“Being the first woman Mayor is indeed a great challenge. I have to prove not only to myself but also to the public, because if I am not perceived as a good leader, the general public would not be able to repose their faith in a woman who seeks political office. I have to work hard to demonstrate that a woman can work better and smarter.” - Sylviana Murni
iKNOW Politics: Ms. Sylviana Murni, you are the first woman mayor leading the biggest and the busiest city in Indonesia. Central Jakarta is a city of more than 990,000 people and where all businesses and government activities heavily centralized in this city. What challenges have you faced as a woman in these leadership positions and how did your past experience prepare you to meet these challenges?
I have been committed to working hard and doing my best. I am fully aware that I entered a male-dominated world when I decided to be the Mayor of Central Jakarta. Therefore, I dedicated myself to working harder, some may say, even twice as hard as men. As the Mayor of Central Jakarta my professional and political track record shows that I have been an ‘A’ grade Mayor. I say so with great believe that citizens of Central Jakarta would very much want to see a woman do the job better than a man. I consider a failure of my performance to reflect badly on all women in politics and therefore have taken the job of Mayor very seriously. A minor error on my part may destroy people’s faith in a woman’s capacity to lead and may not support women in politics.
I heavily rely on the 2R’s, Regulation and Religion. Regulation is basically my knowledge regarding any subject matter, which would help me plan and strategize all that I need to accomplish, and religion to keep myself in spiritual balance and in finding peace. As you know, in politics as in other kinds of work, tensions and pressures could easily distress one. I am not that kind of leader who would easily give up on a mission that I undertake. I earned all my degrees with hard work and as you might also know, I have been awarded as the youngest woman Mayor who is also a Professor in the University.
iKNOW Politics: What first inspired or motivated you to go for Mayor of Central Jakarta?
I should say, I am lucky to have many opportunities that came in my life, although I never planned for them. All I did was just hard work, smart work, work with dedication, and work done perfectly. Even when I was encouraged to run for the position of the Mayor of Central Jakarta, which initially I didn’t intend to, but when I decided to campaign for the position, I jumped with both feet in and was committed to it. From my first day of work, I have dedicated myself to serve the public. I have been fully supported by my family. My husband is my great inspiration. He not only encouraged me to take every step I needed to earn my educational degrees, but he also challenged me to strive for higher and higher achievement in my life. My son and my daughter were always there to give their support along the way. When I was finishing my dissertation for my PhD, they both never stopped asking me if I needed any help with references or research that they could help with. I really have to say that my family is indeed my great motivator.
iKNOW Politics: What did you do to manage yourself to this position? What advice would you have for other women who want to have position that you have?
First perhaps the most reasonable thing to do is to know the law/legal aspect in any field you want to enter. That is probably why I went to law school. We have to be fully equipped with the knowledge of the laws to deal with matters that might come up.
iKNOW Politics: In Indonesia, I believe that for most women, they were not encouraged to go far beyond their families. What stereotypes did you have to overcome in this non-traditional role for women and what message do you think your success sends to other women?
I have to consider myself as a moderate woman. I value my family very high and at the same time, I want to do my work perfectly. At home, I am a wife, who still likes to perform the traditional roles, such as to prepare dinner for my family, etc. I still do that, although sometimes it’s not easy. My family is very understanding and helpful. You might find it almost impossible to believe, but I would welcome you to see my daily life at home and my relationship with my husband and children.
Since my youth I have been engaged in activities in the community. I have been involved with many organizations, working with different type of activities. I sleep only 4 hours a day and tend to work simultaneously and efficiently from one thing to another thing to be done. But the key is, you have to very tolerant and understanding in this traditional role of women. However, when you get higher, you should be very sensitive to your spouse and children. Women indeed play a difficult role, but once you understand and got all your family members to understand, everything would be easier to do.
iKNOW Politics: What would you perceive as your greatest accomplishment during your time in government, particularly when it comes to women or young women?
I think my greatest accomplishment is doing my work on women’s interests such as education issues, improving health services and people’s welfare. As you might see, I created my own blog on how I do my work, I open to anyone who would send their ideas, inputs or even critics. You can easily contact me and share your concerns or even to report on any issues around the city. I have my own Facebook with people could connect with me easily. I realize that I should use the technology to be with the people. I care deeply and put my great attention to the issue of cleanliness, environment, and health. I have succeeded in motivating women communities to work with their own neighbourhood.
I want to add more that women should have public communication formally and informally. What I mean is that women have to build their image and keep it positively from time to time. Let others know what you think, be tolerant to all parties to work for themselves, and of course, visit and meet more people within your city. I have my own Facebook to communicate my works and people can be easily contacting me through my cellphone or Facebook. (This was confirmed as even iKNOW Politics wrote on her Facebook and got her response immediately).
iKNOW Politics: How do you see ways that women can work with men in order to encourage more women to be more effective in political position?
I have always worked reasonably well with men even in a competitive way in doing things. As I said before, it is very important for us to work smart. I would go a bit more effort to show people that I am capable and have all the capacities needed. I went to gain my Master degree, my PhD and even recently I was inaugurated as a Professor from the university where I dedicate my time also by giving lectures to all the students. So, beside my work as Mayor of Central Jakarta, I always spare time to share knowledge with young people and their fresh minds.
iKNOW Politics: If you had to give one piece of advice to a young woman who is looking forward to reach your path holding public position and doesn’t necessarily know how to proceed, what would the advice be?
Be smart, be confident, be sincere, let alone knowing yourself as a woman, you have the power to make changes in this life. And as you are a woman, please be sure to be sensitive to others such as your husband and your family, as they are your first and top level of support.