Nani Zulminarni was born in Pontianak, Kalimantan as the second of ten siblings. A gender and development specialist, popular educator, and activist, her passion is for community organizing and the economic and political empowerment of women. She founded PEKKA, the Women-Headed Households Empowerment Program, a network that supports about 20,000 rural widows and abandoned and divorced women into more than 800
savings and loan cooperatives in 495 villages in Indonesia. The program focuses on village-level capacity building and an alternative, collective model of microfinance, aimed at social and economic empowerment. Zulminarni and PEKKA have received wide recognition for their work in Indonesia, with PEKKA named the best project funded by
the Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF) and the World Bank.
Zulminarni also chairs the Center for Women’s Resources Development (PPSW) and serves on the executive committees of two regional networks: the South East Asia for Popular Communications Program (SEAPCP) and the Asia South Pacific Bureau for Adult Education (ASPBAE). She arranged her own junior high school education and earned several scholarships. In the early 1980s, when she was at the university (the Agricultural Institute of Bogor), Zulminarni became a student activist. She and other students taught in poor communities and mosques. In 1982, she joined a student’s movement that promoted wearing veils in public schools and offices during a time when it was
not allowed. After finishing her studies in 1985, she began work in the garment business of her friend and as a high school teacher to earn a living. In 1987, she found a job with a citizen organization, The Centre for Women’s Resource Development. As a field worker, she organized poor rural women and promoted income generating activities.
Later, she learned that through small microfinance projects she could raise and discuss the issues that had marginalized poor women. She started a literacy program after learning that men often deceived their illiterate wives, for example by asking the women to sign agreements allowing them to take a second wife. Eventually, she
received a scholarship to study sociology, gender, and development in the US. When she returned to Indonesia in 1993, she transformed her organization, changing its strategic direction from community development to community organizing, which she believes is less restrictive and leads to long-term solutions.