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28 Nov 2023

Woro Srihastuti Sulistyaningrum Uses Policies to Prevent Violence Against Women and Children

Woro Srihastuti Sulistyaningrum believes that working in government allows her to make a greater contribution to tackling the pervasive problem of violence against women and children.

Having had several jobs in government jobs dealing with issues related to women and children, she finds fulfilment in creating policies that impact both the national and international levels.

"Some people prefer to work at the grassroots because they can see the results first-hand. I want to focus on how to develop policies that cover all aspects of eliminating and preventing violence against women and children," Lisa, as she is affectionately known, explained.

Since May 2023, Lisa has been the Deputy for Coordinating Quality Improvement for Children, Women and Youth at the Coordinating Ministry of Human Development and Culture. Before her current position, she was the Director of Family, Women, Children, Youth, and Sports at the Ministry of National Development and Planning (Badan Perencanaan Pembangunan Nasional/Bappenas)  from September 2016 to May 2023.

High Prevalence of Violence Against Women and Children

The high prevalence of violence against women and children remains a source of concern for activists and the government alike. A national survey conducted by the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection in 2021 revealed that 26% of women aged 15 to 64 had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their partner or non-partner in their lifetime.

The survey, which is conducted every three years, also found that 41% of girls aged 13-17 had experienced one or more types of violence in their lifetime. For the same age group, the prevalence in boys was 34%.

Lisa added that the number of cases reported is also on the rise annually, which may be attributed to increased awareness of the need to report the abuse of women and children or could be that the current tally is underreported.

"People tend to be reluctant to report such cases because they consider it taboo or fear being labelled as a dysfunctional family. This stigma hampers our efforts to collect case data and information," Lisa explained.

Furthermore, she said that a lack of information about the government's hotline services for reporting abuses contributes to the public's reluctance to report their case.

Nevertheless, Lisa said, the passing of the Sexual Violence Crime Law in 2022 is progress that brings hope to efforts to eliminate the crimes.

"We still need to write the implementing rules. In my opinion, we still have a long way to go. Making a policy is one thing, but communicating it to multiple stakeholders can be challenging. terms of eradicating violence against women and children," she said.

Communicating Policy

Lisa's decision to focus her work on women's and children's welfare was a major shift from her undergraduate studies in planology. 

“For me, (women and children) issues are close to home because I also have children. We also experience it in our daily life. It makes me realise I may have made mistakes in raising my children. So I thought I could try to improve the situation by working in the government,” said Lisa, who has a masters degree in International Development Studies from the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, Japan.

Working in the government has been a learning curve for Lisa, particularly in communicating a policy to multiple stakeholders, a task that poses its own set of challenges.

“A national policy should be communicated and understood by national, local, and even village stakeholders. On the implementation side, we must ensure the national policy is implemented in stages and consistently,” she explained.

Not only that, but Lisa must also be able to communicate her proposed policy or programme to her superiors to get their support for implementing it. 

Lisa credited the Australia Awards for allowing her to improve her policy communication skills during the 2015 Communicating Policy for Effective Governance Short Course at Central Queensland University.

“During the programme, we learned how to design policies supported by evidence from many research studies. We also learned how to communicate the policies to parties, such as (potential) partners and supervisors, because each requires a different communication strategy,” Lisa explained.

Lisa recalled that the knowledge and skills she acquired from the course helped her to design the 2020 National Strategy to Prevent Child Marriage. For ministries and local governments to adopt it, the Minister of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection and the Minister/Head of Bappenas had to introduce the national strategy.

“By using data, I effectively communicated to the two ministries why we needed to focus on this problem—child marriage. Alhamdulillah (praise be to God), we successfully convinced the ministers to launch the National Strategy to Prevent Child Marriage,” she said.

In 2017, Lisa had another opportunity to participate in the Australia Awards Short Course on Change Management for Bureaucratic Reform at The University of Queensland. This time, she participated as a mentor.

Lisa applied what she learned in the bureaucratic training on the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when she worked at the Ministry of National Development Planning (Bappenas). Before the government officially declared a large-scale social distancing to prevent the spread of the disease, Bappenas had implemented flexible working hours, allowing employees to work from home or the office.

“We were the pioneer of remote working at that time. I encouraged my colleague in Bappenas to use technology to make our work easier. For example, using e-office for various administration works, such as circulating business memos. As a result, we had all the system in place when we eventually had to work from home,” said Lisa.

Strengthening Policy Implementation

Lisa’s long-term goal is to make sure the policies to prevent violence against women and children are implemented properly.

“Our policies are already good. We have all the regulations needed. I think we have too many regulations, but implementation remains a challenge,” she said

At the top of her list is building a database. Lisa believes that having a database is essential for improving policy implementation. The lack of statistics on cases of violence against women and children, such as cyberbullying, hampers efforts to put regulations into action.

Next, parties involved in prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation work together to provide comprehensive and integrated services for women and children who are victims of abuse.

"We must go beyond simply accepting reports. When a victim files a report, follow-up services should be available, such as forensic examination and medical care if the victim is injured. To provide an integrated service, we must work with other parties," she said.

Lastly, but equally important is monitoring and evaluation to make sure that the program in place has impacts on meeting the targets

"We still have monitoring and evaluation work to do, but I am hopeful that our policies will improve efforts to prevent violence against women and children," Lisa stated.

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