge. Pipit acknowledges thematic expertise in public financial management, data and analysis, and minimum service standards among the SKALA team, but notes the necessity of integrating GEDSI considerations into these efforts to ensure everyone benefits from positive change. She says the process is essential for building in incentives not only for SKALA but also for all its stakeholders including the Indonesian government, Australia’s DFAT, and DT Global. This approach requires continuous advocacy and a deep understanding of government operations, where engagement with knowledgeable ministry stakeholders is crucial for effective implementation and mutual benefit. Pipit highlights that different government institutions have their own ways of working. Despite hurdles, strategic advocacy and tailored engagement approaches are opening new opportunities to strengthen GEDSI interventions within government initiatives.

“Being a GEDSI person is being an advocate for your whole life. Anywhere, anytime,” Pipit notes with a smile.

Reflections on Inclusive Leadership

Pipit emphasizes the importance of thoughtful and inclusive approaches in leadership. She says that being a leader involves facing many challenges but stresses the need to avoid reactionary responses. She underscores the importance of teamwork and effective communication with ministries and partners, even in difficult situations. Seeking advice from supervisors and navigating challenges thoughtfully ensures that all partners maintain good relationships.

“Being a leader means you need to listen. You need to have time to discuss and have a conversation, because sometimes the real things that you get, they aren’t through formal sessions,” she explains. “Informal discussions and deep, one-on-one conversations often reveal the most valuable insights.”

Pipit says that leadership is not about a title but about earning genuine respect through actions. Leading by example and showing commitment to the cause are crucial elements of her philosophy. She believes that creating an inclusive environment is a collective responsibility, and that the highest leadership needs to demonstrate commitment to inclusivity. Building an inclusive workspace requires understanding and addressing the diversity of the team, and she underscores the importance of educating and increasing the capacity of the entire team to understand and accommodate different abilities.

Pipit reflects on a journey of lifelong learning as being part of a leader. Her commitment to inclusivity and empowerment is driven by a deep understanding of the challenges faced by marginalized communities and a determination to lead by example, fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for all.

“I learned over time how to be an inclusive leader, and it’s never enough. I know I still have a lot of weaknesses, but I try to be a good person every day.”

A message to young professionals: Dare to dream

Pipit cannot stress enough the importance of dreaming big and having a clear vision.

She explains, “I got this philosophy when I worked at the National Commission on Violence Against Women, the philosophy of ‘Dare to Dream’, because if you cannot dream, if you cannot envision who you are, and what you want to contribute to society, it is difficult to create a roadmap.”

She advises strongly against focusing on attaining positions of power. Instead, she suggests that young professionals should connect with their surroundings and just focus on performing their duties to the best of their abilities. She believes that recognition and opportunities follow naturally if your potential is evident to colleagues and leaders.

Reflecting on her own career, she mentions the importance of recognizing when it is time to move on. For her, signs include misalignment of organizational goals with personal vision, lack of growth opportunities, or feeling too comfortable.

“When you’re very comfortable, it’s a sign, actually, you need to find another challenge,” she notes.

She encourages working in areas that resonate with what you are passionate about, as this leads to extraordinary performance and contributions beyond job descriptions.

She also highlights the significance of wisdom and emotional maturity, especially when dealing with disagreements or challenges. Learning to handle difficult situations and people is part of professional growth. She encourages volunteer work and recommends staying connected to social movements, as these experiences have been pivotal in her own development.

Pipit encourages young professionals to work diligently and passionately, trusting that challenges make us wiser and more responsible.

She concludes, “Just do it, do your work with passion and the rest will be, you know? Everything will be. The challenges that come to you make you mature, make you wiser. And then after that, the universe will grant you more responsibility because you’re already capable of handling it.”

Looking ahead on GEDSI

Pipit believes that sustained political endorsement is needed to advance GEDSI in Indonesia. She observes that while GEDSI issues often receive significant attention during election periods, the commitment tends to wane post-elections.

She recommends raising awareness of political parties and with the Indonesian legislative bodies (MPR, DPR) through comprehensive provincial analyses on GEDSI issues. By clearly communicating the challenges faced by vulnerable groups and how these issues can be addressed, she suggests enhancing the understanding of policymakers at all levels of government. Her approach aims to ensure that the real issues of vulnerable groups are highlighted and addressed effectively.

She underscores the importance of development efforts benefiting the most vulnerable groups.

“No matter the sector, if we cannot ensure that the work will benefit the most vulnerable groups, that means we still have a lot of homework,” Pipit states.

She believes that true development is measured by the increased welfare of the community and society. Regardless of whether the focus is on infrastructure, basic services, climate, or energy, the impact on vulnerable groups should be a primary consideration.

She emphasizes the importance of leveraging successful ongoing initiatives to inform future policies. She sees the need for synthesizing and harvesting lessons learned from ongoing projects to create policy briefs that can then be used to elevate the discussion to the national level and subsequently inform sub-national strategies. This cyclical process of learning and application aims to create a more robust and inclusive policy environment.

In conclusion, Pipit highlights the critical role of continuous political support, comprehensive analysis, and effective communication to advance GEDSI in Indonesia. By ensuring that development efforts benefit the most vulnerable and maintaining a focus on inclusive growth, significant progress can be achieved.

“Successful development is when the welfare of the community, of the society, is increased,” she reiterates, underscoring her vision for inclusive development.

1. In May 2024, Pipit transitioned into her new role as Inclusion Adviser at ASEAN. 
2. The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) is an independent Indonesian institution established in 1998 to eliminate violence against women and uphold women's human rights. Funded by the national budget and private donors, its mandate includes observation, reporting, policy influence, research, monitoring, and international cooperation.

3. Solidaritas Perempuan is a feminist organization founded in 1990 to create a democratic, just, and ecologically aware social order based on equal relations between men and women. 

4. Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan aims to mobilize resources for social transformation through innovative, open, and accountable methods. It supports community groups to achieve their goals by fostering meaningful initiatives and effective collaboration while building the autonomy and sustainability of social movements through capacity-building for smart resource raising. 

5. The PNPM Peduli initiative aimed to empower marginalized communities to achieve greater independence and improve their socio-economic conditions. Launched in June 2011, it distributed grant funds to national and local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to support marginalized groups, including street children, women, and those living in isolated areas, by providing resources for business, education, and health services.

6. KOMPAK was a facility funded by the Government of Australia to support Indonesia in achieving poverty reduction and addressing inequality. Running from January 2015 to June 2022 with up to AUD 177 million, it focused on improving basic services and economic opportunities for the poor, aligning with Indonesia's Medium-Term National Development Plan (2015-2019). Operating at national and subnational levels, KOMPAK focused on public sector governance, decentralized service delivery, and community empowerment. 

7. The Indonesian Association of Disabled Persons (PPDI) is an umbrella organization for various disability groups in Indonesia, founded in 1987. Its vision is to ensure full participation and equal opportunities for people with disabilities in all aspects of life. 

Sinergi dan Kolaborasi untuk Akselerasi Layanan Dasar (SKALA) is an Australia-Indonesia Partnership Program aimed at supporting the Government of Indonesia’s efforts to reduce poverty and inequality by improving basic-service provisions to poor and vulnerable communities in less-developed regions.


Sinergi dan Kolaborasi untuk Akselerasi Layanan Dasar (SKALA) is an Australia-Indonesia Partnership Program aimed at supporting the Government of Indonesia’s efforts to reduce poverty and inequality by improving basic-service provisions to poor and vulnerable communities in less-developed regions.


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