In the Indonesian district of Malaka, children are finally being provided with an opportunity to create a better future for themselves. Save the Children has partnered up with the H&M Conscious Foundation to improve educational conditions for children within this impoverished region of the world.

Malaka used to be part of the Belu district in East Nusa Tenggara province. It was so severely underdeveloped that the government decided to establish Malaka as its own district in 2012, hoping to finally spur development. Unfortunately, the district’s citizens are still fighting to break out of the poverty cycle.

Malaka contains 15 elementary schools filled with children seeking a quality education. Most children cannot afford to wear shoes to school. When they finally arrive on foot to their classrooms, they typically face deteriorating walls, lack of access to water and collapsing roofs.

Poor personal hygiene and health combined with the schools’ poor physical conditions often results in prolonged student sickness. To make matters worse, children are oftentimes juggling a language barrier as well.

Hailing from places like East Timor and belonging to ethnic groups that rely on different languages, many of the students do not speak Indonesian. The people of Malaka use five local languages representing the region’s indigenous tribes. Regardless of lack of comprehension, however, the material is taught primarily in Indonesian.

Primary school teachers often employ physical punishment as they deem necessary, causing many students to live in fear. In lower grades especially, it is not uncommon for students to fail their studies or have to repeat a grade due to some combination of the aforementioned factors.

In August 2014, Save the Children pledged to embark on a three-year project focused on improving education for around 2,850 children in the area. Since then, the charity has been working side by side with the H&M’s Conscious Foundation to build 15 new preschools and renovate the 15 existing Malakan schools.

Like Save the Children, the H&M Conscious Foundation seeks to improve children’s education. In addition, the independent organization works to empower women and provide access to clean water in developing countries.

The Conscious Foundation teamed up with STC to launch the Children in Early Grades Reach Incredible Achievements (CERIA) Project three years ago. CERIA also doubles as the Indonesian word for “cheerful.”

The CERIA project is targeting early education in order to achieve long-term effects. It aims to increase enrollment and attendance at quality preschools, improve teaching methods and school readiness for young students and reduce first-grade repetition rates.

The program is targeted at a total of 30 poor rural communities scattered throughout Malaka. Within each early childhood education center, there will be two classrooms able to accommodate 20 to 30 students. Some students are already benefiting from the progress made on renovations last year.

CERIA also offers free teacher training programs to improve the quality of education. Since the majority of teachers in Malaka are volunteers lacking a background in education, this has been an especially effective tool for improvement.

By its conclusion in 2017, the CERIA project is expected to benefit Malaka’s 2,400 elementary school teachers, 450 preschoolers and 180 primary and preschool teachers. There is no telling what accomplishments these properly educated children and teachers will be able to achieve in the long run.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: Jakarta Globe, H&M
Photo: Compassion International

A new report released by UNICEF in late June has highlighted the significant achievements of nations across the globe in safeguarding child rights.

The Progress for Children Report, which examined international efforts to meet UN Millennium Goals related to the advancement of children, specifically noted certain accomplishments Indonesia has recorded in regards to strengthening child protection and security.

Since the advent of the MGD’s in 2000, the Pacific Island nation of Indonesia has successfully reduced the mortality rate for children under 5 from 84 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990, to 29 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015. These figures also represent significant regional advancements, as the average number of deaths per 1,000 live births decreased dramatically from 58 in 1990 to only 17 in 2015.

Indonesian officials have cited such health advancements as products of efforts to reduce national fertility rates, which have decreased 1.3 percent in the past 25 years, and improvements in maternal healthcare programming. As opposed to 1992, where only 36 percent of live births recorded attendance of skilled medical professionals, officials reported a dramatic increase to 83 percent skilled attendance in 2012.

Such efforts by the government to promote stronger home construction, offer wider access to clean water and sanitation, and generate better education and health care systems have assisted in the growth of the nations economy and subsequent increases in social expenditures. The government is currently planning to introduce a universal health care program by 2019, an advancement that would solidify national efforts to improve the quality of life available for Indonesian children.

