Meet Sifu, ILC Youth Fellow.
Sifu Marfu'ah works for the Indonesian Institute for Forest and Environment – RMI, an ILC member since 2003. She is one of ILC fellows of the ILC Future Leaders Fellowship Programme 2021-22, who, along other 21 young women and men from Africa, Latin America and Asia, embarked in a 18-months learning journey to strengthen their leadership, build ties and act together for youth land rights. Six months after the The Global Land Forum Youth (GLFY) and with the programme nearing its completion, Sifu shares her reflections as a Fellow.
When I was teenager, I used to be involved with a group of your people from my neighborhood who wanted to do activities that responded to local environmental and social issues. At that time, there was no available space to organise our activities and we were forced to hold activities on other people's land, at the risk of being evicted with no warning.
In 2014, I was introduced to RMI-Indonesian Forest and Environment Institution while volunteering at a youth organization called Teens Go Green (TGG), which participated in educational programs facilitated by RMI. My introduction to RMI made me realize the importance of accessing land; a place where people live and work.
I have been working with RMI as a volunteer since then. This year was my first year with RMI as a staff member and I am currently working as a campaigner. I am also responsible for organising youth initiatives through its youth platforms called Relawan4Life (Volunteer for Life) and Youth Homeland (KATA/Voice) Indonesia.
The need for stronger leadership
I soon felt the need to improve my leadership skills to be able to support my work further, such as managing youth networks at the national level but also run campaigns on issues related to community-based natural resource management. I realised that my self-confidence was very low and this greatly affected my work, both as a campaigner and in engaging with the youth network.
The ILC Future Leaders Fellowship was an opportunity to overcome these challenges. It has provided me with more effective leadership skills that benefit my personal life, my organization, and rights holders. I also learnt that leadership is not only an individual skill but a joint construction and a collective power.
Enhanced self-leadership to achieve more impact
I feel grateful for the ILC Future Leaders programme, I feel the luckiest person to have had this opportunity. During my time following the programme, focusing on self-leadership was the moment that had the most impact on me. I was asked to reflect on myself, my strengths, my roots, my values, and so on. It made me more aware of my weaknesses and strengths, I learned to accept myself, and it affected the decisions I make, both for myself and for the group.
I am also more confident to meet other people, speak in public and express opinions in forums. This is very essential in my work as a campaigner. How can I introduce and spread the spirit of the organization where I work if I am not confident? And how can I influence others if I don't believe in myself?
Learning from diversity
This program also encouraged me to speak up. From the very beginning of the program, I met facilitators from the Civil Society Academy (CSA) who encouraged fellows to speak up and provide responses and comments to one another. Then, during the Global land Forum Youth in Jordan, I was asked to perform and facilitate in a number of sessions. For example, I facilitated one of the the GLFY visits, where participants spoke either English or Arabic. I am not fluent in English, but I was the facilitator, can you imagine? I ran the session smoothly. A funny incident happened: I forgot the English word for 'Jalan', so the committee from ILC helped me, asking me: "What do you want to say? Is it here? Show us what you want to say". I pointed to the road, and we happened to open a session on the side of the road.
This made me realize that I am not alone in facing language challenges, which are not only natural in such a diverse network, but also enriching.
Strong youths for a stronger network
One of the best things about the ILC youth network is that young people can inspire and strengthen each other. The network opens diverse spaces for ILC youth to work together and increase youth participation.
This experience helped me get to know myself and those around me more closely. I was able to identify my weaknesses and strengths and I contributed to building a change movement rooted in respect and solidarity.