Wed, 24 Jul 1996

Girls have equal rights to boys, Soeharto says

JAKARTA (JP): President Soeharto made a fresh call on parents yesterday to treat their daughters the same as their sons in all respects, including education.

Speaking before 25,000 children and parents attending the National Children Day celebration at the Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park in East Jakarta, Soeharto pointed out that girls should be given the same educational opportunities as boys.

"I need to underline this because from the reports that have reached me I found out that there is still a different treatment for girls, (one that) favors sons over daughters.

"In order to eliminate this harmful tradition and belief, I ask that efforts to eradicate illiteracy among women be accelerated," he said.

Soeharto, accompanied by Vice President and Mrs. Tuti Try Sutrisno, also launched the second Decade of Children 1996 - 2006. He then signed stamps issued in connection with the United Nations Children Fund (Unicef). Similar celebrations took place in other cities as well.

Soeharto has asked over the past several years that greater attention be paid to the education of girls and boys as a way to improve the quality of future generations. In 1994, the government launched the Nine-Year Compulsory Basic Education program in an effort to, among other things, reduce the drop-out rate among children and provide equal schooling opportunities for girls.

"We believe that the education of girls will bring about multiple benefits because it will improve and enhance the quality of coming generations and, at the same time, enhance the nation's dignity and standing," Soeharto said then.

Official statistics showed in 1994 that 18.4 million boys in the seven to 15-year-old age group were attending school, along with 17.3 million girls.

In his speech yesterday, the President pointed out the fact that many parents still have financial difficulty putting their children through school.

"In order to overcome this obstacle, we have launched the National Foster Parent Drive," he said. "The drive has received an encouraging response, but there's still a lot we have to do."

Soeharto reminded that there are at least 400,000 elementary and junior high school students could be forced to drop out of school unless they receive immediate financial assistance.

The students are among the six million children too poor to attend school that Soeharto hopes will benefit from the National Foster Parents Movement that he launched in May.

The ceremony was also attended by Minister of Religious Affairs Tarmizi Taher, Minister of Health Sujudi, Minister of Population Haryono Suyono and Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Azwar Anas.

Also in his speech, Soeharto told parents that Indonesian children need to be prepared in order to face future change and challenges.

"Please create a situation where children can learn to respect and love work," he said. "Allow children to take the initiative for themselves."

To the children attending the celebration and those across the country, Soeharto said they should "respect your parents, your teachers and your elders". (swe)