Gender Equivalence in Bali Still Impossible?

Married, two children, a career, and now alone

My name is Ayu. I am married and have two children, a handsome little boy and a nice little girl. I work as an officer in one of the developing Finance Companies in Buleleng. My career is getting better from time to time, and now I am trusted to be the manager assistant in that company. My career is not accompanied by a happy family life. It is simply about the gender equivalence. Where other people in western country may breathe the air freely, do whatever they would like to do, make any decision for themselves in their life, I experience the opposite. My husband always protests when I am going to work and leave the children alone with the babysitter.

Now, I stay in my parent’s house. I decided to do a bit of introspection about our relationship several weeks ago. It was followed by a big quarrel between my husband and me, about the most favorite topic, my career, again and again. I like working outside the house, not only to be a housewife. I like dealing with many people, controlling the staffs, dealing with the complaints or something else. I feel the challenge there, and I enjoy it very much. About my husband can be said that he is important person in the government. He has a good career. He asked me several times to leave my job and pay more attention to the family, the children, because he can earn our living by himself. His salary is more than enough for us to live in this city, so he thinks I need not to work anymore.

The problem, in my mind, is not about the money to support the family financially, but the freedom to do what I want to do and the desire to be appreciated as a human being. It is ironic that in this time the local government, through the Society Empowerment Office staffs, often conducts promotions about gender equivalence, and advocates erasing the gender differences in the society in five sub districts in this regency, such as Buleleng, Seririt, Banjar, Tejakula and Gerokgak sub district. The promotion already begun two years ago, in 2005. The targets of the promotion are mostly the people in the villages because the government believes the citizens have better understanding about the gender equivalence, supported by additonal information from television and newspapers.

Recently, Tembok village in Tejakula sub district was nominated as the project pilot for the gender justice and equivalence in Bali province level. Ten facilitators from that village will have recieve a training and guidance program in Denpasar and a study visit to Wonosobo, Central Java province. They will also compare the implementation of gender equivalence programs in both provinces. Tembok village was nominated as the target village by the government because among the other villages, such as Mayong, Pejarakan and Bubunan villages, Tembok village is considered as the village with the highest number of people in terms of poverty, people that drop-out school, are illiterate, and are unemployed.

The government’s program about gender equivalence must go through a series of considerations. However, I think the program has not yet been successful because there are still some well educated people who will not receive that program in their life time. They still hold the Balinese concept of Purusha, where the authority in the household belongs to the man as the head of the family. To admit the women have an equal chance to do anything they want, similar to the men, like having a good or even a better career in society, is hard for them. They still don’t believe the women’s role can be more as just a housewife, but that they are human beings that can use knowledge and skills to develop themselves. It may be thought of as ridiculous, but it still happens here in Buleleng, Bali.

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