Recently, refugees and asylum seekers who participate in the UNHCR-funded PURE initiative gathered at their community center in Jakarta for their much-anticipated annual election of 18 Refugee Representatives. On September 1st eight women and eight men were elected by their peers to play an important role in voicing the aspirations and concerns, and presenting the needs, of their community to government and non-government duty bearers alike.
Besides being interlocutors with duty bearers, these Representatives also serve as bridge-builders and intermediaries between their community, which is quite diverse and sometimes subdivided, and their Jakarta host communities, which are also diverse. Additionally, some Representatives work as interpreters – of cultures and customs as well as languages – and as advocates for fellow refugees; and, they work with CWS staff to convey important messages of important to the whole community.
Elections were done democratically – one person, one vote – and results reflected the various communities and language groups among refugees and asylum seekers supported by CWS in Jakarta: Somali, Farsi, Arabic, Ethiopian, Rohingya, Sri Lankan and French. After the elections, one woman who was elected to be a Refugee Representative, said: “Being a Representative is a challenging task, and the most challenging aspect is building trust among people. I want to do this because I want to help my community.”