Essay Clinic: Master in Human Rights, Gender, and Conflict Studies – Social Justice Perspectives (SJP)


Indonesia Mengglobal Essay Clinic is our effort to provide tangible help for Indonesian applicants who want to study abroad. This essay clinic is not meant to showcase ‘the perfect essay’, but by analyzing other people’s essays (what works, what does not work, what’s good, what’s bad), we hope you can learn how to write an effective application essay and how to continuously improve your own essay. We also accept essay submissions. Click here to learn on how to participate!!

Note on the Essay

This essay will be submitted for an application to Master(MA) Programme in Human Rights, Gender, Conflict Studies of Social Studies: Social Justice Perspectives (SJP) offered by International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague – Part of Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherland.

Essay Prompt

Motivation Statement (maximum one A4 in which you indicate the relevance of the proposed study programme for your work and your motivation for attending the proposed programme).

The Essay

Since i was in childhood, there were differences on how society treats boys and girls. As a girl, I was prohibited to do things, such as run or climb a tree, while my fellow boy friends were allowed to do that. I was upset and thought that it wasn’t fair but didn’t get any satisfying explanation of it. The answer came when I was in third year in college. I joined feminist paradigm class and psychology of women and gender class. The classes opened my eyes about patriarchal system and how it affects relationship between men and women, creates concept of masculinity and femininity, and have been strongly rooted in our religion, culture, and other social structures. This system makes women in a vulnerable position and often considered as the second class, therefore women are physically, psychologically, and sexually abused. As a woman raised in a bold patriarchal culture, this new paradigm challenges me to deepen my knowledge about the issue. It gave me little explanations and dozens of questions more. Hence, I decided to conduct my research for undergraduate thesis about religiosity and rape myths perceived by men. I also join National Commission against Women in order to see the actual cases of violent against women.

  Throughout my research process and my experiences in NGO, I discovered that interpretation of religious scriptures and cultural norms often misguidedly used as justification for discrimination and violent against women, for instances, conservative gender roles, polygamy, law based on religious law, female mutilation genitalia, etc. Although some of law, bills, and government’s program has already support women’s rights and empowerment theoretically, but in practice, it is half-heartedly implemented. Government and society firmly hold traditional culture and religion norms and concerns more on political and economical issues rather on this particular issue. Women, themselves, have very low consideration and understanding about their rights, even think it is part of their fate. It’s like a circle of evil and it left out without any concrete solutions.

   Some efforts has been made. NGOs have tried to raise awareness of women’s rights and gender equality. Some have asked government to be more serious to defend women’s rights while some have re-interpreted religious scriptures. However, they need more people with more creative ways to fight against the giant patriarchal system. The importance of raising awareness  of rights, gender equality, and social justice in society motivates me to join NGO after I graduate from master degree. I learned from my previous experiences in several NGO that NGO could reach both society and government by their programs and advocacies so awareness of gender issues in social and political institution can be raised. Despite the fact that not every efforts succeed but it’s worth to try and fight for.

  Even though I had read books/articles and attended discussions about gender issues, I am aware my knowledge of the subject is not sufficient enough for my professional career. Therefore, I am hereby applying in human rights, gender, and conflict studies: Social Justice Perspectives in ISS. This program offers a critical and comprehensive analysis, debates, and perspectives about social justice in general (including human rights, conflict, and social movement) and gender issue to be specific. Its high standard for research and analysis can boost my ability to see a problem and perhaps create a way to solve it. Students from other countries could enrich discussions, and perspectives. I also can study phenomenons cases that happen in their country, and vice versa. These are my motivation to join this program. I believe my master degree in ISS will enrich me and increase my quality in research, analysis, and find a solution for social problems,”

Review from Zeva Sudana

Hello there. This is basically a personal opinion made by myself, as the reviewer, therefore it may be included or not after further consideration by the author.

The keys to the essay prompt are relevance and motivation. Overall the author has managed to deliver both well within a nice structure. However, further improvements are needed in order to make the essay better.  When I read the author’s essay I could see that she is passionate in what she does and eager to learn deeper through the proposed study programme, which is great. More convincing content should strengthen this leverage.

  1. Know your audience
    Keep in mind that those reviewing the essay are people from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, therefore foreigners. There are experience and issue-based facts that are mentioned in the essay, yet not once in the essay the author mentioned where she came from or where such women’s rights issues are located.  This is important, especially in social studies.
    I suggest the author to write that she grew up in Indonesia when she shared a little bit about her childhood and to at least mention that where she works is an Indonesian-based NGO/Commission. This will automatically make readers comprehend that the issues the author wrote about are located in Indonesia. This will give more clarity. Even though a CV/Resume is included to show where the author comes from, it is best to re-state this in the essay, especially in the issues parts and where she works.
    Furthermore, the author mentioned that she works for the National Commission Against Women. What the author really meant was KOMNAS Perempuan, right? Therefore the official English translated version should be the National Commission on Violence Against Women.

  2. Better to not over-generalize, unless…
    Within the essay, the author gives an impression that she is over-generalizing the situation in Indonesia and making gender issues seem worse than it is. This could make some parts of the essay redundant if not explained further. Some examples:

    “This system makes women in a vulnerable position and often considered as the second class, therefore women are physically, psychologically, and sexually abused”
    “Women, themselves, have very low consideration and understanding about their rights, even think it is part of their fate,”

    My response: The patriarchal system is strong in various parts of Indonesia and within various sectors in Indonesia. Some are distinct and others not so. However, in relation to gender issues not all women in Indonesia and not the majority of women in Indonesia are in a vulnerable position overall because of this underlying system. To what extent someone is vulnerable also depends on the context. Not all women (in Indonesia) have low consideration and understanding about their rights.

    The author also gives an impression of jumping into conclusions that women (in Indonesia) are therefore physically, psychologically and sexually abused within this system. Such issues vary per case, whether per individual or even per region. Situations are diverse and some complex.  In the essay the author also said that such cases happen ‘often’. There are Indonesian women who unfortunately experience these, but I suggest the author to be more careful in depicting a form of over-generalization.

    However, this is my humble opinion. If the author strongly believes that such issues exists across Indonesia and happens at large, I suggest for the author to give some significant factual proofs/examples that it does in order to make it more convincing and raise a sense of urgency, not only mentioning the names of the issues and that it happens everywhere in Indonesia but also elaborating a little further on it, whilst keeping in mind the word limit. On the other hand, if the author decides to not make generalizations, I suggest the author to give some specific factual examples of various gender-related cases in Indonesia to show that such issues exist and should be taken into deeper concern.

  3. Concrete personal examples
    The author mentioned that she has done research in the past and has experiences in this field. I suggest mentioning these more specifically. If there are many, mention some significant ones or one major research and/or project that were completed by the author or within a team. Mention the title(s) and briefly explain what were the results per-research and per-project, for example. This is very important because it shows concrete proof that the author has done something and has made contributions in this field. It could be a stronger plus point rather than just mentioning general discoveries by the author and just mentioning the author’s interests towards human rights and gender issues. This could help the author be more distinguishable compared to other applicants.

I hope my suggestions are helpful or at the least give the author another perspective. Good luck on this journey and all the best!


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