women's empowerment in IndonesiaLocated in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, with an estimated population of 261.1 million, has experienced rapid growth over the last 30 years, with a growth of GDP per capita from less than $1,000 in 1990 to approximately $2,000 in 2010.

However, Indonesian women remained only moderately engaged in the labor market. Economic independence is a major factor in women’s empowerment in Indonesia. According to records, the female labor force participation is only about 51 percent in 2016, with the female-male labor force ratio remaining at 0.6.

Although multiple local organizations have tried to combat poverty and raise the standards of women’s lives, because of the ingrained cultural violence and neglect of these issues by the government, women’s empowerment in Indonesia remains a humanitarian crisis.

As the fourth largest telecommunication country in the world, Indonesia attracted Adrianna Tan’s attention, inspiring her to create a mobile phone app to empower women in an overlooked demographic. Her app Wobe is designed to help low-income Indonesians, particularly women, start their own business.

In Indonesia, transactions are mostly cash-based and buying and selling prepaid mobile phone credit is common, but with so many middlemen raising prices, it is challenging to make a profit.

The Wobe app allows anyone with an Android phone to buy directly from the three major Indonesian carriers. The Wobe users can then use the same technology to start their own digital business specializing in selling phone airtime, electricity, electronic train tickets and water vouchers.

“Our success comes in the form of the number of jobs we are able to create for women and other underprivileged folks in our fold,” said Tan.

Women’s empowerment in Indonesia has improved because of the advancement of technology. With the help of technology, women can become entrepreneurs themselves, change their current situation of financial exclusion and have a better life.

– Jingting Han

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in IndonesiaAt the recent United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, also known as Habitat III, the Indonesian Minister of Housing and Public Works detailed his plans and hopes for eradicating poverty in Indonesia by 2045.

Minister Hadimulyono released a statement describing the Indonesian National Urban Policy and Strategy for 2045. He indicated that the eradication of poverty is inherently linked to sustainable urbanization and resistance to natural disasters. Hadimulyono also cited the positive impact that meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals would have on the Indonesian poverty rate – particularly those goals relating to education, healthcare, energy and sanitation.

Poverty in Indonesia has been dropping since 1999, and is at an all time low of 10.9 percent. The current plan for the reduction of poverty has been very successful already, but Minister Hadimulyono emphasizes that developing sustainable and smart cities will help to eradicate poverty by 2045. He also indicates that it is critical to “better integrate urban and territorial planning development,” and it follows that investing in smarter development is worthwhile.

There is one major obstacle facing Indonesia’s goal, and that is funding for social enterprises. While Indonesia has much foreign investment, social enterprises receive only a minuscule amount of the funding that technology and Internet companies do. Social enterprises received $43 million U.S. in 2016 – only 20 percent of the investments that are made in technology companies.

Indonesia has seen the kind of economic growth necessary to achieve these goals, but not enough investment goes toward social enterprises. According to the United Nations Development Programme, between $3 trillion and 4.5 $trillion U.S. is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in the developing world. These goals deal with issues like gender equality and healthcare, both of which would also contribute to reducing poverty rates in the country.

Ultimately, Indonesia has come a long way regarding its poverty rates, and its goals for the future are important for more than just the developing world. In many ways, Indonesia’s efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and eradicate poverty – even as a developing country – are superior to the efforts of some wealthier nations. Even with the need for increased funding, the Indonesian government has hopes of meeting their goals for poverty reduction and based on their efforts so far it does seem plausible.

Liyanga De Silva

Photo: Flickr

Why is Indonesia PoorIndonesia is the largest country in Southeast Asia, both in terms of population and economy. In the past decade, Indonesia’s economy has steadily grown, with overall poverty falling by 6 percent from 2007-2014. Despite this, however, Indonesia still has 105 million people living just above the national poverty line.

So, with a steady economic growth and a labour force of 126 million people in 2016, why is Indonesia poor?

Firstly, in terms of geography, Indonesia is vulnerable to a wide variety of natural disasters, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. In 2004, a deadly magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck in the Indian Ocean near Indonesia, claiming 230,000 lives and displacing tens of thousands more. Communities such as Banda Aceh also suffered massive, long-term environmental and infrastructural damage, leading to a widespread emergency situation in the region. In asking the question “why is Indonesia poor?”, events like this may serve as one of the most directly contributing factors.

