Jakarta. United Nations resident coordinator in Indonesia, Anita Nirody, encouraged Indonesian youth to be a positive force of change for the country to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, during the Youth Vision 2030 event in Jakarta on Friday (20/10).
"Young people have such a critical role to play ... You have a chance to influence the process, you can be the change makers," Nirody said during her opening remarks.
Gender equality and women's empowerment was front and center at the event, as organizers hope to gain momentum for Indonesia's upcoming Youth Pledge Day – observed annually on Oct. 28 – and urge the younger generation to be more active.
The event also put in the spotlight the fifth of the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs) – achieving gender equality by 2030.
"If we include women in the development [processes], all countries will benefit ... International studies show that when women are included and when the gender gap closes, it adds millions, in fact trillions to the economy. So it's a very sensible thing to do," Nirody said.
While recent years have seen more efforts to empower women and increase their participation in leadership and some traditionally male-dominated fields, Indonesia is still facing considerable challenges. It ranked 88th out of 144 countries in terms of gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum's 2016 Global Gender Gap report.
The report also highlighted the opportunities cleavage in men's and women's chances to enter the country's economic and political scene, as many laws and policies still make it difficult for women to even start their businesses.
There is also a considerable gap in wages between men and women in many regions of Indonesia. For example, the average salary a man earns per year is equivalent to $14,000, while that of a woman amounts to only $6,000.
At the House of Representatives, female lawmakers constitute 17 percent of the legislature's 560 members, far below the government's target of at least 30 percent.
Indonesian women also face a myriad of complex challenges such as gender-based violence, child marriage and high maternal mortality rates that must be systematically addressed by better policies and open-minded dialogues.
The Indonesian Business Coalition for Women's Empowerment (IBCWE), a new coalition of Indonesian companies that organized Friday's event, aims to bring the issue of gender equality to the center of business conduct in the country.
IBCWE founder Shinta Widjaja Kamdani highlighted the strategic importance of female executives in improving performance of companies.
"Studies have shown that an adequate representation of women increases a company's profitability," Shinta said.
Both Nirody and Shinta discussed the importance of changing the mindsets that contribute to gender bias and hold women back from embracing opportunities and contributing to society.
Nirody noted that to change mindsets is one of the biggest challenges in promoting gender equality, as it requires a lot of "engagement and advocacy from all of us."
Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Deputy Minister for gender equality Sri Danti Anwar said that gender equality is part of the government's development strategy, and relevant stakeholders have integrated it into their agendas.
She also stressed the importance of encouraging and supporting young women to fight against gender biases, especially by entering the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which are traditionally dominated by men.