Wed, 24 Aug 1994

Give female workers a break, say Kowani

JAKARTA (JP): The Corps of Indonesian Women (Kowani) appealed to employers and educators yesterday to give women workers better opportunity to enhance their careers.

Kowani chairperson Enny Busiri said in a workshop yesterday that women workers in Indonesia are still subject to discrimination in the workplace and even at schools.

Enny said the key to a more equal partnership between men and women in workplaces lies in education, which means that women should be given equal access to education and training.

Kowani is an umbrella group of various women's organizations in Indonesia.

Yesterday's one-day workshop held at the Ministry of Manpower was intended to implement some of the recommendations from a seminar last month to improve the conditions of women workers in Indonesia.

Enny stressed the importance of eliminating all the remaining practices of sexual discrimination at workplaces.

Noting that the labor legislation does not discriminate against women workers, she appealed for their consistent involvement.

"To enhance women's productivity and welfare, the government's training and apprenticeship programs should be made available to as many women workers as possible," she said.

The number of women workers in Indonesia has continued to increase with more and more of them opting to have a career. In 1980, women workers made up 33 percent of the total work force in Indonesia and by 1990, the percentage had risen to 39 percent.

Most of them however are still employed in menial jobs requiring little skill.

Enny attributed this to the lack of access to education, which in turn is caused by the still prevailing attitude among parents to give greater priority to sons rather than daughters when it comes to schooling.

She said this attitude also prevails in many other developing countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, Director General for Manpower Placement Abdul Rachim in his presentation emphasized the government's intention to tighten regulations concerning the way Indonesia is sending workers overseas, particularly women workers.

The program of sending workers overseas has been widely criticized in the past because many Indonesian women were poorly protected against harassment from their employers. Many also criticized the program because Indonesia has been sending mostly domestic helpers.

Rachim said the government intends to phase out the sending of unskilled workers.

Indonesia has also secured agreements with the governments of countries where there are many Indonesian workers to ensure that they enjoy legal protection and other social security benefits. (rms)