The Importance of Education for Indonesian Women

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As a tool of transformation for human beings, education should be able to be accessed by all individuals, no matter what gender, orientation, and cultural identities a person has. Regarding this, Fransiska shared her opinions about the importance of education for Indonesian women. Through her academic journey in Australia, she emphasised on women’s role to bring Indonesia forward, achieve gender equality and lead the future generation toward a brighter future.

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“Why should you study a master’s degree in an overseas university? At the end of the day, you will end up in the kitchen achieving nothing.” I got these words from one of my relatives when I was telling her that I am about to study overseas here in Australia. I am seriously against this sentence because education has been a huge part of my life ever since my parents asked me to choose between two schools when I was 6 years old. I grew up having a mentor that encouraged me to pursue a scholarship and a master’s degree at The University of Sydney, Australia. However, I realized that not many women in our country are this lucky, who have parents or mentors that giving them the freedom and encouragement to choose their education.

The majority of Indonesian parents that I know rarely support their daughters to pursue their education because of the same reason: they would be trapped in the traditional role and endless tiring house duty without any further academic opportunities. I believe this as a wrong perception of the use of education. People often picture education only as a tool to get a job, while it is a long term investment one can pass to the next generations.

Author in the Classroom, Source: /twitter.com/dallasrogers101
The author in the Classroom, Source: /twitter.com/dallasrogers101

More about women, recently, I have done further research about gender inequality and its problems. The most significant issue of gender inequality is the fatal impact of gender-based domestic violence against women. World Health Organization (2017) mentioned that one out of three women is experiencing domestic violence in their lifetimes. The more heart-breaking data is that every day three women died due to domestic violence (NNDEV, 2017). I was then finding a book of Richard Davis, namely Domestic Violence: Intervention, Prevention, Policies, and Solutions (2008), which discusses the most significant factors that are underlying domestic violence: gender inequality and woman traditional role in the family. It brings us to the understanding that fighting for gender equality is not a matter of rebellious career-addict women, yet it is humanity’s idea.

Furthermore, why should every Indonesian woman pursue higher education? Here is why.

  1. Women are given the opportunity to lead in both the public and private sectors in Indonesia. It brings us to this question: are women capable of this role?

Indonesia presents 30% of its parliament seats for women, yet this number is rarely achieved. The international community debates about women’s opportunity to lead; the question is whether or not women themselves are capable of this role to lead? This unachievable women representative number in the Indonesian parliament is evidence that leadership for women in Indonesia still requires much homework. This does not mean that women are generally incapable, yet the low interest of the community of education for women is undoubtedly a significant issue. A mindset that every woman is merely entitled to hopelessly stays in the family’s kitchen and that education is insignificant for them needs to be reconsidered. Women have an abundance of qualities that can only flourish through educations. This is showing us how leadership opportunities and educations for women should work hand in hand.

Author Representing Indonesian in an International Meetings, Source: SYDMUN
The author representing Indonesian in an International meeting, Source: SYDMUN.
  1. Women should represent their gender to open doors for more opportunities for women.

Indonesia’s gender equality index is left behind at 111 out of 185 countries (UNDP, 2020); this means considerable changes are needed in Indonesia’s governance system to give more opportunities for women. This is why we do not want men to decide for our gender. The issue is a number of them do not concern about giving women an opportunity. We need more women in the government and the private sector high-level boards to provide chances to more Indonesian women to work and reach their dreams. Without education, earning a high-level position in both the private and public sectors is likely impossible because leading needs many skills: decision-making, human resource management, strategic thinking, planning and delivery skills, and so on that can only be obtained through education.

  1. Women have different leadership qualities men do not have, that can bring Indonesia moving forward.

I am studying at the University of Sydney for a Master of Urbanism (Urban Regional Planning) degree. This degree is a matter of city planning, which reminds me of the leadership of one of Indonesian’s most notable mayors: Tri Rismaharini. Growing up in the City of Surabaya that she led, I have experienced how much Surabaya transformed from an average Indonesian city into a city that brings hope to all of its citizens for a livable city. However, it is not all the reasons why I chose her as one of my city planner role models in life. I love the way she leads the city with women’s qualities. She makes sure nobody is starving, and every citizen earns primary education in Surabaya. It seems like the quality of a mother nurturing her child by feeding and educating them, a quality that unlikely to be found in the men’s leadership.

This is leaving me with a question of why plenty of women are trying to measuring up and leading like a man. We heard the phrase “be like a man,” while women have an abundance of other positive and distinctive leadership qualities that men cannot afford? The world also talks about COVID-19 concerning female state leaders that gain more success in protecting their citizen like their children. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister that noticed as one of the most successful leaders in facing COVID-19, was holding a baby while leading the battle.

A woman does not suppose to lead like a man. We need women leaders with their feminine qualities to bring Indonesia forward. However, without education, it is not possible to put women in high-level leadership roles and lead well. Women have potentials, but we need the education to dig and make them flourish. For me, it is always an honor to hear Indonesia’s name mentioned when I get any achievement internationally. I guess gender should not become prevention for anyone who is willing to bring Indonesia forward.

Author in the Study Tour of USYD campus, Source: Author
The author in the Study Tour of USYD campus, Source: Author
  1. We need smart mothers to raise a smart generation.

Considering essential Indonesian culture that puts the family in the top priority, talking about women’s role in the family is compulsory. We realized that majority of Indonesian women would end up getting married and do child-rearing. In this sense, I also believe that having a smart mother’s role is undoubtedly essential. According to science (Independent UK, 2017), children inherit their mother’s intelligence instead of their father. Also, the mother role has a significant influence on their children as Indonesian mothers are expected to spend more time with their kids than the father. As Indonesian, I grew up hearing plenty of debate about how parents are sacrificing everything they could to provide the best life possible for their kids. How about education? Isn’t that our children deserve to have a smart and educated mother that knows how to nurture them with both care and knowledge? We need a smart mother to become a teacher, first-aid doctor, nutrition-expert, psychologist, healthy-food cook, and at the same time should provide protection, caring, and acceptance to their children. A mother’s role is a grand lifetime profession that needs more education than any job that exists on earth. I believe that smart children are raising up by smart mothers.

The main takeaways.

Dear Indonesian women, I would like to speak to you that the family’s kitchen is not a dead-end fate for all of us. We can achieve more than endless-everyday-house-duty. Women are way too talented to stay in the family’s kitchen and doing just nothing. Get out of your comfort zone, pursue your dreams and higher education, join the race to contribute to a larger community. We need women to support Indonesia moving forward, achieve gender equality, and bring our future children to becoming an educated generation.

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Editor: Yogi Saputra Mahmud