FACT-FINDING ANALYSIS ON FIRST TRIP … VISITING INDONESIA”
Posted by Vinanti Sarkar Castellarin on July 7, 2013 at 7:14
FACT-FINDING ANALYSIS ON FIRST VISIT IN INDONESIA
Interviewed Sharon Mather, Pacific Co-Founder & VOICES OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE’s Country Representative in Australia & New Zealand
VOLUNTEERED & DEVELOPED CREATING FIRST PROJECT IN
INDONESIA FOR MUSLIM WOMEN & YOUNG GIRLS
It began with a restless desire to travel “overseas,” after three years of photographing Australia’s beaches and having traveled home to South Africa two years earlier. There was this idea of creating “cultural humanitarian projects between Australia and New Zealand with a focus on East Java.” The aim was to research and develop “the reduction of visual poverty amongst the majority of women” which needed immediate attention, after almost a year of Internet “chats” with Lecturer Sofia Giranda at the Jember University who is the VOICES OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE’s Country Representative in Indonesia.
“So here we were on our first few days in Bali with our hostess”
Almost immediately, we began to discuss “how do we bring gender equality and female empowerment into our communities during this travel itinerary ? Within the next 10-days of intense socializing, I witnessed first-hand how Muslim women in Indonesia, come together bonding as one strong support team, socially and economically self-reliant on each other, in an effort to safeguard their daily survival, while protect each other and their families .
What I found uniquely remarkable was they held monthly meetings, (which I attended during my home stay). It was initiated by a prayer and song, and opened with positive discussions on half a dozen women and their children seated on the floor. What fascinated me was this monetary donations into a pool of funds, money placed together into a” kitty for emergencies”, whether for sudden hardships or a death in the family, showing the determined spirit and willingness of these women facing all types of shared obstacles in the daily lives. Many of them were single mothers with small children, and they sat together in oneness … vigilant to their personal emergency needs … like a unified group. I found these women bonding together sharing a deep inner motivating strength, while feeling productive in their individual burdens, against any kind of hardships they may be confronting, without the need of outside intervention.
As I sat with them, I observed their young faces and soft voices during discussions in their native language which was being translated by Sofia, and I was surprised at their openness as they freely discussed personal family values. There was something very inspiring in their manner, and I suddenly became conscious of starting my own cultural learning experience as a woman from Australia. The Muslim women seated before me were the majority found in the Indonesian islands’ small towns and villages struggling to survive with what little they earned with no bank accounts or “no micro-loans and foundation grants” to assist them.
They sat before me as proud human beings, each with her own secret to success and in complete “reliability and trust in each other, filled with a sense of kindness and respect as they guided and assisted each other.” They were completely aware of this united kind of managing to sustain themselves with the basics, while in control of their minimal productive existence in the upkeep of their families, especially in cases of their personal welfare, health and education of their children.
Further research showed that these women’s issues are crucial for considering future funding opportunities, if VOWW is to see fully participation in understanding the welfare of the women in Indonesia, especially in helping them to reach their full potential in promoting gender equality and female empowerment. In this case alone, there is a need for more effective poverty reduction, social interventions and financial support which is needed, in all areas, to increase productivity for women and young girls.
There is, I discovered, the development of an infrastructure, damaged by local institutions, that places more focus on the dire poverty needs of the rural areas only. Therefore, from my point of view, not enough small loan funding nor micro grants go into the urban masses of middle stream Indonesian families, as government focus remains fixed on the rural development.
Mostly everywhere I traveled in Africa, Australia and New Zealand, I witnessed first hand, the simple issues (taken for granted by women in developed/ developing countries) such as sanitation, water use issues, the need for clean drinking water, etc. There is a desperate need for access to fund and set up communal clean kitchens, solar power in homes, outhouse toilets, etc., which require those micro-loans and grants. All these issues can be easily rectified with conversational home education to bring changes into the women’s simple life-styles. For example, healthy food habits, hygienic forms of cleanliness, exchanging ideas on diets and social habits which would benefit women and young girls. Conversational discussions on how they can develop new healthy ways of feeding and caring for their babies and children, and sharing changes in other daily priorities affecting their own health.
This was my first trip to Indonesia, and I strongly felt that the majority of the population is struggling to survive and seems to have been sadly bypassed – understandable effort – to eradicate extreme poverty on the lower sections of society.
Somehow, I felt this visit became a “starting point” to begin creating and re-vitalizing opportunities, especially with the focus on women, young girls and children. A trip to Bali and other smaller villages, I found the work of handicrafts, artifacts, pearls from the ocean, etc. would also involve re-training lessons in basic English, basic computer literacy classes, teaching basic domestic and social science skills, etc., to promote more productive self reliance and employment skills, which is crucial.
What I discovered was “Indonesia is a proud nation of women and young girls”. They need simple guidelines and training with small-business employment opportunities to develop towards more sustainable levels of existence, which can bring immediate positive results and effect on the rest of the mass communities.
As a volunteer worker, and Co-Founder in the Pacific for VOICES OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE (VOWW), this trip has been an eye-opening pleasure chest. For me to have actually lived amongst these women in their homes and been able to capture their unique spirit of survival, was a unique experience. This fact-finding mission enabled me to start further research to develop the different kinds of funding needed for the next trip, having used my own personal funds to travel and live among the Muslim and some Hindu Indonesian women, young girls and their children. It is important to understand – there is no need for 5-star hotels and expensive daily per diems … What we as women want … is to work within small budgets. Keep costs to a limit, while projecting one-on-one discussions with the women we visit and to discover what is really required to make a significant dent in gender equality, as an model example for women around the world.
As my departure to Australia draws close, I leave the country with love and admiration for those women I befriended, showing me their incredible inner strengthen of survival, willing to collaborate and working together to form strong teams of female empowerment, supporting and uniting each other to form strong voices as part of a chain … a collective circle …
To all the ladies I met, I share my impressions of your proud, dignified life-styles which has left me with a deep sense of understanding and admiration – which has deeply affect my own life. I will return, and together we will find ways to share how we can help each other in assisting to gain more fairness of our human rights and gender equality. Please note, we women and young girls around the world are all facing the same struggles, but on different social and economical levels.
“Finally, I thank my fellow VOWW Country Representative friend in Indonesia, Ms Sofia Giranda, who opened up her home, as our gracious hostess, from the day she took the 5-hours journey by bus to the airport, welcoming us into her country. Always standing by the English translator, it will be difficult to forget those first few days of enchanting sightseeing in Bali, and riding behind her motor-scooter, while she served authentic Indonesian delicacies and meals in her home”.
“It was indeed an amazing display of true humility and compassion shared as part of us being women, even though I was so sick, struck down by dysentery in the hot and rainy weather in April. Sofia’s life – a mother of two proud sons – showed me the true meaning of “living above all the natural struggles of daily survival” … uniting the symbol of womanhood worldwide …where the mother sacrifices selflessly for the love of children and family.”
“How can I ever thank you Sofia for your kindness, and the lovely string of fresh pearls you gave on our departure. I hold deep respect for your kind hospitality and friendship…”
Sharon Mather, Writer/Photographer, New Zealand/Australia/South Africa Email:firstname.lastname@example.org,
Tags: #Education, #Environment, #Health, #Impact Investment, #Inclusive Business, #Leadership, #Partnerships, #Social Enterprise, #Women, Australia, More…Indonesia, New, SharonMather, Sofia-Giranda, SouthAfrica, VOWW, Voices, Zealand, fact-finding, photographer, women, writer