Government officials also boasted a 95 percent net primary school attendance record last year, which brought the nation equal to the regional average of primary education attendance for East Asia and the Pacific.

While Indonesia has demonstrated strong efficacy in advancing the protection of children’s rights, many officials have warned that the current climate of child poverty within the country must be further addressed.

According to the World Bank, of a national population comprised of over 250 million people, almost 30 million of these people still live below the poverty line. Despite recent efforts to improve sanitation facilities, access to such public works systems remains at 68 percent of the population—a large shortcoming of the 86 percent target outlined within the Millennium Development Goals. Indonesia also recorded a remarkably high maternal mortality rate last year, with 190 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Officials hope continued efforts to provide stronger health care and sanitation systems across the country will assist in reducing such statistics.

Tata Sudrajat, the Families First Director for Save the Children, recently stated in an interview, “Although Indonesia is already a middle income country according to World Bank standards, nearly 44 million Indonesian children still live on under $2 per day. That’s about 50 percent of Indonesia’s child population.”

Sudrajat continued to explain that a major obstacle for the security of children’s rights within Indonesia remains the prevalence of sexual violence against children between the ages of 13 and 18. Citing data from a recent government study, she explained that on average one in 12 males and one in 19 females within this age range are annually affected by sexual violence. Claiming that such crimes often occur close to victim’s homes, Sudrajat stated, “Research on sexual violence against children often finds that the perpetrator is someone who is personally close to the child, which makes children very vulnerable to these sorts of crimes.”

Sudrajat also explained in her interview that campaigns for public awareness regarding child abuse and the socio-cultural roots of these crimes are effective methods for promoting stronger understanding of such issues in order to prevent future incidents. With UNICEF estimating in 2013 that 34.2 percent of the national population, or about 85 million people, are under the age of 18, the continual responsibility to promote and protect the basic rights of Indonesian children is enormous.

James Thornton

Sources: The Jakarta Globe, Economist, World Bank
Photo: University of Victoria

bangladesh_refugeesThousands of Bangladeshi refugees are escaping impoverished conditions and ethnic Rohingya are fleeing religious persecution. Human traffickers masquerading as smugglers promised them safe passage to Malaysia, but then held them for ransom on the border between Thailand and Malaysia until their families paid up huge sums of money.

Thailand has recently cracked down on human trafficking rings, especially after finding mass graves in the jungles on the border with Malaysia. Because of this, the Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian governments refused to allow smuggling ships to land on their shores, causing thousands of refugees to find themselves adrift at sea on boats with little resources or food.

However, the people of Aceh, a city in Indonesia, could not ignore the suffering of these refugees. They allowed the boats to land on their shores, defying their government and welcoming the burden of 2,000 starving, impoverished people. Many Acehnese have suffered decades of political turmoil as well as the 2004 tsunami that caused immeasurable damage. Many refugees settled at a port called Kuala Langsa, which is currently housing 425 Bangladeshi and 231 Rohingya migrants. “I feel that they are part of our family, part of Acehnese society, because they have suffered as much as us. It’s better if they stay permanently here,” says a Aceh native and restaurant owner who has provided meals to the refugees. Many agree, saying Aceh is the safest place for them to settle.

The citizens of Aceh even held a concert to help raise funds for the recent migrants. The event was organized by Rafly, a local singer and political figure. It was also a Pemulia Jamee, or traditional Indonesian ceremony to honor guests. Rafly has remarked that he hopes the migrants stay in Aceh.

Before successful landing in Aceh, migrants say they were turned away by the Thai government three times and the Malaysian government twice. The second refusal by the Malaysian government came with a threat that it would bomb their ship if they did not turn away.

