Jakarta (ANTARA) - Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Minister I Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati, better known as Bintang Puspayoga, averred that women were the strength of the nation, particularly in the war against the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I remind all Indonesian women that we have the power to fight COVID-19," she stated in Jakarta, Friday.

The minister affirmed that women were advocates for themselves and for the rights of womankind in general.

Bintang Puspayoga noted that Indonesia was currently facing varied challenges, in terms of the health, social, and economic aspects, in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the wake of the pandemic, several female workers had to be laid off as a result of the plague that struck almost the entire world.

The current COVID-19 pandemic also complicates the condition of women, who become heads of households, and underprivileged women, as their businesses are threatened by the loss of distributors or markets.

"In fact, the number of customers of the Mekaar Program PT. PNM (Persero) as of April 4, 2020, has decreased, from 6.4 million to 4.4 million customers. In fact, several of them are the backbone of the family and even had to become the head of the family after losing their husbands to this pandemic," she remarked.

Moreover, the issue of female migrant workers (PMI) also becomes a challenge.

"In April 2020, a total of 4,144 female migrant workers were repatriated from affected countries. As many as 83 percent of them were women. Problems began to arise after they returned to Indonesia since not all female migrant workers had livelihoods," he pointed out.

Furthermore, Minister Bintang noted that mentoring and caring for children while studying at home also places an additional burden, especially on women, as mothers, who also work.

High levels of stress due to difficulties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic can also potentially give rise to gender-based violence against women, children, and other vulnerable groups.

"According to SYMPHONY Data, on April 23, 2020, as many as 205 cases of domestic violence were experienced by women during the COVID-19 pandemic," he stated.

To handle such challenges, effective and targeted interventions are deemed necessary followed by multi-party cooperation.

To this end, the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry coordinates, facilitates, and advocates for the Task Force for Handling the Acceleration of COVID-19, relevant ministries or institutions, local governments, the business world, mass media, and the community in ensuring the protection of women and children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry‘s efforts to face these challenges aim to initiate a Joint Movement to Take Care of Our Families (Distances) that has 10 actions and involve five working groups that intensely coordinate with the Ministry Service across Indonesia.

In addition, the ministry forges cooperation with various women's empowerment and child protection institutions to find and record the condition of women and children at the grassroots, in the economic, health, and social fields.

In line with prevention, the ministry has compiled educational materials on the protection of women, children, and families that are then disseminated through social media to regions across Indonesia. Related news: ADB grants US$1.5 bln to support Indonesia's COVID-19 response
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Reporter: Katriana, Azis Kurmala
Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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