INDONESIA: Editorial: Empowered Indonesian Women Are Key to the Future

Monday, December 6, 2010
Jakarta Globe
South Eastern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights

Across emerging Asia, women are striving for progress. More and more women in this region are gaining access to information and education, the two most crucial factors toward greater empowerment.

But at the same time, large numbers of women continue to suffer from discrimination, violence and cultural devaluation across the continent.

Millions of young girls across Asia, including in Indonesia, are denied basic schooling, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

That some 200 young Asian leaders gathering in Jakarta over the weekend discussed such issues and other challenges facing the region is a heartening sign that women may finally be getting the attention they deserve.

All under 40, participants at the Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit represent the future of the region.

They are dynamic young leaders from every country in the Asia-Pacific region and from every sector.

How they think and act will determine if the Asia of tomorrow is a far better place than the Asia of today.

“This concept should be shifted, as the key to developing every level of society is by empowering women,” said Wenchi Yu, Global Women's Issues policy adviser for the US Department of State.

Wenchi, one of the speakers at the summit, suggested that women continue to be sidelined in terms of development due to cultural values which block their access to good education.

Investing in women is thus the key to sustained and equitable growth. Examples abound where women take the lead in communities.

The devastating 2004 tsunami, for example, showed how Acehnese women took no time in taking the issue of the survival of their family as their priority.

In many cultures, it is also the women who keep the local economy afloat.

Asian countries must do more to empower and uplift women.

They must start by recognizing the economic potential that women represent and the important social role they play.

According to a UN report released on Oct. 20 this year, women's equality is still a dream in a world where there are 57 million more men than women.

“The World's Women 2010” report found that women remain severely under-represented in decision-making positions in governments and the private sector.

This situation must change.

Asia's young leaders have recognized the enormous challenges that the world, including themselves, is facing.

These challenges range from climate change and preserving cultural heritage to protecting the environment.

Overcoming these challenges will require creative, cross-sectoral approaches to problem-solving.

By empowering women so they are part and parcel of the solution will be critical for the region as a whole.

Indonesia too must do more to raise the status of its women if it is to fulfill its role as a regional and global player.