I can say that Indonesia is patriarchy country, where women are looked down upon. Although one of the Indonesia presidents was a female, this fact does not erase the patriarchal practice in the society. I have a personal experience about this matter.
On the second year of my high school days, I was appointed to be the President of student council in my school. I was the first female student council’s president that time, and it eventually enticed buzzes among the students and teachers. One of the rumors I heard was “Is she capable to be a leader? She’s a girl and I bet if she gets too much stressed, she will cry.” I heard this on the day I was inaugurated. I also still remember what one of my teacher said to me: “Please step down from your leadership. You’re a female. Your vice president will do better than you.”
That was a major insult for me. Until now, I can’t understand why, a teacher—who is supposed to educate and motivate his students—said such things.
I know that in this country, for many Indonesian, notions of gender equality are against of the traditional division of labor, where men are those who need to get a job and women are responsible for domestic chores. Well, maybe this is something that imprinted rigidly in society. I can accept the fact that women have responsibility to domestic chores, but it does not mean that both men and women should have these discrepancies.
I’m not a hardcore feminist. I don’t want women to have bigger right, responsibilities, and opportunities than men—I want both of them have equality in the society.
Both men and women are human beings. We have two hands, two feet, two eyes, and so on. The only thing that differentiates them is only the physical difference.
Both men and women deserve to get the same amount of knowledge and education. Both men and women have balance responsibility in the household. It is not prohibited for men to do the laundry, cooking, or babysitting. Same goes to women—it is perfectly fine for women to have a job, build a career, and become successful.
There are also many influential women in the world. They make change to the society, they empower other women, and they prove that women can reach their dream. Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Aung San Suu Kyi are just few of the big names out there. This is a proof that women also have capability to be a leader, to make decision, and influence people.
Fortunately, in this modern age, many women have awareness that they need education. The numbers of female students enroll in college are always increasing from year to year, as well as the numbers of female workers. Women these days have started to erase the judgment that ‘women are not allowed to step out from their houses’.
But, there are still inequalities in the workplace, especially in terms of wage and opportunity to get promoted. Sometimes men get promoted faster than women, since women need to think about their family and domestic affairs before accepting the new responsibilities. Some companies even consider single parent with children as ‘single’ and can’t ask for additional health benefits for their children. Economic participation and equal opportunity won’t exist without gender equality. That is why we need to fight for it.
International Women’s Day, which is commemorated every 8 March, is a moment for us to remember that we need to stand up for gender equality. We are all responsible to fight for parity—it’s not just women’s thing. We need to motivate women to make a change in their life. Women are strong, and they have the same capabilities as men in terms of skills set.
International Women’s Day is also the opportunity for us to respect women. This is an opportunity to express our love and gratitude to our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, girlfriends, or daughters. Spread positivity and motivation for them to reach their dreams and aspiration in the future.
Personally, I hope that the treatment I got when I was the student council’s president won’t happen to any female student anymore. I don’t want my successors in my school experience the same thing as me. I want the female students to join the organization, as it is a perfect place for them to train their leadership and organization skills. I want female students be the part of the change in the school and erase the notion that male leaders will do better than female ones.
As Kofi Annan once said, “gender equality is more than a goal itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development, and building good governance.” We need women to be a part of the change, to be a part of development and society as a whole.