Back in Bangladesh, prospects for change are bleak. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina calls the Rohingya “mentally sick” and “tainting the image of the country” by escaping their government-controlled impoverishment, which limits their access to medical care and education. Rohyinga people are Muslim and reside in Rakhine state in western Myanmar. 140,000 remain in tent camps since their hometowns were destroyed by state-sanctioned fundamentalist Buddhists who view the Rohingya as Bangladeshi settlers.

Shortly after Aceh welcomed its refugees, Malaysia and Indonesia issued a statement saying the two countries would provide food and shelter to the 7,000 people who remained floating on the Straits of Malacca, provided these people seek permanent homes after a year.

– Jenny Wheeler

Sources: IRIN, Aljazeera
Photo: NY Daily News

Indonesia's Fight Against Stunted GrowthThe Millennium Challenge Corporation is an independent, innovative foreign aid agency that is actively fighting global poverty. One of its projects, the Indonesia Compact, seeks to better the lives of those living below the poverty line in Indonesia, in particular the lives of the children.

Over the past decade, Indonesia’s economy has grown steadily and over 50 percent of the population is now living above the poverty line. However, the wealth gap has further widened. With most of the population living in rural areas and relying on agriculture as a main source of income, it is hard for Indonesians below the poverty line to have access to nutritious food and clean water. This has caused problems such as stunted growth in children.

According to the Millennium Challenge Corporation, “a lack in critical vitamins and minerals during early childhood puts children at higher risk for chronic disease [and] delayed cognitive development” which causes a reduction in academic success and future earnings. Because of the lack of vitamins and minerals, about one-third of all Indonesian children under the age of 5 experience stunted growth—that’s seven million infants and children.

The Indonesia Compact is a five-year, $600 million agreement. The goal is to increase household income in the project areas by increasing productivity, reducing energy costs and increasing provisions of goods and services.

Part of the Compact is the $135 million Community-Based Health and Nutrition to Reduce Stunting Project. This effort is two-sided: raise awareness about feeding practices and supply access to proper nutrition and health care services.

Through this project, the people of Indonesia are being educated on how the lack of essential nutrients, such as vitamin A, iron and zinc, can impact health and affect growth. The government of Indonesia is helping by training local governments on health and sanitation services as well as nutrition, in order to have a highly aware population.

The theory is that a healthier young generation will bring economic growth to the country. The next generation will be healthy and knowledgeable, which leads to a stronger working-class and eventually an improved economy. The Indonesia Compact still has a long way to go before any change can be seen, but Indonesia is headed in the right direction.

– Hannah Resnick

Sources: Millenium Challenge Corporation, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Flickr

There are over 28 million people in Indonesia considered to be poor according to national standards. The Multidimensional Poverty Index, or MPI, focuses on standards of living and measures 10 indicators of multiple deprivations in a household. The 10 indicators include issues of education and health. To be considered multi-dimensionally poor, a person needs to be deprived in at least three out of the 10 indicators.

In Jakarta, 20.8 percent of the population has multiple deprivation and 12.2 percent is vulnerable to multiple deprivations. The intensity of deprivation means the degree to which the average percentage of the people is in multidimensional poverty. As of 2014, this was 45.9 percent.

The population of Jakarta is 10 million at night and increases to 11.2 million in the day as individuals travel into the city for work. As of 2014, the poverty rate and Gini coefficient ratio, a measurement tool for the gap in income, have increased immensely due to increasing rates of inflation and the weaker rupiah. The result is a higher poverty index.

The poverty index ratio increased to 8.9 percent from eight percent in the previous year. The country average for Indonesia is 8.3 percent. The coefficient ratio has gone from a measurement of .364 in 2013 to .436. The ratio illuminates the income distribution among the city’s population as well as the inequality of the economy.

There has been an increase in the poor population from 3.7 percent in 2013 to 4.9 percent. Based on the population of Jakarta, the number of poor has increased from 371,000 to 412,790. Due to poverty, issues of malnutrition, no proper sanitation, lack of electricity and limited educational opportunities are often issues occurring in tandem.

