Written by our guest blogger, Ilma Chairani.
Women’s empowerment is the process of women changing circumstances to improve their quality of life, build stronger economies, and promote gender equality.
According to UNESCO, “of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults, two-thirds are women.” I grew up in Indonesia where I discovered that uneducated parents raise many girls who grow up to become poverty-stricken. It was the norm for girls not to pursue higher education because they were expected to receive financial support from future husbands. This mindset led women into forced marriages at an early age without the financial stability or chance to form any marriage ideals of their own.
They are clueless until specific marriage problems, such as domestic violence, polygamy, or emotional abuse arise. Feeling utterly helpless and unable to stand up for themselves, women often give in to the social pressure to avoid divorce and end up staying in unhealthy relationships.
In my parents’ household, they had a helper to cook and clean. Even though the helper lived in South Jakarta (Indonesia’s capital), which is considered a high-end district filled with numerous high-rise buildings, she lived in the slum area with her husband, kids, mom, and her sister’s family. It’s pretty standard for less-fortunate Indonesian families to live in one tiny house, with up to three or four generations under one roof. They convert the living room into a bedroom in the evening.
Indonesia has the eighth highest number of child marriages globally, with one in nine women married before they turned 18 years old– UNICEF
In the alley where she lives, I often see girls who aren’t enrolled in school; instead, they hang out on the street to sell food or stay home doing chores. The notion that girls do not need the same higher education as boys have been passed down for generations. It leaves girls in a cycle of poverty that seems impossible to break.
Early marriage, costs, gender-based violence, and gender stereotypes are obstacles for girls to get an education. Also, it’s a challenge for girls and women to have a voice or to dream for a better life because it defies the social norms of a dominantly narrow-minded society. Doing so would be seen as an act of defiance and judged.
I believe it’s critical to push for educating both sons and daughters. It gives women the opportunity to acquire more skills and the ability to build a career. The benefits of skilled women are enormous! When women get educated, it helps stimulate the economy, increases preparedness to embrace changes, brings awareness to gender equality, enhances decision-making skills, and gives them the self-assurance to reject destructive out-dated practices.
Growing up with these experiences gave me the inspiration and encouragement to support women and girls by partnering with women’s organizations and to advance girls’ education.
Starting in 2019, I had the opportunity to help SD 1 Sokong, an elementary school in Lombok Island, that got hit by a massive earthquake in 2018. Lombok is a small island in Indonesia. The school has secured money from the Indonesian government, but it’s still not enough to support school construction. The donations I collected last year helped the school to build\ toilets for students.
Before the school had fully recovered from the earthquake disaster, the COVID19 pandemic hit! Due to inaccessible computers or internet connection, the teachers had to walk for miles to teach the students in their neighborhoods and give lessons outdoors.
Thankfully, on September 14, 2020, the government allowed the school to open. There are 102 boys and 108 girls students who need funds to provide basic needs such as handwashing stations, hand sanitizers, infrared thermometers, and masks.
I’m excited that students have been able to return to school but they still need our help. Please join me in providing them the basics they need to learn in a safe environment.
To learn more and to support the school, please visit this Givebutter page. Any amount from you will make a huge impact on the health and safety of the children and allow them to study effectively during the pandemic.
About the Author, Ilma Chairani:
An Indonesian who plays, studies, works, and lives in the Bay Area. Passionate about self-improvement, travels, indoor biking, meditation, and uplifting others. Connect with me through my Instagram and LinkedIn, and I’ll follow you back 🙂