Additionally, when one asks “why is Indonesia poor?”, one must consider demographic shifts. Indonesia currently faces a population of nearly 50 million living without electricity, equal to approximately 20 percent of the national population. While 94 percent of the urban population has access to electricity, only 66 percent of rural populations do.

Furthermore, the employment growth has fallen behind the population growth rate, leaving many young, able-bodied workers without jobs. With approximately 1.7 million people entering the labor force each year, Indonesia’s job market must continue growing in order to meet this demand.

Finally, in Indonesia today, 33 million people lack access to safe water, and 100 million people lack access to improved sanitation. This allows for an easier dispersion of diseases such as cholera in the nation, as a result of unclean water sources.

Despite these facts regarding the recent and current trends in Indonesia’s poverty outlook, there is a high amount of optimism for the future. The country’s president, Joko Widodo, has announced a firm commitment to improving national infrastructure, and has approved $353 billion to fund infrastructure development until 2019. This plan includes the Kalimantan region, which has historically been overlooked in Indonesia’s development strategies.

Furthermore, the United Nations, World Bank, OECD, and International Monetary Fund have all forecast positive GDP growth rates in Indonesia since approximately 2014, likely as a direct result of rising fuel and mineral prices around the globe. The proper utilization of this positive forecast and optimistic outlook by the Widodo presidency, through the continued dedication to infrastructure improvement, can allow for Indonesia’s people to flourish for years to come.

Bradley Tait

Photo: Flickr

Indonesian Education System
In Indonesia, education is a privilege to which not all children have access. Based on a have-and-have-not system, the Indonesian education system is severely underfunded for those without financial security.

Children from financially stable families have a variety of schools to choose from, including both public and private. However, children from poorer families have few to no affordable options for education. Their available options only include public primary schools.

Because quality education is offered to such a small sector of the population, the knowledge gap is widening between the wealthy and the poor. Unfortunately, a large number of these uneducated Indonesians are students with disabilities.

Disabled students have an especially difficult time accessing education because the Indonesian government provides them two options for education: enrollment at special-needs schools, or schools with inclusive programs that are willing to accept students with disabilities. Both of these options are unlikely to provide a quality education to disabled students.

Special-needs schools do not teach curriculums that cater to students with various disabilities, so students with physical disabilities are taught the same curriculum as students with learning disabilities, even though they are capable of learning at the same pace as their able-bodied peers.

Similarly, not all schools are accepting of students with disabilities. Most of them lack the physical facilities necessary for these students, and many teachers have little to no experience working with disabled children.

Thus, it is important that decision-makers within the education system increase awareness in order to accept students with disabilities currently being denied an education by the majority of institutions throughout Indonesia.

Indonesians with disabilities who do not receive proper education experience unique problems throughout the entirety of their lives. According to a recent study at the University of Indonesia, nearly 70% of disabled children do not receive an education and the ones who do only have a 66.8% chance of finishing primary school.

This is reflected later in life as only 64.9% of people with disabilities have a chance of getting a job. The gap between people who can afford to receive a quality education and people with disabilities continues throughout these people’s lives as the educated obtain successful, well-paying jobs and people with disabilities do not.

Help for these people begins with raising awareness and normalizing students with disabilities in a typical Indonesian classroom setting. Inclusive education is making its way through the Indonesian education system as more and more schools are accepting and tolerant of these students.
By improving the availability of education to students, it becomes possible to obtain jobs later in life, regardless of disability status.

However, inclusive education is accessible to only a small portion of the disabled community, so it is important that lawmakers and teachers alike learn about various disabilities and provide effective education for each individual.

Because disabled students rarely interact with peers without disabilities in the classroom, the two groups become separated and remain so throughout their lives, including in the workplace. Many jobs are unavailable to people with disabilities because employers lack knowledge of disabilities and are unwilling to hire disabled individuals.

By allowing students with and without disabilities equal opportunities in the Indonesian education system, the workplace becomes much more abundant in job opportunities for Indonesians with disabilities. This is because people become more aware of disabilities and more accepting of them in the workforce.

Education conditions for Indonesians with disabilities continue to improve, but the opportunities remain slim. With significant effort, it is likely that disabled individuals will one day have access to the Indonesian education system leading to greater opportunities in the workplace.