It is important that proper indicators are used to determine the amount of the population that is poor in order to correctly assess their needs. In the words of Amartya Sen, author of the book, “Development as Freedom,” poverty should be seen “as a deprivation of basic capabilities, rather than merely as low income.”

Currently, the national poverty line is based on monetary measures. These measures, utilized by the Millennium Development Goals to indicate the national poverty line, have assisted in growth and processes that have recently been taken by the Indonesian government. In addition, budgeting and planning resources have been observed.

– Erika Wright

Sources: Jakarta Post 1, Jakarta Post 2, U.N. Habitat
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

indonesia's infrastructurePresident of Indonesia Joko Widodo, who was elected last year, is making Indonesia‘s infrastructure a priority. He is putting the equivalent of $22 billion U.S. toward improving the country’s infrastructure. This number is 53 percent larger than last year. President Widodo is also dedicating an additional $3 billion to state firms and companies that are involved with infrastructure improvement.

Improving Indonesia’s infrastructure could have long-term benefits that could help people affected by poverty. According to the Copenhagen Consensus Center, anywhere between 10 to 50 percent of crops are wasted while traveling from the farm to consumers. If there was a way to make this number smaller by a mere 10 percent, prices could be reduced; if prices are reduced, 60 million fewer people would go hungry.

President Widodo plans to invest in infrastructure by scrapping subsidies on fuel and providing subsidies for farmers to use on fertilizer and seeds. He also wants to improve irrigation systems for farmers, improve roads and land and provide more forms of communication. In the long run, this can improve overall food distribution.

This tactic has been proven effective in the past.

“Indonesia experienced rapid agricultural growth in the 1970s and 1980s together with reductions in malnutrition and poverty,” Mark W. Rosegrant, director of the Environment and Production Technology Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute, said.

Rosegrant was also involved in the Copenhagen Consensus Center study. “This growth and improvements in food security were significantly driven by increasing investments in rural infrastructure and in agricultural research and development,” he said.

Rosegrant and others behind the Copenhagen Consensus study are suggesting that there are even better ways for President Widodo to reach his goal. The study concluded that it would also be beneficial for President Widodo to invest in agricultural research along with infrastructure. Even if only $6 billion is devoted toward researching how to increase crop yields, the result could be 79 million fewer hungry people around the globe.

President Widodo is hopeful that improving power plants and rural roads will help the people of Indonesia and around-the-world significantly. This is excellent news, and perhaps President Widodo will look into the benefits of agricultural research and save even more lives.

Melissa Binns

Sources: The Australian Business Review, The Wall Street Journal
Photo: MTCP2

Mozilla, a company best known for its Internet browser, plans to release a $25 smartphone. The inexpensive phone is not intended to compete with existing markets where Android and Apple dominate, but rather to be sold in emerging markets in places like India and Indonesia.

The phone will run Firefox OS — Mozilla’s HTML-5 web-based operating system. A notable quality of the operating system is its open ecosystem that allows for a wide choice of applications.

Collaborating with handset makers and wireless carriers, Mozilla has already provided Latin America and Europe with $60 smartphones. However, that price is too much for most consumers in developing countries where the dollar goes a long way. Feature phones still dominate in India and Indonesia due to their low cost.

Working with Chinese chip maker, Spreadtrum Communications Inc., Mozilla hopes the $25 price point will compel consumers in emerging markets to make the switch from feature phones to smartphones.

Mozilla also hopes to distribute in China. However, whether Mozilla is able to compete in a country where smartphones are already prevalent remains a mystery. Currently there is no timetable for the company’s expansion into China.

To distribute their phones, Mozilla has typically relied upon carriers, but in this instance plans to work with electronics retailers and local handset brands to expand its distribution operations. Mozilla expects to ship more than 10 million units over the next 12 months.

