Ratna Megawangi is a founder and the Executive Director of Indonesia Heritage Indonesia since 2001. She is also a faculty member of the Department of Community Nutrition and Family Resources at IPB (Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia) teaching courses on Introduction to Family Theories (undergraduate course), Advanced Family Theories, and Self, Family, and Society (graduate courses). She received her college degree in community nutrition at IPB in 1982, and went to the USA in 1986 and earned her MSc. and Ph.D. degree from Tufts University, School of Nutrition in 1988 and 1991 respectively.
Even though she was trained as a nutritionist, she began to think to switch her area of interest right after she finished her doctoral degree in nutrition, because of being offered to do a research on Family and Child Development by Prof. Marian Zeitlin. Between 1991 and 1993 she did a post-doctoral research with Prof. Zeitlin at Tufts, and the work was published as a book, Strengthening the family – Implications for International Development (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1995, the whole book could be downloaded at http://www.unu.edu/unupress/unupbooks/uu13se/uu13se00.htm#contents).
Since her return to Indonesia in early 1993, her research interests have focused on women, family, and child socialization issues. She contributed to the debate on gender roles which have been a highly contested topic in Indonesia, and her articles frequently appeared in the national newspapers. She published a book on gender issues, Membiarkan Berbeda: Sudut Pandang Baru Tentang Relasi Gender (Bandung: Mizan, 1999, now 2nd printed) (title in English, Let There Be Difference), and have been reviewed by a number of newspapers and journals. The reviews suggest that the book offers a new and more harmonious approach to gender roles, which may solve the conflict which feminism is seen to have caused. She was inspired to write the book after she was assigned to give a forward to an Indonesian edition of a book, The Tao of Islam, written by a Japanese woman, Sachiko Murata. This is a book on gender roles in Islamic cosmology, an approach to gender roles that is more harmonious, and emphasis its commitment to Natural Law.
Another book based on her research, Gender Perspectives in Early Childhood Care and Development in Indonesia (1997), was submitted the Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development, Washington D.C. (The summary of the book can be downloaded at http://www.ecdgroup.com/download/ca120fgs.pdf). She also wrote chapters in 5 other similar books. She used to serve as a resource person to the Ministry of Population//National Family Planning Coordinating Board. Also to the Ministry of Women’s Role (now become the Ministry of Women Empowerment).
She has been interested in moral issues ever since she was exposed to the teaching of Sufism in 1986 (the teaching of Bawa Muhaiyaddeen), and her concerns about the moral issues of Indonesian people were shared and discussed with her husband and close friends, and thus the “embryo” of character education was gradually developing. As a result, she could no longer hold the ready-to-be-born “embryo”, and started doing the practical work on character education in 2000 at the foundation she founded. Her increased interest in morality might also have been influenced by an “unexpected” situation when she was asked to teach a course on the Introduction to Philosophy of Science (graduate course) in 1995 by late Prof. Andi Hakim Nasoetion (former president of the university), because of a sudden death of a philosophy professor in the second week of his course. For her, it was the most difficult period in her academic work when she taught that course, because for only 3 hour course per week, she had to prepare the whole week by reading lots of philosophy books. She quit teaching it in 1998 because of having another baby. She now feels grateful to be able to learn great thoughts from various traditions, from which she get more understanding about the different views of morality and spirituality.
She wanted to find a shortcut way how to put theories into practice, for she did not want to “reinvent the wheel”. In 2001, she went to Singapore to visit 3 kindergartens managed by Community Development Program, People Action Party of Singapore, and Soka kindergarten. She particularly learned how they implement moral education to preschoolers, and collected lots of moral education materials. In order to learn more about moral education implementation program, in 2002 she went to Seoul, South Korea, visited various institutions; Division of Moral Education at the Korea Institute of Curriculum and evaluation, Dept. of National Ethics Education at Seoul National University, Demonstration Ewha Kindergarten at College of Education Ewha Women University, and Seoul Naebalsan Elementary School. She gained lots of knowledge on practical work on moral education from these visits.
Her first book on character education is forthcoming, Membentuk Karakter, Membangun Bangsa. Since 2002, she has been invited to give a lecture at Faculty of Psychology, University of Indonesia, in a Social Intervention Graduate Seminar, on the topic of: “Building a Nation of Character through Community-based Social Intervention”. In 2002, she was appointed as Steering Committee Member of National Broad Based Education, Life Skill Education Committee, Department of National Education, Ministry of Education (Depdiknas). Also, she was a consultant to a collaborative project on “Model Development of Life Skill Broad-based Education Program” (GMSK-IPB – Depdiknas, 2002-2003).
Beside her academic work, she is also a columnist writing extensively on women, family, and social issues in national newspapers and journals in Indonesia. Since 2001, she is a regular contributor (with two others) to the weekly Viewpoint column (Titik Pandang) at Suara Pembaruan Daily Newspaper (Sunday paper every three weeks). Also, a regular contributor to the “Buah Hati” column at MQ media. For these two periodicals, she writes mostly about character-related social issues (see http://ihf-org.tripod.com/article2.htm).
In Januray 2002, she was a recipient of “Eighty Leading Moslem Women in Indonesia” award, whose profile is listed in a published book “Profil Tokoh Wanita Muslim Indonesia”, 2002.
She is married to Sofyan A. Djalil in June 1982, and have 3 children (2 sons; 20 years and 5 years old, and 13 years old daughter), plus one adopted son (16 years old).