Empowering Women to improve public services

March 19, 2019

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Poverty among women arises as a result of unequal access to economic resources, education, and health. Social discrimination keeps women in certain occupations and prevents them from gaining access to quality education. A community’s lack of perspective on gender equality often inhibits women from receiving the best health care. Ironically, governments often aggravate the situation by issuing policies that are not responsive to women’s needs.

One way of helping women in Indonesia to get out of these situations is to abolish discrimination. They also need to be involved in the various efforts to improve their access to economic and social services. Unfortunately, many women do not have the capacity, nor the support, to be able to participate in realizing these improvements.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) have an important role to play in enabling women to overcome these obstacles. It is not enough to strengthen women’s capacity to access public information, CSOs must also help them understand information concerning budgets and procurement. Women should also be encouraged to share their recommendations in public forums, participate in the planning process, monitor budget implementation and the delivery of public services.

Together with other partners, Hivos is a member of SPEAK (Strengthening Public services through the Empowerment of women-led Advocacy and Social Audit networKs), a four-year program funded by European Commission and Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It seeks to institutionalize effective citizen participation in the planning and implementation of local budgets to better address structural poverty.

open contracting

SPEAK aims to empower civil society organizations and local women’s groups to harness public information related to education and health services, and advocate for gender-responsive and inclusive budgets. The program also engages with local authorities and the media to improve accountability of public procurement through community-based monitoring. This not only promotes participation, it also positions Indonesian women as agents of public service improvement.

Hivos works together with local civil society organizations both at national and sub-national levels, such as Transparency International Indonesia (TI-Indonesia), Bojonegoro Institute, Pattiro Semarang, and the Alliance of Independent Journalists Jakarta. These organizations are also working with Hivos through the Open Up Contracting program funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

TI-Indonesia, Bojonegoro Institute, and Pattiro Semarang focus on capacity building of civil society organizations and women’s groups. They also advocate for gender-responsive budgets, build capacity to facilitate social audits, and monitor mechanisms used by local governments to handle complaints. Finally, these organizations also promote institutionalization of complaint-handling, and promote access to information related to budgets and public procurement in the health and education sectors.

The Alliance of Independent Journalists Jakarta works with Hivos to build a network of investigative journalists and citizen journalists who report on corruption cases related to education and health in five cities: Jakarta, Bojonegoro (East Java), Semarang (Central Java), Bandung (West Java), Makassar (South Sulawesi), and Mataram (West Nusa Tenggara).