The largest problem Mozilla faces is the lack of infrastructure. Although India and Indonesia have been improving their mobile broadband infrastructures, they are nowhere near satisfactory.

If Mozilla is able to generate enough consumer demand, it is possible that it may encourage the lawmakers and telecom companies to make investments to improve the infrastructure of their networks.

For those in poverty, the expansion of smartphones is good step forward. Studies have shown that cellphones may improve literacy rates, as well as allow people to send money and communicate with family members.

With low cost smartphones, Mozilla is helping to bridge the gap between those in poverty and those in developed countries. And with that narrowing gap comes new benefits, skills and possibilities for people to escape poverty.

— William Ying

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, PCWorld, BBC, Time, The Borgen Project
Photo: The Wall Street Journal

A.T. Kearney, a United States-based consulting firm, ranked Jakarta, Indonesia’s bustling capital, whose metropolitan area contains roughly 30 million people, as the next Southeast Asian leading city. The Javanese city boasts first among a list of 34 cities in low-income and middle-income countries that will most likely become a global leader in fields ranging from business activity to workforce health and security. The methodology used involves 26 metrics in five categories: business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience and political engagement.

Certainly, Jakarta’s status as the capital of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) contributes greatly to the city’s rising position. Furthermore, the emergence of the ASEAN Economic Community, a quasi-European Union style economic community minus a common currency due to take off in 2015, is also another factor that helps to make Jakarta an up-and-coming Southeast Asian city.

Jakarta, over the past few years, has invested immensely in improving its once inadequate infrastructure. However, it is the city’s improvements in other fields such as stability and security that has put it on the map. Areas involving Jakarta’s population such as income equality, stability, healthcare cost, minimum wage and security are those that have fared the best.

Jakarta’s improvements also extend to the fields of information exchange and high gross domestic product growth rate. In terms of the city’s once feeble infrastructure, today’s Jakarta has been developing its mass rapid transit system. Its groundbreaking ceremony was held in late 2013. This project will begin operating in 2017-2018 and it will help to facilitate the daily commute of the residents of the city and its surrounding areas.

Furthermore, Bangkok, Thailand, its future appearing promising in 2008, has been experiencing instability for the past few years, thus eliminating Jakarta’s regional competitor. John Kurtz, A.T. Kearney’s Asia-Pacific head, stated that the city’s growing political and economic importance is attracting both domestic and international talents and investments.

The city’s rise in importance and prosperity is certainly a stunning achievement. The city’s transformation into the region’s powerhouse is undoubtedly a testament to development as a tangible and a feasible process, not just an illusive rhetoric.

– Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: The Jakarta Globe, Wall Street Journal
Photo: Luxury Real Estate Blog

Indonesia’s upcoming presidential election, currently slated for July 9, gained a great deal of attention when the National Commission on Human Rights refused to examine the human rights records of any of the presidential candidates.

Since the announcement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has given questionnaires to all of the candidates in order to demonstrate that the candidates want to improve Indonesia’s human rights record. As of now, HRW has distributed the questionnaire to Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, Aburizal Bakrie for the Golkar Party, Prabowo Subianto for the Gerindra Party, Wiranto for the Hanura Party, Rhoma Irama for the National Awakening Party, as well as to the parties who have not yet decided on their presidential nomination.

The questionnaire asks how committed the candidates will be in improving areas where a large amount of religious violence is occurring. These areas include Aceh, Banten, East Java, West Java and West Sumatra.

Additionally, the HRW is asking candidates if they plan to comply with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) recommendation to allow foreign journalists to enter into Papua and if they will release political prisoners.

The HRW should receive responses by May 16 and will publish their findings in early June, prior to the presidential election.

However, the record of Prabowo Subianto, the candidate for the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerinda Party) has recently come under scrutiny. Human rights groups are questioning Prabow’s actions from when he started as an officer in the military to his actions as a three-star general.

