Jokowi has raised the hopes of women in Papua


Yohana is first female Papuan minister - Yohana Susana Yembise might have had a bitter pill to swallow when she was defeated as a candidate to become the 2014-2019 Biak Numfor regent in Papua, but she was headed for a better future after being appointed as the minister for women’s empowerment and child protection in the administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. She replaced Linda Amalia Sari.

Yohana, fondly called Yo, ran to become Biak Numfor regent with her running mate Friets G. Sanadi, but lost to the pair of Yesaya Sombuk and Thomas AE Ondi, who were sworn in on March 23.

Yo, who was installed as Papua’s first female professor in November 2012, had no other wish than to write books. 


“I’ve achieved the highest title in the academic field and it’s time for me to write books,” she told The Jakarta Post two weeks before her appointment as minister. 

She said she saw the regency election as a hands-on experience and a political learning process. She even conducted her own survey to find out why she lost the election. 

“I approached the residents one by one and they said they liked me but they could not elect me because earlier they had made commitments to another candidate who had provided them cash aid to build a house of worship and for other needs. So I was failed by money,” she said.

Yo said she remained positive by working on a book about gender and political issues in Papua. 

Born in Manokwari, West Papua, on Oct. 1, 1958, Yo has lectured at the school of pedagogy and teacher training at Cenderawasih University since 1987. 

After earning an applied linguistics diploma from the Regional Language Center (RELC), SEAMEO Singapore in 1992, she completed a Master’s degree program at the education department of Simon Fraser University in Canada in 1994. 

She earned her doctorate in 2007 from the University of Newcastle in Australia. In 2011, she was a member of the joint selection team of the Australian Development Scholarship (now Australia Awards) in Indonesia.

The mother of three was enthusiastic in encouraging Papuan women to pursue higher education overseas. 

“My team from Cenderawasih University is currently mapping out the number of highly educated women in Papua and designing positions for them. The program enables me to prepare intellectual women in Papua to become professors in the future,” she said.

Pastor Neles Tebay, head of the Fajar Timur Theological Academy in Abepura, Jayapura, believed that Yohana’s selection as a minister could inspire other women in Papua.

“Jokowi has raised the hopes of women in Papua that they could become ministers in the country,” he said.

Neles said he considered that naming a woman from Papua as minister was part of Jokowi’s “mental revolution” because people are accustomed to imagining men when they speak about ministers from Papua.

Back at home, Yo has secured a special place in the hearts of her three children. “One of mum’s gifts is cooking. For me, there is no other food that is as delicious as mum’s,” Marcia, 27, Yohana’s eldest daughter, wrote in an e-mail to the Post.

Marcia, a Fullbright scholar, has finished her graduate study at Loyola University in Chicago, the US. The second daughter, Dina Maria, 18, is currently studying climatology in London, the UK. Yo’s youngest is Bernie, 16, a senior high school student in Timika.

This article originally appeared in : Yohana is first female Papuan minister | Nethy Dharma Somba | The Jakarta Post, Jayapura | Headlines | Tue, October 28 2014, 9:56 AM




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