Yogyakarta (ANTARA News) - In the 35th General Assembly of the International Council of Women and the National Gathering of One Thousand Indonesian Women`s Organizations, being held in Yogyakarta, there is one particular spirit exuded by all participants. It is the spirit to move forward in unity and fight against inequality and injustice.

Such spirit is being poured into the phrase `Sisters support Sisters`, a slogan that portrays the solidarity between females in promoting their advancement in various sectors of development.

A senior delegate in the National Gathering of One Thousand Indonesian Women`s Organizations, Farida Pelupessy, reminded of the importance of implementing the slogan into the women`s thoughts and actions in day-to-day life.

"The young generation of women in Indonesia need to move forward, hand in hand, and continue to push each other in a better direction. Do not let our differences turn us against each other," said Pelupessy, who is currently serving in office as Head of the Women Organizations Partnership Board (BKOW) of South Sulawesi, as well as Head of the province`s Indonesian Association of Doctor`s Wives.

The 69-year-old woman, who has been involved in women organizations for many years, affirmed that women, especially girls, need to ensure that they flourish alongside each other, rather than thriving on their own, making sure that the female community is moving forward in unity.

"To have the spirit of mutually supporting each other, there need to be a change of mindset and personal ego need to be eradicated," she said in between the national gathering in Grand Inna Malioboro Hotel, Yogyakarta, on Friday.

The jargon `Sisters support Sisters` began to emerge along with the movement of feminism that was first started in the beginning of the 19th century in Europe and the United States of America.

The spirit was then transmitted to Asian countries, especially India, to Indonesia, marked by the content of R.A. Kartini`s letter that mentioned women need to prosper together, especially in the education sector.

The will to mutually support each other was manifested as women are often treated as second-class citizens in communities.

In a number of traditions, not only in Indonesian cultures but also others, such as Fiji, women are often treated as second-class citizens. This means that there is no room for them to become leaders and decision makers in various sectors concerning development.

French author and pioneer of feminist movement Simone de Beauvoir said in her book titled `The Second Sex`, stated that in communities, male is deemed as `a human being`, a being who is entitled to unlimited opportunities and self actualization, while female is seen as the `tail` or `imitation` of male.

Such view received heavy critics from women movements, not only in France, but all over the world, including in Indonesia, especially through the 35th International Council of Women General Assembly and the National Gathering of One Thousand Indonesian Women`s Organizations, held in Yogyakarta from September 13 to 18.

Formulating solutions

At the meeting, thousands of women representing various organizations in Indonesia and the global community gathered to discuss a number of on-going problems concerning women, at the same time formulating concrete measures to find a way to get out such issues.

Dilemmas, brought up in several different workshops and panels, include Women`s Empowerment through Education, Eliminating Violence against Women, Women and Transformative Politics and Women and Economic Empowerment`.

Moreover, representatives of each women organization also voiced their empowerment missions, especially in economy, education and health sectors.

Pelupessy, for example, said that especially in the province of South Sulawesi where she is from, there are still a lot of women who suffer from cervix and breast cancer.

She believed that one of the reasons for that is the lack of awareness towards preventative measures.

"The number of cervix cancer sufferers in South Sulawesi is still rather high, and for that reason, we ask our sisters from other organizations to also pay close attention to the importance of reproductive health education from a young age," she remarked.

Additionally, another delegate from the Indonesian Christian Women Association, Christine Sibarani, said that women need to be able to position themselves as the government`s partner in the effort to eradicate corruption.

"Women need to be brave and say that we are against corruption," said Christine.

She further stated that the war against corruption is the main mission imposed by her organization.

Meanwhile, a group of women from several countries have also said that women still need to think about strategic measures to face the issue of violence agains women, in both domestic and public forums.

In a workshop session, led by Fijian Ambassador to Indonesia Selima Dikawakawayali Veisamasama, dozens of women from Taiwan, United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and Indonesia shared their experiences and ideas on ways to stop the cycle of violence against women.

One of the delegates from Indonesia, Irawati Harsono, who is Commissioner of the National Women Commission, said that the war against violence need to cover all aspects, not only from the victim`s side, but also in terms of law enforcement.

Irawati, who worked in the police force for 30 years, realized that reform in the law enforcement is among the most effective measures to create deterrent effect towards perpetrators of violence, especially those committing them in the domestic setting.

She then went on to tell her experience on advocating the formation of a unit specifically to stand beside victims of violence.

"All these times, victims of rape or domestic violence are reluctant to report their cases to the police as they feel like it is useles to do so, we are trying to change that perspective by advocating the formation of a special force in the police department," said Irawati.

Aside from Irawati, one of the delegates from Taiwan, Petty Chang, said that mediation can also be one of the solutions to recover the relationship between the perpetrator and victim of violence.

"In Taiwan, at least three domestic violence cases happen every month. One of the measures we can do to face that is by not only talking to the victim, but also to the perpetrator, in the bid of rehabilitating and recovering the damaged relationship between both parties," she said.

The ICW`s most mature delegate from Victoria, Australia, 92-year-old Elizabeth Newman, also shared her perspectives saying that domestic violence often occur due to lack of financial independence among women.

That way, one of the solutions is to ensure that women have access to the banking and entrepreneurship sector.

In her remarks, Minister of State Owned Enterprises Rini Mariani Soemarno affirmed that the access to capitals for woman is indeed, important, considering women who are given financial aids will not only become business makers, but also play a role as leaders in families and communities.

Reporting by Genta Tenri Mawangi

Editing by Aria Cindyara/Rahmad Nasution

Reporter: Genta Tenri and Aria Cindyara
Editor: Gusti Nur Cahya Aryani
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