ONE of determining factors to realise gender equality in local governance is the enabling environment that allows women to take leadership positions and implement her vision and mission afterwards. Singkawang, a city in West Kalimantan province of Indonesia, has applied this principle and is currently on the way to reap the fruits.

Respecting Plurality – City’s Enabling Environment
Singkawang is a city located in West Kalimantan Province of Indonesia. Its local inhabitants are made up of various ethnicities; among many are Hakka, Malays, Dayak, Tio Ciu, Javanese, and others migrating to the area. Highly aware of this plurality, local people of Singkawang have long developed tolerance and respect towards differences among them. An Indonesian research institute, SETARA, has even awarded this city ‘the most tolerant’ among other 93 cities, as it earns the highest score in the research (6.513). This respect has positively resulted in the election of woman candidate to become their current mayor. Tjhai Chui Mei, a Chinese-Indonesian descendant, was smoothly inaugurated as Mayor of Singkawang in 2017. After formally taking office, Mayor Tjhai Chui Mei has embraced and involved various stakeholders (local people up to regional owned enterprises) to join hands and realise two priorities to develop Singkawang’s local economy, namely developing tourism through renovation of iconic city park and establishment of airport.

Towards Reaping the Fruits
In sustaining the tolerance and developing local economy, Mayor Tjhai Chui Mei has put renovation of city’s park as priority. Aiming to develop Singkawang’s tourism by making this park an iconic symbol and thus must- visit destination for tourists, Mayor Tjhai has founded Singkawang Cultural Centre to foster and promote art and culture in Singkawang. Particularly in this park renovation effort, effort was made to identify potential funding sources so that the renovation does not utilise local fund. This effort also incorporates involvement of local people in the process.

Furthermore, the establishment of city’s airport has received positive response and support from various stakeholders. This airport development has been considered as strategic step. By opening direct access to Singkawang city, the city government is providing more opportunities for the city to grow, develop, and connect with other areas in Indonesia.

National level government of Indonesia, represented by Ministry of Transport, has expressed their support in a ceremony to formally announce the plan, in early February 2019. Minister of Transport, Budi Karya Sumadi, stated that this airport establishment plan aligned with national government plan to connect areas within the country’s archipelagos. Showing the same level of support was the Minister of Law and Human Rights, Member of Representatives, Vice Governor of West Kalimantan, and private companies attending the ceremony. Former Mayor of Singkawang, Awang Ishak, also showed support in separate occasion saying that the airport would be able to improve city’s local economy; and, to be able to do that, continuous support to this initiative regardless of different leadership was essential.

Mayor Tjhai Chui Mei, a former Head of Singkawang Regional People’s Representative, said developing a city should start from developing its local people, preserving its culture and unique architecture. Clearly, Singkawang has the solid foundation. With the implementation of current vision and mission, people of Singkawang are now expecting better future of our city.