Naturally, nearly half the population of Indonesia is female, yet just 2% of women are in business or are professionals. Inspired by that fact, Kasandra Putranto and a group of leading women activists decided to do something about the problem.
The Association of Businesswomen and Professionals, known as the HP3I forum, helps empower women to take a more active role in the economy.
“Since HP3I’s establishment in 2008, we have been strengthening the organization, getting more members and recruiting more experts,” Kasandra Putranto told GlobeAsia at her home in South Jakarta.
“This year, we are empowering those who are less privileged by providing training, capacity building, access and networking. In short it’s sisterhood. But of course we need real programs and this was why we want to involve banks and universities,” Kasandra said.
Inaugurated as the new chair of HP3I on August 15, she believes the organization should tap into the potential of women especially in the rural parts of Indonesia.
The organization’s 2011-2014 program includes a roadshow to 10 cities throughout Indonesia this year, extending to all 33 provinces by the end of 2012 and holding exhibitions abroad in 2013.
In August 2010 HP3I launched a roadshow themed “10,000 Dynamic Indonesia Women Entrepreneurs & Professionals” aimed at encouraging women to get more active in the economy.
“Cooperating with banks and universities should produce women entrepreneurs whose small- and mid-scale industries and products can later be export-oriented,” Kasandra said.
Exposure to higher education and upper-level careers can help inspire and encourage women to recognize their potential.
Working with universities is a must, she noted, since they are the key to useful research on issues such as regional potential. The association also works closely with the media, regional governments and Indonesian embassies overseas.
Kasandra highlights that while the emergence of successful female entrepreneurs over the past decade shows the potential for women’s contributions to the economy, there is not “yet a forum that will turn the tremendous potential into real strength.”
She adds that “we need to maximize this and HP3I is promoting this awareness to all women on a national scale.”
Kasandra and the other women behind HP3I see incredible potential for Indonesian women to not only improve their own situation and that of their families, but the overall economy as well.
“The organization is meant to encourage women to play a larger role in the economy and build the spirit of entrepreneurship among women, especially in the regions,” Kasandra told GlobeAsia.
Kasandra, born on February 17, 1968, cites her background in psychology as her inspiration to become a women’s empowerment activist. Since graduating from the University of Indonesia, Kasandra has been practicing psychology for 20 years.
She runs Kasandra Putranto and Associates, which offers psychological counseling for individuals as well as corporate consultancy for recruitment, selection and training. She also chairs the Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Clinical Psychology Association.
At times, she can be called to lend her expertise in forensic psychology as an expert witness in court, including terrorism cases such as in the recent ‘book bomber’ trial.
But it was her experience in child psychology and handling dysfunctional families that truly motivated her as an activist. She saw too many individuals suffering, too many families and children being hurt.
She saw many powerless mothers who needed help uncovering their own potential to earn an income and help promote the welfare of their families.
“The family is like a human being factory… How to do we produce quality human beings? Mothers must become great mothers to produce great children.
We want to educate women, and to exert their potential to become great…income is the key,” said Kasandra, a mother of three.
The former Miss Jakarta discussed gender issues in the Indonesian working environment, stating that although men and women are born differently, it is not a competition. Instead the roles are complimentary.
“HP3I was established on Kartini Day on April 21, 2008. This symbolizes women’s emancipation. We don’t stand higher or taller but we stand on equality,” she said.
Kasandra, who also lectures at the London School of Public Relations and at the STIKOM institute for higher learning, believes that women can show that leadership does not always have to be authoritarian and appear at the front of the crowd, a dominant figure. Instead, it can be about acting as a team and leading through strength and support.
“It’s about setting a good example. If we have an idea, we should let others work on that idea. The leader advises, protects his or her subordinates, builds teamwork. We need to have a clear vision. Management is to let others do the job for us. That’s how women recognize their own potential.”
Kasandra does not lack supporters, citing an impressive list of leading women activists in her camp including Cynthia Limanouw of the Marketing Association, Liana Trisnawati, Lury Alex Nurdin, Feni Soemitra, Fahira Fahmi Idris and Aviliani, the economist, who is an adviser to HP3I.
Asked who has inspired her most in life, Kasandra nominates her father, a former banker for Bank Rakyat Indonesia, who educated her to be democratic and critical. Her mother, she recalls, taught her to be very disciplined. “Then of course my own family, my children and my husband,” she adds.
Kasandra has written two books, Pendekatan Cognitive Behavior Dalam Psikoterapi (Cognitive Behavior Approach in Psychotherapy) and Metamorfosis (Metamorphosis). The latter, a bestseller, proclaims that all problems in life can be solved if a person can dramatically change his or her life, like the metamorphosis of cocoon to butterfly.
Kasandra also initiated an organization focusing on the development and care of special needs children, Kelompok Peduli Penangan Kebutuhan Khusus. In Indonesia, 70% of special needs children never have the opportunity to attend school, let alone receive a specialized education.
The program aims to provide opportunities for special needs children to become more self-reliant and to lead more independent lives in the future.
While Women’s Empowerment Minister Linda Agum Gumelar supports the program, Kasandra states, she is unsure of how it can be funded. But, she insists: “Who knows, but it will come.”
With Kasandra leading the way, the organization could well get the attention and funding it needs to make a difference for special needs children in Indonesia.
As for the lack of women professionals in the country, Kasandra’s extensive experience and passion for improvement will over time help raise awareness – and hopefully the incomes of women across Indonesia. GA