Being 21

Last month I turned 21. In the country where I come from, Holland this means I am officially an independent woman. My parents are no longer responsible for me. And I can make all my own decisions. I am currently going to school and hopefully get a good job after I finish school. At the moment I am studying in Thailand. And the fact that I am turning 21 here, made me wonder what it is like for girls my age turning 21 here in Asia. Do they get the same opportunities that I have? And how are their conditions? That is why I started researching about girls just like me, only in a different part in the world. Since Asia is very big, I decided to focus on one country in particular. I chose the country Indonesia, since there is a lot of criticism and change concerning women rights.


The Indonesian school system is immense and diverse. With over 50 million students and 2.6 million teachers in more than 250,000 schools, it is the third largest education system in the Asia region and the fourth largest in the world (behind only China, India and the United States).  All children must go to school for nine years. This compulsory education entails six years of elementary level and three years of secondary level. Education is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Religious affairs. The schools itself are either run by the government or private sectors. In Indonesia there are approximately 170,000 primary schools, 40,000 junior-secondary schools and 26,000 high schools. 84 percent of these schools are under the Ministry of National Education and the other 16 percent under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Private schools only represent 7% of the total schools number.

Even though there is access to schooling to both boys and girls, still many girls drop out of school early. Because of the tradition within families, where the women has to stay home to take care of the household. Therefore many parents, and sometimes the girls themselves find it unnecessary to stay in school because they will end up staying at home anyways. This perception is changing more within the younger generation.

As stated in the research of Siobhan Austen, inadequate education is one of the key determinants of poverty, and yet in developing countries one in five children – more that 113 million – lack access to schooling. Girls account for two thirds of these out-of-school children. Girls’ lack of access to schooling is a critical cause of gender inequality in many developing countries, through poverty, deprivation and vulnerability experienced by girls and women.

Another major reason for dropping out of school are the high costs of going to school. Often the costs are too high for the families to send their children to school. Therefore the children are preferred to stay home and work or help around the house.


Among young men and women studying in similar programs, gender differences in labor market expectations are a fact. On average, the female students have lower wages and expected to experience more frequent and longer career interruption. Female students were also more likely to highly value compensating, or non-financial job attributes than male students, including having a pleasant and family-friendly work environment (Inside Indonesia). But, those issues occur in western countries as well. As a matter of fact, Indonesia is one of the leading countries in the ‘’developing world’’ when it comes to female participation in the workforce (Jakarta Globe). According to World Bank data, 51 percent of women are employed in the workforce, compared with 78 percent of men, which compares is a great ratio compared to the numbers of women in Malaysia and India’s workforces, at 44 percent and 29 percent respectively, in comparison to the 77 percent and 81 percent of males employed.

The World Bank has done a research lately, about how including females into the workforce has effect on the economy. Including females will have a positive effect on the economy of the country, it results in a higher productivity.


The most practiced religion in Indonesia is the Islam, 87,2% of the population believes in the Islam. The other five religions which are recognized by the government are  Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism The fact that it is not allowed to be atheist, and religion has a big role in the society, has an influence on the rights of women in Indonesia. In many parts of Indonesia, local laws compelling women and girls to don the hijab, or headscarf, are increasingly common in schools, government offices and public spaces.


As said before, the perception of the younger generation is changing. Many women in Indonesia choose to reside in cities instead of staying in townships to perform agricultural work because of personal, professional, and family-related necessities, and economic requirements. These women are moving away from the traditional dictates of Indonesian culture, wherein women act simply and solely as wives and mothers.

Indonesia itself, has already improved tremendously when it comes to gender equality. The World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development says Indonesia – like most developing countries – has made important progress in improving health outcomes among women and girls, and has also managed to increase women’s access to finance and justice. Still there is many room for improvement.  In terms of economic activity, for example, female-owned businesses in rural Indonesia are still less profitable than those owned by men.  Education, ownership of assets, access to economic opportunities and opportunities to earn income are keys to improving women’s wellbeing and their families (World Bank).


I always find it hard to determine whether a country is doing well, concerning women rights or not. Because there are many stories to read on the internet about how a country is lacking in women rights and gender inequity. But on the other hand, there are also many articles and websites about the improvements that have been made. The fact that there is some progress, even though it is far from perfect is good news. I think as long as we keep educating people, about their rights and equality, improvement will continue to happen. And the new generation already has a more modern equality perception.
It was surprising to me that Indonesia has quit an equal division of men and women at the workforce. Since they still have a traditional few on the role of men and women within the family.

In order for me to really understand how someone my age, in Indonesia is living, I should actually visit the country and talk to the women. Hopefully one day I will be able to talk about this with the girls themselves. Because no website, newspaper or government can tell how it really is as they can.


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