Women's activists in Bali are calling for female representation at the upcoming legislative election to push more women-friendly agendas and policies, such as reproductive health and household economy
Director of Bali Sruti Foundation, Luh Riniti Rahayu, said budget allocations for women's agendas, such as reproductive health and children, were miniscule compared to unpopular budgets such as the procurement of official cars.
“The budget for cervical cancer is only Rp 25 million [US$2,136] per year, although it is the number one killer disease of women,” she said.
Riniti plans to compile a list of such gaps to strengthen women's advocacy saying that the provision for vitamins for pregnant mothers was nothing compared to an official car.
The issues were compiled in a discussion forum on the media and agendas of the women's movement held by the foundation and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) in Denpasar on Friday.
Riniti said more sensitive budget allocations for women's needs had been proposed several times but there had been no significant changes.
“No matter what, women understand better [about their needs] and I expect the media to also pay attention to the issue,” she said.
She added that the media was still very patriarchal with most covering women as subordinates.
Meanwhile, Democrat Party politician Pasek Sutikawati said political struggle was still rife with unfair practices making it difficult for women to compete. “We have been indoctrinated to conduct clean politics but the reality is different,” she said.
“Those who can become regional councilors are women loaded with money or who have powerful spouses, such as regents or councilors,” she said. “Women cannot maintain their idealism.” An editor with Radar Bali newspaper, Hari Puspita, asked women to use the 2014 General Election as a momentum to channel their votes to women candidates.
“The presence of women in politics brings significant impact to the advocacy of basic problems, such as education and health,” he said.
“But women candidates should compete without denigrating themselves.” The women's activists had conducted various activities to gather support for more female participation in politics. Other than cervical cancer, the activists said threats for Balinese women included breast cancer, HIV, as well as domestic violence and low political participation.
Previously, chairman of the Denpasar branch of the Indonesian Obstetrics and Gynecology Association (POGI), Made Suyasa Jaya, estimated that there were 100 to 150 cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 people in Bali. He also estimated that every three days two women died of the disease.
Bali is among the provinces with the lowest female representation in its provincial legislative council with only 30 female councilors, or 7.5 percent, compared to 374 male councilors from the 2009 general elections.
This figure, however, was an improvement over the only 18 female councilors (4.5 percent) in the 2004 general election, with 385 male councilors.