Op-Ed: Empowered Women - A Concern for All

Date: Saturday, December 9, 2017

Author: Miwa Kato

"Women are the key to sustainable peace, from family, to country, to the world". With these words President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo advocated to honor the role of women in Indonesian society at the International Day of Peace celebration on Oct. 8, 2017 in Sumenep, Madura to a room full of 8000 people in the remote village.

This celebration was organized by UN Women together with the Wahid Foundation, in order to showcase the instrumental contributions women make at the grassroots level in promoting and maintaining peace.

It is highly encouraging to see that there are currently nine female ministers in President Jokowi's Cabinet covering highly important portfolios.

One of them, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, joined us as the guest of honor when UN Women followed up on the International Peace Day event in Sumenep and brought the experience from Madura to Jakarta.

We organized a conversation with the minister and women community leaders of Indonesia, joined by a number of Ambassadors, UN colleagues and civil society representatives. It was a great opportunity to hear from the top level as well as well as from grassroots activists about their respective work, experience and contribution to gender equality in Indonesia.

Minister Retno who has received the "Agent of Change Award" from UN Women this year on the occasion of the UN General Assembly, honored for her strong commitment and contributions to preventive diplomacy, highlighted that "Peace is not a given and we all need to contribute to strive to nurture and promote the maintenance of building of peaceful societies. Women definitely have a role in these efforts."

Women activists from Depok and Bogor added that women and men need to get the same chances in life and need to be able to access knowledge and education. And another factor was raised in several interventions: the adherence to the rule of law and the respect of human rights as an essential factor in all attempts to sustain peace.

Yenny Wahid, Executive Director of the Wahid Foundation, provided us with her inspirational perspectives and stressed the power of engaging communities.

In the current project where UN Women and Wahid Foundation partner, supported by the Government of Japan, the financial empowerment of women and promoting value-based leadership in various Indonesian communities are in focus, strengthening women's capacity to create a culture of peace, prevent conflict and sustain peace.

It is also in this light that I am really happy that on Nov.30, the ASEAN Secretariat launched the HeForShe campaign together with youth from all 10 member states. This campaign, made famous by UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, is a global solidarity movement for gender equality engaging men and boys as agents of change and as advocates for the rights of women and girls.

President Jokowi is one of only ten global HeForShe head of state Impact Champions and has pledged to implement three commitments: Increasing the participation and representation of women in decision making, reducing maternal mortality and eliminating violence against women and girls in Indonesia.

From his personal engagement in Sumenep that electrified the crowd, we know Indonesia is on a great track.

This is good news for Indonesia but also for the rest of the world. We have evidence that there can be no peace, no development and no security unless men and women have equal opportunities, and can meet their full potential and live their lives free from all forms of discrimination.

Legal frameworks are catching up - it is the mindset of each and every one of us that need to shift in order to expedite change and bring transformation needed for a gender equal world by 2030 - a solemn commitment made under Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Let us all stand together and work hard in realizing gender equality and women's empowerment in order to sustain peace and a world where every woman and every man can contribute to the best of their abilities to our society. Indonesia can lead the way.

About the author

Miwa Kato, Regional Director of UN Women Asia and the Pacific

This Op-Ed has been published in The Jakarta Post, 9 December 2017