Indonesia making progress in gender equality: Report

Indonesia has made “important progress” over the past two decades in improving health conditions of women and girls, who now have wider access to finances and justice, a World Bank report says.

Stefan Koeberle, World Bank Country Director for Indonesia, said during the launching of the World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development in Jakarta on Tuesday that female life expectancy in Indonesia was 73 years. The global average is 71 years.

“More women are becoming entrepreneurs thanks to innovative microcredit schemes. Women are also more aware of their legal rights thanks to paralegal training in villages,” he said.

“Nonetheless,” he added, “there are areas for improvement, such as in labor participation, maternal mortality, access to formal financial institutions and development planning and budgeting. The World Bank has been working actively with the Indonesian government on programs to increase gender equality in some of these areas.”

The World Bank said that in terms of economic activity, “female-owned businesses in rural Indonesia are still less profitable than those owned by men.”

Andrew Mason, the lead economist and regional gender coordinator for the World Bank’s East Asia and the Pacific (EAP) Region, said women in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, still played a minor role in development as they had limited access to productive resources such as land, capital and education.

Tensions between their domestic and market roles only aggravate the problem, he added.

“Women are currently facing particular challenges in which they have to juggle between domestic roles, such as household work and childcare, and the market roles, giving them more disadvantages in economic fields,” Mason told reporters in a video conference from Washington DC.

Mason said some countries in the region had been trying to eliminate the disadvantages by, for example, giving women wider access to land and capital.

They have even been involving extension services in the agricultural sector, giving female farmers more access to knowledge and support needed to improve their productivity. But such measures are not enough given the existing tensions between women’s household and market roles.

In a rural economy, Mason said, women spent too much time on domestic activities that could be reduced significantly by increasing investments in infrastructure. “The ideas to break the time constraints on women in domestic activities include water and fuel collections and so on,” he said.

In urban economies, various policies such as providing affordable day care for gender-friendly work provisions will create a more level playing field for men and women.

“This will enable women to participate more fully, even if they have children in their households,” Mason said.

World Bank consultant and gender specialist Yulia Immajati said that in terms of expanding economic opportunities for women, the World Bank focused not only on breaking down barriers to productive resources but also on how to best resolve the juggling acts women faced with their traditional domestic responsibilities and market roles.

“By applying flexible working hours, we may still allow women to have good economic opportunities without neglecting their household responsibilities, because under such working patterns, we prioritize quality of work output instead of only talking about the working hours quantitatively,” Yulia told The Jakarta Post.

Despite some narrowed gender gaps comprising better educational enrollment, life expectancy and labor force participation levels, countries in the region still face gaps such as excess deaths of girls and women, disparities in girls’ schooling, unequal access to economic opportunities and differences in voice in households and in societies, the report says.

“We find that there are populations for whom the gender gaps remain, and these are typically populations where poverty combines with other factors such as exclusion and remoteness. In such populations, we find that gender gaps persist,” said Ana Revenga, co-director of the World Bank World Development Report 2012 on Gender Equality and Development.

Source: The Jakarta Post website (September 2011)

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