Jobs have no gender. A project in Indonesia opens livelihood opportunities for women and encourages their participation in community development.

Five women from the village of Katerban in the district of Purworejo in Central Java province, Jemiyan, Sumarsih, Siswati, Sarmiyati, and Saniken, are construction workers who earn between 32,500 to 35,000 Indonesian rupiahs (about $3.50 to $4.00) per day. They are building sanitation facilities under an ADB-funded project that supports Indonesia's national program for community empowerment.

The Urban Sanitation and Rural Infrastructure Support to PNPM Mandiri Project covers about 600 rural communities, and 1,439 poor urban neighborhoods in 34 cities.

In Katerban, the women are employed by a community implementing organization (CIO), where 40% or five of the elected members are female. These construction workers use their earnings to cover school expenses and food.

“We earn more as construction workers than as contract farm workers. In that job we got approximately Rp20,000 (about $2.20) a day,” said one of the women. “It is good to be able to get off-season work.”

The women mostly lifted and carried materials from one spot to another. “I can use the machines (such as the cement mixer) but they (the male workers) won’t let me try,” one of them said. The segregation of jobs by gender still persists in Indonesia, as they do elsewhere.

By the end of 2014, the project created more than 125,900 person-months of job opportunities to construct sanitation facilities in 1,439 urban neighborhoods. About 25,180 person-months of these went to women. Average income was Rp60,000 per day, but the women’s pay was lower at about Rp45,000. More complicated construction jobs with more pay were given to men.

In rural areas, the project created about 90,000 person-months of construction work. About 21,600 person-months or 24%were allocated to women. The women earned between Rp45,000 to Rp90,000 a day.

Overall, until 31 December 2014, about 215,900 person-months of temporary job opportunities were created. Some 46,780 person-months or 22% went to women.

“I have been working for 2 days on this construction site. We installed the rocks along this new road location. We work in groups. The CIO head informed us about this job opportunity, and we are very happy to be able to work, as we can get additional income for the family. I’m planning to use the money to buy food and other daily needs, such as cooking oil, sugar, etc., especially nowadays everything is expensive,” said Ibu Sri of Sribusono village.

“The working hours in the construction site are longer than in the rice fields. However, I’m happy as the pay is higher, and the work is easy,” she said. “The CIO men also taught us how to work properly. I’m also happy that I can do something different, so that I can have different experiences.”

Toilets and water improve time poverty and women’s sense of security

The project built sanitation and washing facilities in some 1,430 urban neighborhoods leading to valuable time savings. Female residents said they and their children now save more than 1 to 2 hours a day from not having to go back and forth to the river.

Building toilets closer to homes also provided women with a sense of security. They no longer need to be accompanied by the men to the river or fields, especially at night. Children were also able to go to the toilet by themselves, and their parents worried less about their safety.

The provision of water supply and sanitation, coupled with health and hygiene awareness training by the project’s community facilitators, helped cut time spent collecting water by as much as 50%, and reduced the incidence of waterborne diseases by 8%. These facilities have helped ease the domestic burden of women, who are largely responsible for water collection and caring of the sick. The time they save could be used for other productive activities.

Community empowerment with a special focus on women

The project used a community-driven development approach. It also involved women in all project activities. Related advocacy and training programs institutionalized proper hygiene and health practices through the CIOs and community facilitators. As of 31 December 2014, there were 818 female facilitators, representing 31% of the total and higher than the 30% target under the project’s gender action plan (GAP).

Specific targets were set to encourage female participation: at least 40% participants in consultation and socialization forums and activities, and at least 40% of the elected members of each CIO. The participation of women in all consultation activities to improve access to sanitation facilities (the planning and decision making stages) ranged from 46% to 64%, which was well above the target of 40%.

Project officer Siti Hasanah at ADB’s Indonesian Resident Mission said, “Overall, the participation of women in planning and decision making is encouraging. In most villages and urban neighborhoods, women were actively involved in all stages of the project. About half of the participants in planning and decision-making meetings are women. Women’s membership at CIOs was at 43% (6,740 of the total) and 42% of Kelompok Pengguna Dan Pemelihara or KPPs (4,700 of the total), exceeding the target of 40%.” The KPP is the group responsible for the operation and maintenance of community infrastructure.

Gaining voice and confidence to shape opinion

One of the main challenges in involving women in decision-making is making their voices count.It is one matter to get women to attend meetings; it is quite another to get them to speak and shape opinion.

The community facilitators played a significant role in improving the quality of women’s influence in decision-making. Their roles were clearly described in their terms of reference and included socialization activities to build women’s confidence to speak at meetings. This clearly paid off. Separate meetings for women were organized giving them the space and voice to decide how funds from block grants were to be spent and on which basic infrastructure. Women indicated that training activities increased their confidence and ability to express their views without fear. The gender audit under the GAP revealed that about 10% of women participating in planning claimed not only to be actively involved but also to lead discussions in meetings. About 67% said they actively provided inputs at meetings, while 23% attended the meetings and adopted a more passive approach.

Women were also responsible for the overseeing of Operations and Maintenance (O&M) arrangements. In about 11,200 village and urban neighborhoods covered by the project, some 42% or about 4,700 of residents elected as members of KPPs were women. Their involvement in KPPs improved the implementation of O&M, especially in financial tracking and accountability.

Access to markets, schools, and hospitals

The rural roads and transport facilities built under the project gave residents in 600 villages easy access to nearby markets where they could sell their farm produce. The improved transport facilities reduced transport costs by as much as 50%. The project’s impact report showed that visits to health clinics and hospitals increased, and pre-natal checkups went up by 15%. The improved facilities led to higher school attendance and a 9% decrease in dropout rates.

It is now also faster to travel to and from these villages, resulting in time savings for residents. In Rejowinagun Utara village in Central Java’s Magelang City, the women have developed the outline of a project that they are working on to grow organic vegetables as an alternative livelihood. They said the organic farming project was made possible by the ADB-funded project because now they have the time to pursue it.