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Having self confidence and family support are important factors in encouraging women’s economic independence

Local and national income in Indonesia are largely supported by workers in the informal sectors. Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) in 2021 shows that up to 68% of workers in the informal sector are women, as stated by Mike Verawati Tangka, Secretary General of the Indonesian Women’s Coalition, in an online discussion titled #GenerasiInspiraSHe: Menjadi Perempuan Mandiri Ekonomi (3/13). Around 100 enthusiastic participants attended the discussion organized by Yayasan CARE Peduli (YCP) in commemoration of International Women’s Day on March 8th. Also present as speakers were Irene Komala, Content Creator @Pinktravelogue, and Nora Erika, Member of the Women’s Economic Enterprise Group (KUEP) from Sri Mulyo Village, Musi Banyuasin Regency, South Sumatra.

Mike explained that women workers in Indonesia also dominate in the creative industry. “In fact, economically speaking, women in Indonesia provide evidence that the economic momentum of Indonesian women is very good and dynamic. The majority of the economy supported by the informal sectors are in rural areas,” she said. Mike also stated that women workers in Indonesia dominate as Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) players. According to Mike, various supports are provided by many parties such as training and access to capital for workers in MSMEs.

Nora Erika conveyed that her small business group has flourished after receiving support and mentoring from YCP. Nora mentioned that various trainings were received, including business development such as savings and loan programs, as well as establishing a nutrition garden with various vegetables planted in their backyard. “These efforts serve as a source of income for families by utilizing palm frond waste. With this group and the support provided, personally, I feel there has been an improvement my capacity. Initially, I was a bit nervous speaking in public. But, with training from YCP, I began to feel confident, daring to appear and voice opinions in public,” said Nora. The confidence that emerged within Nora has transformed her from being just a participant to becoming a trainer, sharing her skills with business groups in other villages.

Not only has there been an improvement in her confidence, according to Nora, her success in developing her business alongside her group is also due to the support from her spouse and family. “All members and officials, as well as our spouses, have been equipped by YCP with an understanding of gender equality and gender-based violence trainings. It has already started to be implemented in each family, Alhamdulillah our respective partners understand all of that, so household chores are assisted,” she said.

Nevertheless, Nora admits that she still feels challenges from her surrounding environment. The stigma in her village that women are better off staying at home has led to her receiving ridicule from neighbours. “There are always neighbours who say, I’m too busy with outside activities. But because my husband supports me and as long as we’re still within the bounds of being mothers, we can still differentiate between household chores and external work. Insya Allah everything will be fine. Because we can’t stop others from commenting,” she said.

Irene Komala also feels the challenge of receiving ridicule. As a travel content creator, Irene admits to often receiving negative comments from both netizens within the content she creates and in the real world while traveling. “In this digital era, we can’t avoid negative comments, and people’s perceptions will always exist. What’s important is how we respond and know that what we’re doing is right. We must be brave to speak up if we’re not wrong,” she said. Irene added that in today’s digital channels, there are features in social media applications that automatically delete or block comments with negative words, thus preventing harassment in the digital realm.

Efforts to prevent harassment and gender-based violence in the workplace for female workers, according to Mike, need to be undertaken collectively by various parties. Female workers need to form networks and build their own capacities to speak up if they experience harassment or violence. Mike added that the presence of mechanisms and systems supporting the prevention of violence and harassment in the workplace is crucial. “There are many civil society organizations focusing on women’s issues that can also serve as the main channels or the first layer when female workers experience violence. While also strengthening their community, including mechanisms for handling issues within the closest scope to those female workers,” Mike explained.

According to Mike, building economic independence for women also needs to consider supportive factors such as adequate infrastructure and inclusive access to financial support. “Our economic growth, if not supported by strong foundations, will continue to experience inequalities for female workers and perhaps other vulnerable groups such as disabled groups. It should not only be viewed from a macro perspective but also consider the infrastructure or pillars of support. This includes ensuring an economy that is friendly to women, as well as financial systems and funding that are also inclusive,” Mike explained.

Nora also experiences challenges with funding in her business group. Despite her business group remaining active in producing woven plate crafts from palm fronds, production is done using traditional tools. “One challenge for us is that the management of raw material production still relies on traditional tools, such as kitchen graters. So, if there’s financial support for more practical equipment, we could speed up production,” she said.

Nevertheless, Irene mentioned thatthe opportunity for women to achieve economic independence in the digital era is greater because they can express themselves more and there are regulations protecting activities in digital spaces. “Nowadays, there are so many content creators. There’s a wide variety of content nowadays. In my opinion, the tip is to first find what you truly enjoy. Then, create a mind map or list of content you want to create. This way, we can have contents bank. Besides that, it’s really important to build personal branding in the digital realm. We have to believe in ourselves and our abilities. Because only we can motivate and value ourselves. I don’t dwell on my shortcomings when I’m making contents, I just focus on giving my best and focus on our strengths,” Irene explained.

The significant role of women in building the economy cannot be denied. The confidence of women and the support of family and partners serve as capital for building economic independence, as experienced by Nora. Not only do women play a role in driving the economy, Irene shared her experience that women also play a crucial role in preserving nature and the environment, which are supporting factors for the economy. Mike adds that a strong nation must begin by empowering women because women are the foundation. “The state must strengthen women. A thriving economy is supported by prosperous, high-quality, and empowered women,” Mike concluded.

Writer: Swiny Adestika

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