Fulfilling the Rights of Women with Disabilities Remains a Challenge

Fulfilling the rights of women with disabilities in Indonesia remains a challenge. Indonesia’s inclusiveness index also still lags compared to other countries in ASEAN. A more inclusive development strategy and strengthening partnerships are powerful ways to attain gender equality in Indonesia. This was conveyed in the webinar entitled “KSIxChange41: Breaking through Bias and Achieving Gender Equality” that was conducted by Knowledge Sector Initiative on Tuesday (8/3/2022).

Despite the Indonesian Government’s commitment to achieving inclusive development, fulfilling the rights of women with disabilities in Indonesia remains a challenge. Indonesia’s inclusiveness index also still lags compared to other countries in ASEAN. A more inclusive development strategy and strengthening partnerships are powerful ways to attain gender equality in Indonesia.

This was conveyed in the webinar entitled “KSIxChange41: Breaking through Bias and Achieving Gender Equality” on Tuesday (8/3/2022). The webinar that was conducted by Knowledge Sector Initiative presented key speakers like the Expert Staff of the Minister of National Development Planning in Social and Poverty Eradication Affairs of the Ministry of National Development Planning, Vivi Yulaswati, and the Chair of the National Commission for Disabilities (KND), Dante Rigmalia. This webinar was opened by the Minister Counsellor for Governance and Human Development, Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Kirsten Bishop. Also attending this event was the Director of Family, Women, Children, Youth, and Sports of the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), Woro Srihastuti Sulistyaningrum, S.T., MIDS, Executive Director of Rumah KitaB, Lies Marcoes, Head of ASWGI, Prof. Emy Susanti, Deputy Director of KIAT, Paul Wright, and Researcher from Sajogyo Institute, Ahmad Jaetuloh. They provided inputs and lessons learned to create a better inclusive public policy.

In her presentation, Dante Rigmalia said that the fulfillment of women with disabilities’ rights still faces a number of challenges. These challenges include the unavailability of accurate data on women with disabilities in Indonesia. Also, statistically, women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence, harassment, discrimination, and isolation. In addition to the stigma about persons with disabilities in the community, women with disabilities also experience hindrances in fulfilling their health or education services.

“Generally, 15 percent of the world’s population are persons with disabilities. What about in Indonesia? Until now, no data can accurately describe the number of persons with disabilities in Indonesia. Also, the definition of persons with disabilities has been translated differently by various parties. This becomes a challenge for us to take the necessary measures,” said Dante.

Due to this situation, Dante said, KND has recommended several things. First, there needs to be an awareness that women with disabilities have the potential, talent, interest, and passion just like any other woman. Second, changing the framework of thought and point of view on women with disabilities. Third, exploring directly from women with disabilities what has been holding them back. Fourth, together making efforts to eliminate obstacles to persons with disabilities, including women with disabilities. 

“Engaging women with disabilities in building the capacity of human capital will improve their acceptance to contribute to the wider community,” said Dante.

The same goes for development policymaking in Indonesia. According to Dante, making development policy should involve persons with disabilities, including women with disabilities. This is because women with disabilities are not just localised in one area, but spread across many areas in Indonesia. Also, in implementing development policy, persons with disabilities, including women with disabilities, must be engaged in a sustainable oversight.

Meanwhile, according to Vivi Yulaswati, Indonesia’s inclusivity index is considered lower in the world, even in ASEAN. At the global level, Indonesia is ranked 125th, or lower than the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand. Indonesia is still better than Malaysia and Myanmar. The inclusivity index is a holistic measurement of inclusive development that is focused on the equality of race/ethnicity, religion, gender, and disability in the political representation domain, violence outside of the group, income gap, resilience level, and migration or refugee policy. 

“With this position, it is important for Indonesia to continue improving its accessibility for vulnerable groups, including the disability group, so that they can grow inclusively and in line with SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Agenda,” said Vivi.

Vivi added that the Indonesian Government is committed that no one should be left behind in achieving SDG targets until 2030. Prosperity is not only expected for some people, but for all groups, including disability, women, children, and other vulnerable groups. These 17 Sustainable Development Goals contain 169 targets and 289 indicators.

“It is targeted that extreme poverty can be reduced to zero percent by 2024, focusing on 35 priority districts. Then, the agenda to respect the rights of women and other vulnerable groups, such as ending all forms of discriminations, eliminating all forms of violence, or ensuring full and active participation. In practice, it is not easy to make these targets a reality,” said Vivi.

Some of the efforts and strategies taken by the government, mentioned Vivi, to achieve inclusive development are by redesigning Indonesia’s economic transformation to become more inclusive and sustainable. There are six strategies that are game changers, namely competitive human capital; improving the productivity of the economic sector; green economy development; digital transformation; domestic economic integration; and state capital relocation.

“Multi-party partnership is also important to achieve more inclusive development. So is the relationship with larger stakeholders, and turning projects with social impact into strategic projects,” said Vivi.

Related to gender bias, according to the Executive Director of Rumah KitaB, Lies Marcoes, it is an attitude based on ignorance or error in thinking about something, in this case, related to women. Bias is normal due to ignorance itself. According to her, everyone can be biased. However, bias can be a problem when someone has the power to translate something that is biased.

“They (owners of power) can have an attitude or conduct actions from their error in seeing (something biased), the danger is that it becomes discriminative. Each person basically has that trait,” said Lies.

The book entitled Gender Equality, Disability, and Social Inclusion in Practice: Experiences from the research and advocacy of Knowledge Sector Initiative’s partners was also launched in this event. This book contains 30 stories that highlight the importance of integrating knowledge into policy by engaging vulnerable groups as the source of knowledge and active advocates. This document contains lessons learned that describe how values, ethics, and principles of GEDSI can be applied in the research and advocacy process. Therefore, it can provide practical recommendations to understand how men, women, and vulnerable groups have different needs and living conditions, including access and control over power, money, human rights, justice, resources, and unequal decision-making. 

KSI plays a catalyst role in developing this book by (1) initiating public discourse on the importance of GEDSI mainstreaming in research and advocacy and (2) promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing. This book is written by more than 58 researchers and activists from three universities, 13 research institutions, and eight civil society organisations and partners from other DFAT programs, such as Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (MAMPU), Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Justice Phase II (AIPJ II), Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab Southeast Asia (J-PAL SEA), and Indonesia Australia Partnership for Infrastructure (KIAT).

Minister Counsellor for Governance and Human Development for the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Kirsten Bishopsaid in her opening remarks that Australia has established Gender Equality, Disability, and Social Inclusion as the cross-sectoral development priority. “This book will serve as a valuable reference for gender equality, disability, and social inclusion advocacy in Indonesia. We realise that without GEDSI-sensitive research, and strong data and evidence, it will be difficult to come up with the proper solution to address issues facing vulnerable groups, especially during the recovery phase after the pandemic.”

Mainstreaming GEDSI perspective in policymaking is the core of human rights protection, well-functioning democracy, respect for the supremacy of law, and economic growth as well as sustainable development. In short, mainstreaming GEDSI perspective itself is an instrument for a better policymaking process. This provides an opportunity for policymakers and the public to experience a learning process that pays attention to the wide impact of policy on citizens’ lives, with the objective of bringing prosperity to the people, both women and men.

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