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Have Indonesian Women Gained Liberty?

Women Released Free

What will be your answer if someone asks “have Indonesian Women Gained Liberty?”

I myself as an Indonesian woman still sometimes find it quite difficult to answer – in some ways we’re having what constitutes as liberty: we’re free to drive, to vote, to choose the career we want, to own a property, to participate in the government, to drive a vehicle and some other things which might still not be possible for other women in other sides of the world.

However, at the same time we don’t have the freedom to access birth control (for single women), to do health examination without prejudice, to wear the clothes that we want, and even to participate in a feminist festival. Note that Indonesia is large and the degree of freedom one can have will vary from the area where we are at, there are also cultural and upbringing factors which play roles and perhaps the question is too complex to answer in a sure way at the first place. Which begs another question..

How do you exactly measure women’s liberty?

I’ve done a tiny bit of research (read: quick Google) and one of the indicators being used to define whether or not women in a nation have liberty is by measuring gender equality, and to measure gender’s equality alone there are different metrics that one can use. Let’s have a look at Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s International Indicators to measure gender equality with focus on economy and development:

  • The MDGs or Millennium Development Goals

As quoted from their report, “Many practitioners and policymakers agree that gender equality and women’s empowerment are central to the achievement of each of the MDGs, and the achievement of Goal 3 in turn depends upon the extent to which the other goals address gender based constraints” which can be translated as we need gender equality and women’s empowerment to achieve each of MDGs!

How to define the success of each goals can be seen on the table below:

  • The GDI (Gender-related Development Index) and GEM (Gender Empowerment Measure)

Also, quoted from OECD’s report, “The Gender-related Development Index (GDI) adjusts the Human Development Index (HDI) for gender inequalities in the three dimensions covered by the Human Development Index (HDI), i.e. life expectancy, education, and income. It is important to note that the GDI is not specifically a measure of gender inequality. The Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) seeks to measure relative female representation in economic and political power. It considers gender gaps in political representation, in professional and management positions in the economy, as well as gender gaps in incomes (Klasen, 2006)”

 In short, we measure GDI from three dimensions: life expectancy, education, and income while we measure GEM from relative female representation in economic and political power.

  • Gender Gap Index or GGI

OECD’s Indicators for Gender Gap can be seen below:

So, where are Indonesia’s position using indicators above?

Good question! Let’s visit the report for Indonesia from each indicators. According to Indonesian report on MDGs here: http://www.id.undp.org/content/dam/indonesia/docs/MDG/Let%20Speak%20Out%20for%20MDGs%20-%20ID.pdf this looks like we achieved most of the target from MDGs, we need to work harder on women’s contribution in involvement though.

What does it say about GDI?

According to this report: http://hdr.undp.org/en/composite/GDI we’re tied with Vietnam on rank 116 in terms of Human Development Index out of 189 countries surveyed with huge gap in terms of estimated gross national income per capita ($7,259 vs $14,385). Far below our Neighbor Thailand (83), Malaysia (57) and Singapore (9), ouch.

Okay, how about GEM?

According to this report: https://www.rrojasdatabank.info/hdr20072008tab29.pdf we’re on position 107 out of 177 countries surveyed, below Occupied Palestine Territory and even our neighboring countries like Vietnam (105) Phillipines (90) and Thailand (78). Not very good, Indonesia!

Alright alright, let’s hear about GGI?

According to this report: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2017.pdf Indonesia is tied with Myanmar with index score 0.7 for Gender Gap Index. It’s slightly above the average index worldwide which is 0.68 and it means that we need to close 30% gap more in terms of gender gap.

Lastly, according to this article: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/04/which-asean-country-does-best-on-gender-equality/ we’re number 6 out of 10 in terms how we rank in terms of gender equality with author comment, “Indonesia (97) has closed the gender gap in education with more females than males in primary, secondary and tertiary education. But the country has been slipping on measures of female political empowerment”.


To be honest, I am quite shocked – not really in a good way after reading the results. The quick Google research barely scratches the surface in terms of gender equality, economic and development wise and there are a lot more dimensions that we should look into when it comes to measuring gender equality, and ultimately answering the question on whether Indonesian women have gained equality.

So far what I can conclude is even though we might have some sort of freedom to be involved within the society especially economy-wise, it’s still far from ideal. We should keep it in mind that one of the cause of domestic violence is due to imbalance in terms of power, specifically economical power related to incomes. Until we can actually gain more freedom and encourage other women to gain their freedom in a sisterhood spirit, we’ll still be one step behind in terms of ending violence against women. We’re not just a plan B, we’re not just a supplementary for our husbands or partners, we’re not a backup, and we’re not just numbers to fill up quota. We’re more than that. We’re woman.

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