Kassidy Tarala
Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Indonesia
Indonesia is considered a hotspot for various diseases, due to factors such as tropical climate, biodiversity and frequent interaction between humans and animals. The CIA World Factbook states that some of the most common diseases in Indonesia, with a “very high” degree of risk, are as follows:

Dengue fever
Dengue is a vector-borne disease transmitted through the bite of infected female mosquitoes, which can spread more quickly in an environment that lacks reliable sanitation or produces garbage regularly. A recent study reported in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases found that more than half of all children in Indonesia’s urban areas were infected with dengue by the age of five, and over 80% of them have been infected with the dengue virus at least once by age 10. Typically, the outbreak of the disease surges every three to four years, with the most recent surge having occurred at the beginning of 2016.

The Indonesian Ministry of Health reported that 71,668 cases of dengue fever were recorded in 2014, with 641 of these cases ending in death. Although the number of cases on the national level seems to be on the decline, the number has been increasing in several areas, including North Sumatra, Riau, West Kalimantan, North Kalimantan, North Sulawesi, Bali and Jakarta.

Another one of the most common diseases in Indonesia is malaria. While Jakarta, Surabaya, Bali and other large cities are relatively free from the risk of malaria, other areas in the country are still vulnerable to the disease. According to the data from the Ministry of Health, malaria is still rampant in the provinces of Papua, East Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, North Maluku and West Papua. An Indonesian health official from the Maluku province, whose local health department has been carrying out efforts to eradicate the disease, stated that eliminating the disease would require maintaining a healthy environment, killing mosquito larva through fogging, regular blood tests and the use of mosquito nets.

Bacterial diarrhea
Diarrhea was once a leading cause of death for children under the age of five in Indonesia, accounting for almost 25% of child mortality. Although efforts to combat mortality from the disease have decreased the death rates to approximately 2.5 per 1,000, the incidence of bacteria has remained constant at 25 to 30 million per year in children under the age of five. The fact that the number of outbreaks has not changed much implies the need for more innovative solutions to deal with the disease.

These three are among the most common diseases in Indonesia. Recently, the Indonesian government has been carrying out various policies to achieve the goal of attaining universal water and sanitation access by 2019, which, if successful, could help the country make significant progress in fighting these diseases.

 – Minh Joo Yi

Photo: Flickr

Malaria Epidemic in Indonesia Women Fight
Global organizations have made significant strides in fighting the malaria epidemic in Indonesia by focusing on the health and welfare of pregnant women and children.

In an article published by IRIN, William Hawley, a malaria expert with the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), highlighted the importance of malaria treatment and prevention against the disease.

“Pregnant women and children are especially vulnerable to malaria, and modern malaria diagnosis and prevention can be delivered via existing maternal health and immunization services in a symbiotic way,” Hawley said.

World health organizations such as UNICEF have been working closely with Indonesian government agencies and world health programs to provide free and affordable care to women and children in the region.

“The malaria program, the antenatal care program, and the expanded program on immunization all benefit, but most important — women and kids benefit,” Hawley said.

According to the article by IRIN, nurses and midwives have been helping pregnant women and infants fight malaria by providing diagnosis, treatment and information regarding the disease. In response, more women have been provided antenatal care and more children have been immunized against malaria.

The Harsh Effects of the Malaria Epidemic in Indonesia

Malaria is a disease spread by mosquitoes causing symptoms including fever, exhaustion, vomiting, and headaches. Severe cases generally include yellowing of the skin, seizures, coma, or, in the most extreme instances, death.

The disease can be more dangerous to pregnant women and infants causing stillbirths, low birth weight, abortion and infant mortality. Malaria can also cause severe respiratory problems in both adults and children.

According to a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO), out of a population of close to 260 million, 190 million people were reportedly malaria free in 2015. This comes after a significant number of cases were reported between 2009 and 2012.

With the help of finances provided by the Global Fund, WHO, and UNICEF, residents of Indonesia have access to preventative measures against the disease in the form of mosquito nets, insect repellents, and insecticides. Residents are also taught the importance of mosquito control measures such as draining water to prevent reproduction.

According to a report by the CDC, with funding from UNICEF, USAID, the Gates Foundation and the Ministry of Health (MOH), many preventative programs have been integrated into immunization and prenatal care programs in five provinces in eastern Indonesia.

These organizations hope to expand to all areas where the disease continuously occurs to help fight the malaria epidemic in Indonesia.

Drew Hazzard

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Indonesia
Located in East Asia between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Indonesia is home to more than 260 million people. Thousands are refugees and asylum seekers, and the number is rising. This growth is often overlooked when regarding issues of global poverty. Discussed below are the leading facts about refugees in Indonesia.


