Independent expert, UN Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures mechanism on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice
Kamala Chandrakirana – often known by her nickname Nana – has been in the middle of struggles for women’s human rights, social justice and inclusive democracy for the past two decades. She works through a diversity of means: by building networks and coalitions; by strengthening formal human rights mechanisms set up by the state and the United Nations as well as initiating informal strategic conversations among like-minded activists; and, by being part of a range of non-governmental organizations in Indonesia, her home country, in the Asia Pacific region, and at the global level. Trained as a sociologist, Kamala promotes the inter-disciplinary approach, the feminist engagement, and the long-term perspective in the work for social transformation.
During the conflict-ridden times of 2003-2009 in Indonesia, Kamala was chairperson of Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence against Women, a unique national mechanism for women’s human rights established by Presidential Decree. Under her leadership, the Commission documented violations of women’s human rights in several contexts, including in Aceh, Papua, Poso (Central Sulawesi), the rapes of May 1998 and the pogrom of 1965. She has been appointed twice to ad hoc Presidential task forces, for investigating the death of a prominent human rights defender, Munir, in 2005, and for dealing with cases of Indonesian migrant workers on death row abroad in 2011.
Currently, she is the coordinator of a national coalition of 50 plus NGOs and individuals advocating for truth and justice for past gross human rights violations (KKPK – Koalisi Keadilan dan Pengungkapan Kebenaran). She is also in the governance structures of various civil society organizations, such as the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), a leading anti-corruption advocate; JARI Indonesia, a national network of advocates on community-based development watch; ELSAM, a human rights think-tank; Syarikat Indonesia, a network of progressive Muslim activists pursuing grassroots cultural reconciliation to address past human rights violations; the Indonesian Institute for Social History (ISSI), situating past gross human rights violations as part of historical inquiry; Rahima, an education center on women’s rights within Islam; Fahmina, a Cirebon-based advocacy NGO founded by pesantren-based theologian-activists; and, Indonesia untuk Kemanusiaan (Indonesia for Humanity), an NGO focused on public fund raising and grant making to empower community-based social transformation initiatives, address violence against women, and support human rights defenders.
Beyond Indonesia, Kamala is an independent expert in the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures mechanism on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, as well as a member of the Asia Pacific Regional Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, co-convened in Bangkok by UN ESCAP and UN Women. She is also a long-time activist in regional and global civil society groups, including APWLD, IWRAW AP, the Southeast Asian Women’s Caucus on ASEAN, and the global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family, Musawah.