With the COVID-19 pandemic emphasising the multiple burdens of work and care, especially on women, a psychosocial support organisation in Indonesia called for broader for work-life balance, both within workplaces and homes.
Through two online panel discussions on 16 and 17 March 2022, Yayasan Pulih, an Investing in Women campaign partner in Indonesia, asked: “Work-life Balance Amidst the Pandemic: Is It Possible?” The two-part event is the culmination of Pulih’s #KitaMulaiSekarang (Let’s Start Now) campaign, which advocated for greater sharing of caring and economic roles to improve employee’s mental health.
The first day of the webinar brought together private sector stakeholders and highlighted the need for companies to recognise and address how the tensions from balancing work and family responsibilities may have been exacerbated by lockdowns and forced work-from-home setups.
“The pandemic had a major impact on the business sector, including employees… The workspace and domestic space were merged into one, and this had an impact on their mental health,” Yayasan Pulih Executive Director Dian Indraswari said.
Beyond calling on companies to be consistent in their implementation of policies for workplace gender equality, the event also highlighted the need for a work culture that supports sharing of economic and caring roles across genders. Men also need to be supported in sharing domestic responsibilities.
Speakers at the first session included Ganesan Ampalavanar, President Director of Nestlé Indonesia; Ni Komang Ayu Suriani, founder and CEO of Difalink, a workplace disability inclusion advocacy organisation; Amanda Valani, Head of Original Content at Narasi TV; and Todd Dias, Counsellor (Economic) at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta.
The second day of the webinar underscored how work-life balance is not the concern solely of companies. Families and the broader community should build an environment that enables a more equitable distribution of caring and income-earning responsibilities across genders.
Examples for initiatives towards creating this supportive environment were showcased during the panel discussion on Day 2. These include the Muslimah Bekerja campaign by policy research and advocacy Rumah Kita Bersama (Rumah KitaB) and the Women Lead campaign by online feminist magazine Magdalene. Both are Investing in Women campaign partners.
“Through Muslimah Bekerja, we try to provide a space for discussion and counter narratives that women and men are equal, careers and families are balanced and the world and the hereafter are in harmony,” Nurasiah Jamil, program manager at Rumah KitaB said.
Rumah KitaB works with preachers and religious leaders to promote Islamic narratives that support working women. They also inject these narratives on social media, where gender norms that limits women’s economic roles tend to be reinforced. The campaign also exposes media, private sector, and government stakeholders to narratives supportive of working women.
For her part, Magdalene co-founder and editor-in-chief Devi Asmarani, said: “The media has an important role in changing gender norms. Wherever possible, we should create content and build conversations to normalise gender equality starting at home.”
In addition to championing women leaders, Magdalene’s Women Lead campaign highlights how men’s increased involvement in caring for the family and the home enables women to participate in the economy more actively, a message also carried by Aliansi Laki-laki Baru (ALB, New Men’s Alliance).
“Men need to be involved at home to create balance, not only for themselves but to support working women,” ALB national coordinator Muhamad Saeroni said. He however added that when men share the caring role, they “feel more valued, find more meaning in their lives, are happier and have stronger relationships with their families.”
Since its launch in June 2020, Yayasan Pulih’s #KitaMulaiSekarang campaign has reached more than one million working-age Indonesians on social media with messages on creating healthy and equal partnerships between women and men in the workplace and at home.
The campaign ran parallel to Yayasan Pulih’s pilot of an online module on gender norms, mental health and employee productivity with more than 400 participants. The pilot was implemented through 12 online class, five of which had been tailored for organisations and seven offered for open enrolment. Some of the pilot alumni shared lessons from the pilot during the culminating webinar.
More than 60 participants joined the first day of the webinar, and more than 50 joined the second day, where Pulih also announced the rollout of a revised module, incorporating lessons from the pilot. Yayasan Pulih hopes to offer the module to more Indonesian companies, particularly as they navigate the post-COVID environment.