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Executive summary – Finding self, leading others: Leadership journeys of persons with disabilities in Indonesia

17 May 2023


Understanding the leadership journeys of persons with disabilities in Indonesia is important to understanding how they come to lead themselves and others. This paper asks how disability leaders’ (positive and negative) experiences with family, in schools and in discovering the disability community shape their lives and motivation to lead. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 55 disability leaders (26 women and 29 men) from rural and urban areas across Indonesia, it explores self-worth, pride, discrimination, sense of solidarity and recommended policy and political action.

Key Findings

Becoming a leader is a process, involving opportunities throughout life to build skills, knowledge and confidence and to develop relationships and networks. Disability leaders understand leadership as being about empowering others, leading from a place of authenticity, bringing people together, working with others and shifting perspectives. They are motivated by their understanding that persons with disabilities face common challenges and that challenges are caused by social, cultural, political, and spatial environments.

Marginalisation and exclusion of persons with disabilities is a collective problem that needs to be addressed with collective approaches to change. Whilst it is important to build the skills and capabilities of individual leaders, it is also important to keep in mind the skills and capabilities of the group.


Support for persons with disabilities from donors and other actors should therefore focus on developing capacities inherent in everyone rather than simply identifying individuals with perceived leadership capacity.

In order to support the leadership of persons with disabilities, consistent, long-term funding and network-building opportunities need to be provided for Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs). Persons with disabilities need opportunities to learn by doing, learn from mentors, build relationships, develop their understanding of the social model of disability and develop self-worth and self-efficacy.

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