Top 10 Facts on Refugees in Indonesia


  1. There are approximately 13,800 asylum-seekers and refugees in Indonesia.
  2. More than half of the total asylum-seekers and refugees in Indonesia originate in Afghanistan. Regarding refugees, Myanmar follows, but when considering asylum-seekers, Somalia is in second place. In addition to these countries, Iran, Pakistan and Iraq are common countries of origin for persons of concern in Indonesia.
  3. In 2015, there was a 21 percent increase in refugees and asylum seekers.
  4. Indonesia has requested roughly $7.8 million to help ensure a better environment for current and new persons of concern.
  5. According to experts, many refugee children in Indonesia are denied education due to language barriers and administrative requirements.
  6. In partnership with several organizations, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) helps provide basic healthcare services to persons of concern in Indonesia. However, language and financial barriers prevent a lot of refugees in Indonesia from receiving proper medical treatments.
  7. Some refugees become stranded in Indonesia on their way to destinations such as Australia.
  8. Indonesia is becoming more liberal about refugees. According to the UNHCR, “Indonesia will continue to receive new asylum-seekers as part of mixed migration movements.” The hope is to integrate them properly into Indonesia.
  9. In January 2017, Indonesia announced that it would open its arms to persons of concern. President Joko Widodo decreed that the government will begin to protect refugees in Indonesia. This is a huge step for refugees and asylum-seekers, previously overlooked in the nation’s laws.
  10. Even with the president’s decree, there are major gaps between the treatment of refugees and non-refugees under Indonesian law. According to experts, this decree does not ensure human rights such as education or healthcare, but it does make it illegal to deny refugees work and education.

Change is in the air for persons of concern in Southeast Asia. With the Indonesian president’s decree, there is a lot of hope for refugees in Indonesia.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr

The United Kingdom and Indonesia have signed a cooperative agreement that establishes a 10-part research project investigating numerous aspects of social and economic development in Indonesia.

Indonesian Research, Technology and Higher Education Minister Mohammad Nasir, along with the British Ambassador to Indonesia, ASEAN and Timor-Leste Moazzam Malik, signed the agreement at the first-anniversary celebration for the UK-Indonesia Science and Technology Fund, established March 23, 2016. This fund was developed by The Newton Fund, a collaborative development program established in 2014 for research and innovation between the UK and Indonesian governments.

One year prior, at the UK-Indonesia Science and Technology Fund commencement, Malik announced the UK’s commitment to the equivalent of nearly $12.5 million each year until 2021. This amount of aid would be used in support of improving research and innovation geared towards development in Indonesia.

The mission of the fund is to make significant contributions toward expanding and developing systems of research and innovation in Indonesia through increased cooperation. At the time of the fund’s inauguration, independent funding was planned to be the primary means of expanding the relationship between the UK and Indonesia.

The core initiative within the fund’s scope was to increase the demand and response for research proposals focusing on health, food and energy sustainability, maritime preservation, disaster relief and urban development in Indonesia. The anniversary event — held on April 5 in Jakarta, Indonesia — was evidence of the fund’s success.

Before the UK and Indonesian representatives signed the accord, researchers had the opportunity to present their projects and share their findings. The presentations were in recognition of the researchers’ vital role in advancing resources and benefits for development in Indonesia and in an effort to demonstrate that collaborative research and innovation produce better results.

Nasir described the agreement’s significance, stating, “In order to achieve the goal, international collaborations, such as that with the UK, are necessary, so that we don’t have to start from scratch. Together, we can find a better way to improve the global society.”

As per the agreement, the UK and Indonesian governments have both made the commitment to apportion the equivalent of nearly nine million dollars collectively to a joint commitment fund. The contributions will be used to carry out collaborative research in the areas of science, technology, innovation and development in Indonesia.

Jaime Viens

Photo: Flickr

Indonesia Compact investment
The U.S. foreign aid organization, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), invested $600 million in economic stimulus to reduce poverty in Indonesia that entered into force in 2013. The MCC forms five-year compact grants for countries that meet eligibility criteria and displays “good governance, economic freedom and investment in their citizens”.

According to the MCC, the Indonesia Compact consists of three projects, which aim to facilitate the increased quality of “health and nutrition, sustainable land and energy management, and modernizing the system of government procurement of public goods and services.”

