Finance Minister Sri Mulyani calls out officials for sexist joke and male-centric mindset

Indonesia’s Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani Indrawati at Istana Negara (Presidential Palace) Jakarta, Tuesday, December 11, 2018. Photo: Facebook/Sri Mulyani Indrawati
Indonesia’s Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani Indrawati at Istana Negara (Presidential Palace) Jakarta, Tuesday, December 11, 2018. Photo: Facebook/Sri Mulyani Indrawati

As Indonesia’s current Minister of Finance and a former managing director at the World Bank, Sri Mulyani is no doubt one of the most powerful women in Indonesia (she was even ranked the 37th most powerful women in the world by Forbes in 2016). Despite that, she still works with men who have the balls to make sexist jokes right in front of her at official events — though perhaps not anymore after the dressing down she gave to two officials recently.

While attending a launch event about the digitalization of Ultra Micro (UMi) financing at the Ministry of Finance office on Tuesday, Sri Mulyani called out two of the presenters for their male-centric mindsets.

First, she scolded Director General of Treasury Marwanto Harjowiryono for showing a video about microcredit featuring actors who were almost all men.

“Pak Marwanto, I regret that the first video about ultra micro financing was dominated by male actors — it’s totally wrong. In reality, micro business/enterprises have been dominated by women. Please correct your mindset, that video is very male-minded (androcentric),” Sri Mulyani said to Marwanto, as quoted by Kompas.com

She later joked that, in addition to the video, she realized that’s the event had also been dominated by male participants.

The other target of Sri Mulyani’s criticism was the director of the Telecommunication Accessibility and Information Agency at the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology, Anang Latif, who made an unfortunate joke at the expense of women before her speech.

Anang had said that male staffers who frequently go on official visits out of town need to be careful because their wives might remarry, since they’re always left alone.

“I would like to correct Anang Latif’s joke, ‘I always tell [male government officials] not to work too often because their partners could [remarry].’ It’s a very sexist joke, I ask all of you not to repeat that joke again. I am asking this on behalf of women, to maintain our dignity that we not to be treated merely as objects,” Sri Mulyani said.

After getting the warning from the former World Bank managing director, Anang responded by holding his palms together, as if in apology, and promised not to repeat the joke again.

Some of the guests clapped their hands after the finance minister’s speech, while others seemed to laugh due to the rather awkward turn of events. Sri Mulyani continued her speech by telling the audience about the power of women in local business.

She mentioned that 90 percent of Ultra Micro financing involved women, who use the program to increase their household income. 

 

“I talked to Bukalapak, Go-Pay, and Tokopedia, merchants (micro business) that are 90% dominated by women. Thank you so much for helping a lot of women be able to work,” Sri Mulyani said, a statement that was greeted by thunderous applause from the invitees.

Sri Mulyani is certainly not someone who shies away from calling out other officials. A day before the aforementioned event, she called out a district head who had spent too much of his budget — by visiting her office 46 times in the past year. 

Last year, she called out Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan for enacting too many regional programs — his administration had initiated 207 programs consisting of 6,287 services. Sri Mulyani told Anies to focus on flagship programs instead, so her ministry could track them easier.

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