Women parliamentarian candidates eye historic record


As vote counting gets underway in the world’s third largest democracy, little-known Indonesian businesswoman Freeda Mustikasari can almost taste history.

Indonesian authorities have campaigned intensively to boost the number of women politicians in the parliament to a historic all-time high. Mustikasari is one of thousands of female legislative candidates who ran in the recent April 9 election.

Highlight

  • Around 18 percent of parliamentarians elected in the 2009 legislative election were women. This figure is lower than the national electoral law target of 30 percent
  • Indonesian authorities have campaigned intensively to boost the number of women politicians in the parliament to a historic all-time high
  • UNDP’s ‘Strengthening Women's Participation and Representation in Governance in Indonesia’ (SWARGA) is jointly implemented with the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection
  • Supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, the project trains women politicians on various modules; from presentation skills to in-depth knowledge on socio and political issues paramount to improving women’s position within the archipelagic nation.

She is also one of 490 female politicians who benefited from training under UNDP’s ‘Strengthening Women's Participation and Representation in Governance in Indonesia’ (SWARGA) project. The project is jointly implemented with the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection.

“I feel much more confident”, said Freeda who ran to represent the Jogjakarta district.

Supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, the project trains women politicians on various modules; from presentation skills to in-depth knowledge on sociopolitical issues paramount to improving women’s position within the archipelagic nation.

The training took place in nine Indonesian provinces some months before polling day.

“It can be demotivating running in elections with incumbents, especially when money politics is involved. This training has inspired me to continue to be proactive and self-assured in my candidacy.”

Around 18 percent of parliamentarians elected in the 2009 legislative election were women. This figure is lower than the national electoral law target of 30 percent. Under this law, all 12 contesting political parties are required to meet the quota.

Although all the contesting parties meet gender quota in their list of legislative candidates, some analysts say many women candidates need extra support to up their winning chances, especially first-time runners.

Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, Linda Gumelar, said the previous 2009 election did not generate enough votes for women politicians to have a strong influence.

“They (the women lawmakers) are concentrated within various commission (working groups) within the parliament. As a result they don’t have significant influence,” Gumelar told a news conference.

“There are still many critical issues related to women’s conditions (in Indonesia) such as inadequate working conditions and child protection that need to be addressed,” she added.

Another candidate, a well-seasoned social activist, Agnes Dwi Rusnyati, also shares similar views.

“There are still a lot of challenges related to women’s issues in Indonesia. Women have a better understanding of concerns faced by other women; therefore they must be given a space (in parliament) so they can influence the shape of regulations and national policies that will affect women.”

39-year old Agnes decided to run for parliament after working extensively with women’s organizations. She has called for greater access to health services and jobs for women in her constituency of Jogjakarta. If successful, she also aims to further develop the tourism industry and wants to use culture as a vehicle for interfaith dialogue.

This well-rounded political platform is in line with what the project aims for.

“The Ministry (of Women Empowerment and Child Protection) has given its strong support to SWARGA as they are committed to ensuring that women legislative candidates are well-informed about electoral issues and have the necessary skills to win the election,” said UNDP SWARGA Project Manager, Pheni Kalid.

The official results of the legislative election will not be out until May 9. Nonetheless, the Minister has expressed her confidence that more women politicians will fill parliamentary seats later in 2014.

Regardless of whether a historic number of women lawmakers are swept into power, looking ahead, UNDP and the Ministry are committed to supporting women lawmakers to best represent their constituents interests, including that of women.