To assist with the goal of “sustainable land and energy management,” part of the Indonesia Compact is the Green Prosperity project. This project accounts for $332.5 million of the Indonesia Compact investment funding, encapsulating efforts to expand economic conduits while decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases. Indonesia’s elimination of fuel subsidies has been positive and growth is expected to reach 5.5 percent in 2017. The regime’s ability to set fuel prices, however, is still a point of concern, as cited in a June 2016 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Another part of the Indonesia Compact is the Community-Based Health and Nutrition to Reduce Stunting Project, which is a child and youth-based initiative aiming to decrease incidents of malnutrition that impact Indonesians across 5,400 villages. The World Food Programme cites that the nation loses more than $5 billion per year due to lost productivity as a result of malnutrition. An investment of $134.2 million of the $600 million is going towards the Community-Based Health and Nutrition to Reduce Stunting Project.

The World Bank notes that 37.2 percent of children under the age of five experience stunting. These developmental hindrances are pivotal to providing transparency into the double burden of malnutrition. Paired with an increased risk of developing non-communicable diseases like heart disease, stunting at a young age can reduce productivity beginning in adolescence.

The MCC has allocated $65 million of the Indonesia Compact investment to the Procurement Modernization Project. The goal of this project is to strengthen the country’s public procurement system. The OECD reported that provinces and districts in Indonesia are spending 40 percent of total public funds, a rate of fiscal decentralization higher than any other East Asian country apart from China.

The compact also accounts for inequality by the implementation of the Social and Gender Integration Plan (SGIP) that ensures equal opportunity across genders and social structures for those participating in compact programs.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

Indonesia Facing Diseases
Humans struggle with diseases all around the world, but they become much more life threatening in impoverished countries. As a tropical country, Indonesia facing diseases is paramount in the attempt to improve development.

In Java, Indonesia there is a resurgence of diphtheria in children, mainly due to parents’ resistance to vaccinating their children. Lymphatic Filariasis (elephantiasis), polio and bird flu have all taken a great toll on Indonesia and its inhabitants. These diseases in Indonesia not only affect individuals’ lives, but also negatively impact Indonesia’s social and economic development. In order to control infectious diseases, the government must be able to implement effective interventions.

For bird flu specifically, all suspected infected poultry must be reported and then killed. The government has been very inconsistent in applying this rule but must take action if it wants to eliminate bird flu. Many farmers hide their flocks in fear of having their birds killed; the farmers care more about their loss of livelihood than the spread of disease.

In the peer-reviewed journal, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases stated that Indonesia has some of the world’s highest concentrations of tropical diseases, holding back Indonesia’s emerging market status. High rates of disease are commonly found in low-income countries due to poor economic growth. However, Indonesia has experienced economic growth at an average of 6 percent over the recent years and its middle class is projected to double in size over the next decade.

Indonesia is the only country in Southeast Asia with prevalent schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease prevalent in communities deprived of potable water or sufficient sanitation. Adding to that, almost 10 percent of the world’s leprosy cases are in Indonesia. Additionally, the World Health Organization is cautioning individuals about the emerging threat from dengue fever in Indonesia, which Indonesia is already spending a lot of money on — 323 million in 2010.

If Indonesia does not implement better controls to reduce these diseases, their future growth and economic gains could easily be thwarted, mainly due to the country’s negative impact on child development, labor and health.

In order to start controlling these infectious diseases USAID and other NGOs are working to improve health efforts in Indonesia. USAID currently has programs in both maternal and child health, infectious diseases (TB, HIV/AIDS), pandemic threats, neglected tropical diseases as well as water and sanitation issues.

To control infectious diseases USAID is partnering with Indonesia’s National TB Program to help treat and combat the disease for Indonesia’s future. One big step that was made was in 2012 when USAID introduced GeneXpert technology, which diagnoses multi-drug resistant TB in hours instead of months; this act alone has helped save countless lives. For HIV and AIDS, USAID is providing technical support to the Ministry of Health (MOH) to hasten prevention measures being used by the Indonesian individuals.

Lastly, Indonesia facing diseases has caused pandemic threats to the country. USAID has been engaging in a multitude of actions to stop these outbreaks. Along with plenty other assistance, USAID helps the Indonesian government identify and respond to risks as quickly as possible, in addition to increasing access to safe water and sanitation efforts.

Clearly, USAID and other public-health measures have made some progress. A recent study indicates that if it wants to keep the growth train running, Indonesia facing diseases will need to step up its outreach to better eliminate disease, which USAID has started. Hopefully, these positive impacts will end disease in Indonesia soon.

Bella Chaffey

Photo: Flickr