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Social progress in Indonesia as women receive awards

Scheme aims to change perceptions of women as 'second class citizens'

Social progress in Indonesia as women receive awards

Wilda Yanti (third from left, in black) receives an award for her environmental work (photo by Ryan Dagur)

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

April 23, 2014

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Five women from across Indonesia were honored on Tuesday during the annual Kartini Next Generation Awards, named after Raden Ayu Kartini, an early 19th century pioneer for the rights of women in the country.

The awards, launched in 2012, commemorate achievements by women in education, business, art, culture, health and environmental protection, but also gauge progress on the integration of women in positions of impact and leadership – areas in which activists say women have consistently been denied access.

"I believe that problems we face can be resolved … putting women, as smart children of the nation, next to men … working together in developing the nation," said Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar, minister of Women Empowerment and Child Protection, which sponsors the awards along with the Ministry of Communications and Informatics.

Wilda Yanti, who was honored for her work in health and the environment, founded Xaviera Global Synergy, which works to improve waste management and to limit its impact on the environment.

"I just want to give an example to other women. Women can have a big impact on the environment and on society," she told

She added that her company uses online resources to educate people in Jakarta and outside the capital on the hazards of rampant waste and on strategies to minimize the human impact on natural environments.

Other award recipients included Grace Melia Kristanto from Yogyakarta, who founded a community for mothers of children with congenital rubella syndrome.

Septriana Tangkary from the Ministry of Communications and Informatics said the awards seek both to inspire women as well as give them concrete examples of how they can pursue greater leadership roles in technology and communcations.

"It is time for Indonesian women to stand up bravely and to be agents of change that can create new innovations in the midst of a situation in which many women haven't fully realized their roles … and who are still shackled by a culture that makes them second class citizens," Tangkary said.

While the Kartini awards aim to recognize and promote the role of women in national life and leadership, some see the greater integration of women in decision-making and social development as an uphill battle. Of the country's 560 members of the House of Representatives, only 108 are women.

Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, chairwoman of the National Commission on Violence against Women, said that there were fundamental inequities in Indonesian society that have continued to marginalize women.

"At least 342 [laws] discriminate against women, how women should dress, what job opportunities they are allowed to pursue, and curfews that govern when and where women are allowed to go,” Chuzaifah said.

More significantly, she said, the perception still holds in society that women have no ability to be leaders.

Mutiara Ika Pratiwi, a member of the National Committee of Perempuan Mahardhika, a nongovernmental organization that advocates on behalf of gender issues, said the award was a useful step to bring the issue of gender disparity to a wider audience but that there was much more work to be done.

"[The Kartini award] gives a kind of respect to women contributing to the national development. I appreciate what the government has done in this case," Pratiwi said. 

"However, the spirit of Kartini, especially her thoughts about education, hasn't been explored properly. This should be our homework."

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