Discourse: Engaging men in the fight for gender equality
The Jakarta Post
Jakarta / Tue, March 29, 2016 / 08:03 am
The HeForShe campaign is a worldwide initiative from UN Women that was launched in 2014 to engage men in the fight for gender equality, even getting recognition from President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo himself. In commemoration of International Women's Day, the British and New Zealand embassies in Jakarta recently arranged an event to further spread the word in Indonesia.
British Ambassador to Indonesia Moazzam Malik and New Zealand's Deputy Head of Mission to Indonesia Tredene Dobson talked on the importance of promoting gender equality in Indonesia with The Jakarta Post's Tama Salim and Margareth S. Aritonang. Here are excerpts from the interview:
Question: What are the main objectives of the HeForShe campaign?
Answer: Malik: The main objective is to engage men in the fight for equality. For too long, women's rights have been seen as a women's issue and actually, when you're talking about half the population, women's rights are not a women's issue; they're an issue that affect us all. Indeed, often times the rights are not realized because men are in the way.
So, to fight for equality, men have to be part of the solution because they are also part of the problem. It's not enough to sit back and say, 'Yeah, I support women's rights.'
We can all do things, whether in small ways ' at home, in the office ' or big ways like in policy work or in dialogue at the political level. The campaign is saying 'Men need to be part of the struggle.' As a father, as a husband, as a member of my community, but also as an ambassador, in my professional life as in my personal life, I will ask myself the question every day.
It's fantastic that President Jokowi has signed up to being a part of this campaign and to taking on a leadership role. I think it's really important that this is not seen as a Western idea. It is an important signal from the leader of the world's fourth largest democracy.
Dobson: The role that men play in achieving gender equality is through leadership. Men could think about what they might mean as professionals, as fathers and brothers and what it means for them in their day-to-day life.
The role of the President is wonderful for a country like Indonesia to have a leader who at the very beginning is saying, 'I'm part of this campaign.'
What do you expect from prominent figures when they pledge?
Dobson: In Indonesia, New Zealand and the UK, we need to be increasing the participation of women at every level of the political sphere. We see a lot of very young women in Indonesia who are politically active and they need to be encouraged to continue the path at the leadership level and down through party ranks.
Malik: The President was quoted as saying, 'Women represent half of the drivers and beneficiaries of development.' As President, he is 'committed to mainstreaming the issue of gender equality' because he believes in removing the root causes of discrimination and violence and to reduce maternal mortality and improve access to reproductive health.
How far have the British and New Zealand embassies been involved in the campaign in Indonesia?
Dobson: We were very keen to do something around International Women's Day. As two embassies who care about these issues and are vocal about the issues facing women, why not get behind this?
It might be a small thing, like inviting women to speak at the embassy, but it's just as much about the women who are working on farms. If I'm connected to them, then I'm making them part of my work on every level of society and I think that's what's critical. Political leaders are important, but they're only a part of the story.
New Zealand is currently on a two-year term on the Security Council and one of the objectives we have there is to address violence against women in conflict and how women can play roles in conflict prevention and peace building.
Malik: The interest in development, rights, resolving conflict and trying to build peace are really important because they are core to our vision of the world.
We've had a long-standing partnership with the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) and all sorts of organizations for many years on gender and women's rights, women and children in conflict. We've worked with the UN peacekeeping center in Sentul to build awareness and prevent sexual violence in their training so when Indonesian peacekeepers serve abroad, they are clear about their obligation to protect women from sexual violence.
How do you think this campaign will impact Indonesian men as individuals and as a nation?
Malik: I think this is where it's important to have a diverse range of people committing themselves to this. I signed up as the British ambassador, who happens to be brown-skinned and Muslim. President Jokowi signs up ' that's kind of interesting because he is from a Javanese background. If this Javanese man can do it, why can't another Javanese man do it?
I think in a country like Indonesia we need people from religious backgrounds, we need religious leaders, people with different backgrounds to be signing up to this so that it connects with Indonesia's diversity.
Dobson: One of the speakers, Nilam Sari, she is becoming a very well-known woman entrepreneur starting her business from very humble beginnings, a single kebab cart. She told me the other day she married very young and had limited education, but she and her husband together have built this empire that's now the largest kebab chain in the world from a single cart. We are inspired by that. To me that is gender equality and that is saying that is what they can tell others, particularly young Indonesians.