Human groups are calling for an investigation regarding Prabowo’s actions in East Timor in the 1980s following allegations that he ordered a massacre of over 300 civilians. Additionally, these groups are claiming that Prabowo was “responsible for the abduction and torture of 23 pro-democracy activists in 1997 and 1998, and for orchestrating riots in May 1998” which ultimately resulted in “more than 1,000 deaths and the rapes of at least 168 women.”

In 2006, the National Commission on Human Rights issued a report with the names of 11 people, including Prabowo, who they thought should be prosecuted in the abductions of those 23 activists.

Prabowo’s military career ended because of the abductions case, where he accepted responsibility for the torture of 9 of the activists, but said that he was not responsible for ordering the abductions or torture and said nothing about the other 14 activists.

In regard to the emphasis on human rights in the upcoming election, HRW’s deputy Asia director Phelim Kine has said, “Indonesia’s next president will inherit serious human rights problems requiring leadership and commitment.” Kine went on to say, “Indonesian voters should insist that presidential candidates make explicit their plans to promote and strengthen human rights in the country.”

The winner of the election will serve as the second Indonesian president to be directly elected by the public. Whether or not the human rights records of the candidates have a strong impact on who is elected will be determined in July.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: The New York Times, Human Rights Watch, The Huffington Post, The Jakarta Post
Photo: The Asia Foundation

The region of West Papua does not make the news often; in fact, it rarely merits a news blurb in most Western headlines. However, West Papua is arguably one of the most under-reported cases of exploitation an indigenous groups in the 21st century.

Since 1969, the people of West Papua have been in conflict with the government of Indonesia in one way or another. The University of Sydney’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies put out a report stating that for the better part of 40 years, the people of West Papua have been under the boot heel of the Indonesian Security forces.

The report goes on to state that due to wide scale incursions by Indonesia’s armed forces, West Papua has seen over 100,000 of its citizens die and much of its national resources depleted.

A report by The Guardian also notes the devastating effect that Indonesian resource extraction is having on the people of West Papua. It notes the case of the Mooi people, who are one of the 250 indigenous tribes that are having their way of life destroyed due to the deforestation of their lands by timber and palm oil companies.

The oceans off the coasts of West Papua are also being devastated due to nickel mining in the area, which is flooding the bountiful coral reefs with polluted sediment.

It is not only the eco-system of West Papua that is being destroyed. Even though it has been close to 45 years, the Indonesian military is still cracking down severely on people who are part of the Free Western Papua Movement.

Last year, the Free Western Papua Movement’s Facebook published the photo of a dead Papuan named Edward Apaseray, who was reportedly tortured and killed by the Indonesian Special Police Forces for being a “separatist.” The Diplomat, a current affairs magazine for the Asian-Pacific region, published a report in which a recent study noted that in West Papua, an incident of torture occurred every six weeks for the past half-century.

The human rights organization Tapol that monitors human rights abuses in West Papua published the story of Yawan Wayeni. He was a tribal leader and formal political prisoner who was tortured and killed by Indonesian security forces in brutal fashion.

The media have long overlooked the plight of the people of West Papua. It has only recently begun to receive real traction in Western media. The International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) is a group of politicians around the world who support the right self-determination for the people of West Papua.

One of its members, Benny Wenda, an exile from West Papua, recently had an article published in which he decried the recent statement of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot, who stated that things in West Papua are “better and not worse.”

West Papua is one of the forgotten atrocities of the 21st century; the responsibility making sure that it does not continue to be rests with us and our elected officials. The Arab Spring occurred with the help of Facebook and a determined populace. The plight of West Papua needs the same type of support from those who have the ability to stand up to the Indonesian government.

– Arthur Fuller

Sources: Amnesty International, The Guardian, Tapol,  The Diplomat, The University Of Sydney, Tapol,  CNN, The Guardian, Tempo, Australia News Network
Photo: London Mining Network