INDONESIA: Indonesian Women's Ignorance of MDGs a Huge Setback: Experts

Thursday, January 6, 2011
Jakarta Globe
South Eastern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Human Rights
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

Indonesian women are largely unfamiliar with the Millennium Development Goals despite being a key target demographic, hence hurting the government's chances of achieving the campaign's objectives, experts say.

The MDGs that specifically target women include reducing the maternal and infant mortality rates, ensuring universal primary education for girls and providing decent employment for women and men alike.

However, Dian Kartika Sari, secretary general of the Indonesian Women's Coalition (KPI), said most women were unaware of these objectives.

She said this ignorance was not just limited to women in poor rural communities, but also to educated ones including female legislators in West Nusa Tenggara province, for instance.

“This is a serious problem, because when we vote women into legislative councils, we have great hopes that they'll champion women's issues and influence policymaking to the advantage of women,” Dian said.

“But these legislators claimed they'd never heard the expression ‘MDGs' before, so we have to educate them about the issue.”

She said the KPI made the startling discovery during a discussion on women's issues last month.

She added other provinces like Aceh have the same problem.

“This indicates the increased quota for women in the legislature after the 2009 elections wasn't effective even,” Dian said.

She added this phenomenon could also indicate the wider problem of unstable political conditions.

“How can we campaign about the issue of MDGs to women at the grass-roots level when those at the top don't even know what important issues they should be addressing?” she said.

“To tackle this backwardness, we're working with regional legislatures throughout the country to train their female members on how to address problems related to gender and children in order to achieve the MDGs.”

Dian added the KPI had around 28,000 registered members in 14 of the country's 33 provinces, 10 percent of whom were qualified trainers.

“We also need to partner with the government and with other nongovernmental organizations to promote MDGs, because Indonesia is a vast country with special characteristics in every region, far different from any other country in Southeast Asia.”

Dwi Faiz, the program officer for UN Women, agreed that the government needs to urgently address the issue of ignorance about the MDGs among female legislators.

“The women's aspects of MDGs haven't been touched on by the government, so lots of work needs to be done by the authorities together with civil society and women's groups,” she said.

“We need to revise how the MDG campaign is promoted, because the efforts so far clearly haven't done enough.”

Dwi added that NGOs like Fatayat, the women's wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's biggest Islamic organization, and Rahima, another Islamic group, are fully aware of the campaign and promotes them to women at the grass-roots level.

“We're also working with the National Commission on Violence Against Women [Komnas Perempuan] and the Ministry for Women's Empowerment and Child Protection to conduct a national campaign on MDG awareness this year,” Dwi said.