Sunday, September 4, 2011

Natalia Rialucky Takes a Stand for Women & Girls

Even while carrying two overflowing bags of books about women’s political and economic issues, Natalia Rialucky is poised. She plans to read all of them before heading to Paris as Indonesia’s representative at the Girls 20 Summit.The Girls 20 Summit focuses on girls and women and the solutions they can bring to worldwide economic problems.This year’s summit will focus on economic innovation and will take place from Oct. 18-21, two weeks before leaders of the G-20 countries descend on Cannes.Girls and women from 21 countries and a seat for the African Union will have the opportunity to meet and participate in discussions about how girls can work to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.We received hundreds of applications from around the globe for these 21 delegate positions. Indonesia had one of the highest number of applicants,said Farah Mohamed, curator of the summit and president of The Belinda Stronach Foundation, which is putting on the event along with 70 other partners.

Natalia, 20, is entering her final year at the University of Indonesia where she studies international relations. She is used to balancing internships, model United Nations duties and her classes. She read about the summit on Facebook and decided to apply.I was interested because in Indonesia women’s issues are a big concern for the government as well as the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment, but I don’t see anything happening yet,she said.When I see female domestic workers being mistreated abroad I don’t think it’s enough to ask the minister of foreign affairs to do something.High school debate class first opened Natalia’s eyes to women’s rights and issues.I must admit that I have always been in a privileged situation, and did not have an experience of being denied education or being discriminated against,she said.I didn’t know what was happening. I thought my life was OK until I joined the debate class in high school.

Discussions of female quotas in politics and unequal pay for women and men in the same jobs made Natalia start asking why?I realized that women are still being treated as second-class citizens when people said women in relationships are always the weaker party,Natalia said. They are the one’s getting pregnant and have the burden to take care of the babies. And I was saying, ‘If the marriage is about two people, why should all the trouble fall on women?’ Since high school, Natalia has jumped at every opportunity to participate in leadership programs. When the University of Indonesia first heard about the model United Nations competition at Harvard, they sent Natalia. Natalia went on to start the first model UN club at her school with some friends.Young people can engage in diplomacy, and that’s where the hype of advocating on behalf of important issues is mushrooming in Indonesia today,” Natalia said.

With domestic workers Darsem binti Dawud Tawar and Ruyati binti Sapubi making headlines, Natalia’s interest in domestic workers has taken center stage.Indonesia, as one of the biggest sources of migrant domestic workers, still faces many challenges in protecting our work force, she said. It’s unfair when you see men and women both work abroad, but in the domestic sphere most of them are only women, and they’re being lied to when agencies say you will get this amount of money and you will be well treated. But then their passport is held by the agency.
Natalia thinks that education is key to empowering women, especially domestic workers abroad. Making sure women are literate and can understand what their employers expect of them could alleviate some problems.

They are being denied education because most of the traditional families in Indonesia tend to prioritize the son to go abroad first. They still have this traditional mind-set that guys will go outside of the village and come back with money, while women stay at the domestic level,she said.Natalia said she was looking forward to the chance to meet delegates from around the world and participate in discussions.Natalia is not the kind of person who will sit quietly in the forum enjoying the meals and scenery,said Dwi Ardhanariswari Sundrijo, Natalia’s academic adviser at the University of Indonesia.She will talk, discuss and share knowledge and experiences. She will make new friends and build a network. She will learn a lot from the conference, and later give what she gets from it back to society at large.During panels and workshops, participants will be asked to bring the experiences of their own countries into discussions.

Indonesia is not all about terrorism,Natalia said.In most of my other chances to go abroad I say Indonesia, and people say, ‘Oh the one that had the Bali bombing.Those sentiments are still there. What I want the other participants at the summit to know is that we are a moderate country as much as we are majority Muslim. We are diverse in ourselves and we are ready to be a part of the international world.Natalia admits she is a bit nervous about representing the world’s fourth-most populous country.It’s scary,she said.It’s a lot of girls I am talking about here. I am excited, but I am a bit cautious because I need to be very careful about what I am stating. I don’t represent my government, because the government sometimes has its own lines it has to follow.So I am representing women in my country and I can be free to see what the problem is and see what can be done. This is something I am very passionate about advocating.

If Natalia could have a few minutes with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, she knows what she would say.I would say send more women abroad to be more exposed to international competitions and modern ways of living. When they return not only will they be contributing to our economy in general, but they will teach those kind of moderate and competitive values to their families,she said.If they stay at home, all that they know is from their parents. An educated mother is a key to success in Indonesia if we want to have a better future later on.The first G(irls)20 Summit was held last year in Toronto. Kartika Nurhayati represented Indonesia and created a mobile library when she returned that serves young Indonesians in impoverished areas. Natalia was inspired by Kartika’s example, and is already making plans for when she returns to Jakarta, such as an all-female business competition.Natalia has been to Paris only once before, and just for a day so she didn’t get to see the beautiful Eiffel Tower.This time, she hopes to see the symbol of Paris and gain ideas and learn from the summit.Before she gathered up all of her books, Natalia smiled and said,I think every time I go abroad I should make something out of it.

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