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Jakarta Post

Stronger women for a stronger nation

  • Douglas Broderick

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, March 8, 2016   /  09:29 am

Women are drivers of change and development. Improve women'€™s equality and you improve economic and social conditions for all. Gender inequality across Asia cost US$45 billion. For societies to thrive, women and girls must have access to education, jobs, health care and justice.

Indonesia would become the seventh largest economy in the world by 2030 providing that the country nurtures available skills and talents. Progress on gender equality is good for economic growth and sustainable development.

There have been great improvements in Indonesia women'€™s quality of life over the past decades. The Constitution guarantees gender equality. The government has taken multiple measures to protect women'€™s rights, including a zero tolerance policy when it comes to violence against women. As Vice President Jusuf Kalla said: '€œWe are more than eager to improve the quality of life of women. We must ensure that women have equal and inclusive access to greater participation in as well as better control of and benefit from all sectors.'€

The UN in Indonesia supports the government'€™s vision on gender equality.

More work needs to be done to strengthen the role of women in society. A disproportionate number of Indonesia'€™s poorest people are women. Around 6.5 million out of over 125 million Indonesian women are illiterate, twice as many as men.

President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo doubled to eight the number of female Cabinet ministers, but less than 20 percent of seats in national Legislature are held by women.

Women represent 20 percent of middle managers and only 6 percent of CEOs. Indonesia must achieve more progress in reinforcing participation and leadership of women at all levels to better reflect the diversity of its society.

UN projects such as UNDP'€™s SWARGA, Strengthening Women'€™s Participation and Representative in Governance in Indonesia, support female politicians. The project works on strengthening the skills and knowledge of women in politics and increase women'€™s public representation and participation in political and government institutions. Women'€™s representation increased 22 percent within provincial and districts Legislatures under the 9 targeted provinces by the SWARGA project. The Women'€™s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry has so far trained 4,500 women candidates for the House of Representatives and Regional Legislative Councils (DPRDs) as well as the Regional Representatives Council (DPD).

Access to reproductive health services must be expanded. Every hour an Indonesian woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth.

To address the challenges of high maternal and infant mortality, governments could support local communities to set up midwifery services that will reduce risks faced by women especially those in rural areas. The UN in Indonesia works with the government to support successful local initiatives and pilot schemes for improved midwifery services.

Globally, one in three women is a victim of violence at some point in her life. We must all get involved, especially men, to combat this heinous crime. In Indonesia 3 to 4 million women are said to experience domestic violence each year with an increase of recorded cases. But those figures may not reflect the reality as many cases of gender-based violence remain unreported.

With President Jokowi being one of the global leaders of the United Nations #HeForShe campaign to end violence against women, Indonesia is already at the forefront of this effort. Understanding the prevalence of violence against women is at the moment hindered by the absence of accurate data.

The government will conduct the first ever nationwide survey on violence against women this year. This survey is aimed for advocacy on program and policies in the prevention and response to violence against women. The UN Population Fund in Indonesia (UNFPA) has been supporting the government in providing necessary training and assistance with the methodology and policy advice.

As we celebrate International Women'€™s Day, we must build on the achievements made in Indonesia and step up to reduce maternal mortality, eliminate gender-based violence and look for more women representation at all levels of society. But words are not enough. It requires strong efforts by all to achieve gender equality by 2030.

The writer is UN resident coordinator in Indonesia.