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How to tackle Indonesia’s persistent gender inequality

15 7 11

INDONESIAN President Joko Widodo’s track record of considering gender representation in ministerial appointments is lauded in global circles. With nine women appointed to his cabinet, there are more female cabinet ministers in Indonesia than in countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Strong female ministers lead influential portfolios in finance, state-owned enterprises, maritime and fisheries, forestry and environment, foreign affairs and health.

Women’s empowerment activists praise these appointments, seeing them as a means of signalling to the wider populace that barriers to women taking up leadership positions are slowly being reduced. But they also note that such efforts need to be more widely applied and more pervasive to reduce gender inequality in Indonesia.

SEE ALSO: How do conservative Muslims see Indonesia’s presidential hopefuls?

Indonesia ranked 104 out of 160 countries on the United Nations Development Programme’s 2017 gender inequality index, which measures gender disparities in education, reproductive health and economic and political participation. That ranking has changed little in recent years and is below that of most of its Asian neighbours.

While gender gaps in childhood are closing, gender gaps in adulthood are persisting. Tackling maternal mortality continues to be a major challenge, particularly given the difficulty of providing accessible birthing facilities with appropriately skilled medical staff in the many small islands throughout the archipelago.

All too often national policies and international development programmes concerned with women’s empowerment mainly focus on improving the number of beneficiaries: the number of girls who go to school, the number of women who can give birth safely or who can access credit for livelihood initiatives.

Indonesia’s Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani Indrawati (L) speaks with........

© Asian Correspondent