Asnaini Mirzan: The first and only female village head in Aceh province, Indonesia

Asnaini Mirzan is well known and respected for making herself available to lead the people of Aceh Province, Indonesia. This makes her the first and only female village head in that province, whereby villagers come to seek her advice on their problems daily. She is a farmer by trade

She often says “My house is no longer mine, it is home for my people”. The people of her rural village encouraged her to run for the office as the head of the village council in 2011.

Many questioned her capabilities to govern, having never been led by a woman. Also, traditionally, most villages in Indonesia are led by men, and those who opposed Mirzan’s election as village council leader cited the Gayonese tribe’s value of sumang, a cultural taboo restricting the interaction between women and men who are not related. Because she will have to interact with male villagers to oversee peace and development in her village, and thus, had to overcome this hurdle daily.

But for the support she got from her husband who is always traveling with her from one village to another, and her parents who had trained them to be strong, she held on and remain focused and in 2012, she won the elections.

Mirzan became an advocate of women’s and girls’ education. She lobbies with parents and encourages them to value their daughters’ education as much as their sons. And in her period, girl’s enrolment in primary school improved. She also developed a visible way of administration such as obtaining birth certificates, which was a requirement to enroll children in school.

She also paid attention to health care by allocating 50% of the village funds to the women’s and children’s health service centers.

Mirzan encourages women to open their minds and prove that they can do better than men. They should not be ashamed and never give up.

She is a hero with just a high school certificate, yet picks up the challenge of leading her village. She won the prestigious Acehnese Women’s Award in 2012, given by the Balai Syura Ureung Inong Aceh(Centre for Women-Aceh).

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