by Ilma Davina
…for Women to Gain Independence and Happiness
Women’s empowerment is the process of women changing society’s standards to improve their quality of life, build stronger economies, and promote gender equality.
I grew up in Indonesia and found that uneducated parents raise the majority of the women who grow up to live in poverty. Research shows that 4.39% of women globally are illiterate compared to the 1.47% of men.
It is common for girls to not pursue higher education with the expectation of getting financial support from future husbands. This mindset causes women to be forced into marriage at an early age without financial stability or the chance to form any marriage ideals of their own. They are clueless until marriage problems, such as domestic violence, polygamy, or emotional abuse arise. Feeling utterly helpless and unable to stand up for themselves, the women often give in to social pressure to avoid divorce and end up staying in unhealthy relationships.
In my parents’ household, they had a helper to help my mom cook and clean. Even though the helper lived in South Jakarta (Indonesia’s capital), which is considered to be a high-end district filled with numerous high-rise structures, she lived in the slum area. Her household not only housed her husband and kids, but also her mom and her sister’s family. It’s normal for less-fortunate Indonesian families to live in one tiny house, with up to three or four generations under one roof. They converted the dining and living rooms into bedrooms in the evening. In the alley where she lives, I often see the girls aren’t enrolled in school. Alternatively, they would hang out on the street to ask people for money or sell small items, like napkins or snacks. The notion of girls not needing education has been passed down for generations and leaves them in a cycle of poverty that seems impossible to break.
In 2019, it’s reported that 7 out of 10 children in Indonesia who drop out of middle school are girls, and early marriage is one of the primary reasons (UNICEF). It’s challenging to have a voice and a dream as a girl. I see how society is dominantly narrow-minded and criticizes you for not abiding to the social norm and values. I believe it’s crucial for not only the sons to pursue higher education, but also for the daughters. This will result in women attaining more skills and the ability to build a career. When women receive education, it helps stimulate the economy, increases their preparedness for changes, brings awareness to gender equality, enhances their decision-making skills, and gives them self-assurance to reject destructive, out-dated practices.
Growing up with these experiences has brought me aspiration and encouragement to support other women through getting involved in women organizations and supporting girls’ education.
Since last year, I had the opportunity to help an elementary school in Lombok Island, Indonesia that got hit by a massive earthquake in 2018. The school has secured money from the Indonesian government, but it’s still not enough to support all of the school construction. The donations I collected last year helped the school to build toilets for the students.
Click here to view the Go Fund Me for SDN 1 Sokong in Lombok.