The history of ASEAN Women’s Circle of Jakarta dates back to 1975 when Nelly Adam Malik, wife of then Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik, established the organisation as a means to strengthen regional solidarity among ASEAN countries through various social and cultural activities. NOW! Jakarta spoke to the current Vice President of the ASEAN Women’s Circle of Jakarta Dorothy Delgado Novicio, who hails from the Philippines, about her mandate to advocate for women and children’s rights.
Tell us about your work and the initiatives you’ve been involved with at AWC.
As Vice President of AWC, I do a couple of tasks for our organisation. Like all officers of AWC we do our work pro-bono, all in the spirit of love for the organisation and service to others, especially the needy. One of the major initiatives I’ve done over the past three years was being the Project Officer of the AWC Annual Bazaar. Another exciting part of the event is the chance to meet new friends from different countries as representatives from embassies, ASEAN Member States, Dialogue Partners and commercial vendors all across Indonesia. We have fruitful relationships with them that allow us to appreciate and celebrate each other’s cultures through the products or services that each of the countries or the vendors showcase.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing women?
Over the years, as my children and I have gone along with my spouse in his overseas postings, I have always been sensitive to the needs of women, especially mothers like me. While I feel very blessed for the wonderful experience of living the life of an expatriate in the diplomatic circle, ever since our very first posting in Hong Kong, I came to realise that there are thousands, if not millions, more women who have chosen the heroic path of leaving their home countries to work overseas. While working overseas helps their families economically, studies have shown that such migration of women has its social cost, especially for children who are left behind by their mothers. I was proud to know that many Filipino women have helped many children and families in Hong Kong. At the same time, I was also aware that some Indonesian women were in the same situation. Filipinos and Indonesians comprise the biggest population of domestic workers in Hong Kong.
I don’t have the exact facts or data to support my point at this time, but from what I read, one of the problems in terms of their welfare is the absence of definite programmes that allow migrant women workers to reintegrate to their home countries once they have finished their contract overseas, and we are only looking at the working women. If we look closely to the ones who are in the margins, women who did not have the chance to go to school or who have been victims of abuses, we know for a fact that there are even fewer opportunities for them. I think the real challenge lies in sustainability and how they will be able to work with dignity using their skills and talents, given the limited conditions they have.
Now if we relate the above to the programs of AWC, in our modest way, we try our best to get involved and support projects here in Indonesia that are geared towards women welfare initiatives.
For example, on a personal basis, I support a group of women weavers in the province of Bukidnon in the Philippines. It all started when I saw a very lovely artisan mat in one of the museums in our country. I traced and wrote the story of the mats and sent it for publication to one of our leading weekend magazines. That paved the way for the women weavers and their craft to be recognised and be invited to various trade fairs, create more hand-woven mats and helped in their livelihood. That is to say, a small act can help and it would be wonderful if we women could consciously find ways and means to support the undertakings of our fellow women.
Tell us about AWC’s campaigns.
The annual bazaar has become a beautiful part of the AWC tradition. We also have the food festival and other similar activities. The rationale behind such programmes is primarily to raise funds for AWC’s beneficiaries and to serve as an engagement activity between AWC and its stakeholders, such as vendors, participating ASEAN Member States and its Dialogue Partners, the general public or customers who come to the bazaar, and the beneficiaries of the funds raised from such events. In a more meaningful way we help our vendors in participating countries to promote their products and services.
Choosing a beneficiary is also a meticulous process. We carefully choose organisations and foundations that we believe need help. We first do some research about their projects or foundations, visit their actual sites and evaluate their needs. For example, in the past year AWC supported a newly formed organisation for victims of human trafficking, a floating hospital in Indonesia, and we also helped build a school in Flores.
Our AWC President, Sari Percaya, along with AWC officers Madam Kayo Suzuki Tan and Mita Mochtan travelled all the way to Flores to bring AWC’s donation and visit the children. Quite recently we supported a boarding school for marginalised children by donating carpets and laptops. Last month, I was in Manila to turn over AWC’s donation to the victims of the Mayon Volcano eruption and for the rehabilitation of Marawi. Through Caritas Manila, AWC donated goods and funds for these causes. I’m sure AWC has done a lot more in the past.
What’s ahead for AWC?
I recall that in one of our meetings, our President, Sari Percaya, specifically mentioned that for her term, our focus would be on women and children, specifically children’s health and education. As of now, if we look around us on the streets on a typical day, I’d like to think that there’s much more to be done to address these social realities. Why do we still see very young children and women selling tissue paper or roses or singing songs in traffic jams? Why do we still see couples or families in pushcarts collecting garbage from the streets? It is still happening because not every child has the opportunity to go to school. Not every woman had the chance to go to school nor had the opportunity to use her skills and talents to earn a decent living because foremost she has to assume that role of child bearing and raising a family.
We in AWC are aware of such realities. In our own modest way, we think of ways to help organisations and foundations geared towards women empowerment and children education. If we talk about equality and empowerment in absolute terms, we are not yet there. A lot of work has yet to be done. But I think what is quite comforting is the thought that there are many organisations here in Indonesia, like AWC, whose mission and vision are focused towards uplifting the welfare of women and children.
This article is originally from paper. Read NOW!Jakarta Magazine March 2018 issue “Design for Living”. Available at selected bookstore or SUBSCRIBE here.