UN Women and Isabelle's future
Isabelle Peart is more than half-way through a six-year double degree in economics and law. She hopes to pursue a career in international law when she graduates. Isabelle talks about her experience as an intern at the United Nations Women Asia and the Pacific, and life as an exchange student in Indonesia.
I’m currently finishing off a semester-long exchange at Universitas Indonesia studying four economics courses including Islamic Economics and Finance, and the Indonesian Economy. In March, I also started a four-month internship at UN Women.
During the internship, I worked on the Gender Justice Program, which was preparing for its one-year inception phase, as part of the Women, Peace and Security team.
The Program acknowledges that conflict affects women differently to men.
It seeks to improve access to justice and support services for women who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence; reform education around women’s rights; and, rehabilitation, for offenders of sexual and gender-based violence.
According to the UN Population Fund, one-third of women in Indonesia aged between 15 and 64 have experienced sexual or physical violence, making this a systemic and pervasive problem.
My role included drafting donor reports, and summarising research papers and UN documents.
I also attended conferences and meetings to learn more about how UN Women functions as an organisation. One meeting that really stands out for me was a staff meeting led by the newly appointed regional director of UN Women for Asia and the Pacific, Mohammad Naciri.
The meeting was about the direction of UN Women in the Arab states and Asia Pacific over the next few years, which was both insightful and exciting to learn about.
Through this, I learnt that Southeast Asia has generally made significant progress in setting out legal infrastructure designed to protect women facing violence. However, a range of practical barriers remain, barring women from accessing justice. For example, social stigma surrounding making a complaint, gender-biased police procedures and legal costs all deter aggrieved women from pursuing legal action.
As less than five per cent of police officers in Indonesia are women, when it comes to conflict prevention measures, men have been the ones making the decisions.
After my experience here in Indonesia and with UN Women, I want to get involved in research into gender violence back in Australia. During UQ’s July semester break I’ll start pro bono research for the Women’s Legal Service Qld.
I received a New Colombo Plan mobility grant to do this exchange and internship.
To go on exchange to Indonesia for one semester, I had to resign from my part-time job as a receptionist at an audiology clinic. The NCP funding provided me with security to follow my passion for women’s rights as well as financial peace of mind.
The UQ exchange program provided me with an entirely different perspective about different cultures and societies. As one of Australia’s closest and fastest growing neighbours, I would highly recommend Indonesia as an exchange destination.
UQ’s Chief Representative for Indonesia, Sovi Arinta, was incredibly generous and invited me to celebrate Eid al-Fitr – the festival of breaking the fast. It was the first time I observed the holiday, and it was so lovely to share that meal with Sovi’s family, especially when mine was so far away.
Apart from studying in Indonesia and working at the UN, another first for me was riding on the back of a motorbike.
Since traffic is so bad in Jakarta, the only practical way to get around the city is by ordering a motorbike driver. I had never been on a motorbike before coming to Jakarta, but was soon catching more than two every day.
When Jakarta was congested, riding on a bike was an awful series of near-misses and my trips could take up to an hour. However, during holiday periods, the traffic cleared and catching a bike was like living in a video game and was one of the most strangely magical experiences of my life.
Read more Small Change stories to see what goes on behind the scenes at UQ.