Disability and Poverty in IndonesiaDisability and poverty are critical issues that intersect, presenting complex challenges for individuals and societies worldwide. In Indonesia, this intersection is particularly prominent. The following is an exploration of the issue of disability and poverty in Indonesia, highlighting its causes, consequences and potential solutions.

Unraveling the Complex Relationship Between Disability and Poverty

Understanding the dynamic relationship between disability and poverty in Indonesia and globally requires a comprehensive examination of the various factors at play. Disability significantly increases the risk of experiencing poverty. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate in Indonesia stood at 20% in 2022 based on the poverty line of $3.65 per person per day.

Additionally, in March 2019, the National Socio-Economic Survey concluded that “more than 9% (23 million) of Indonesia’s population have a disability.”

Individuals with disabilities often face barriers that hinder their access to education, employment and social protection. Limited access to quality education perpetuates a cycle of disadvantage, inhibiting skill development and reducing economic empowerment opportunities. Discrimination and prejudice in the job market exacerbate these challenges, resulting in higher unemployment rates and lower wages for individuals with disabilities. Many public places and infrastructures in Indonesia lack the proper accessibility features for individuals with disabilities. This makes it very difficult for these individuals to navigate and participate fully in society.

Moreover, the lack of tailored social protection programs leaves them more vulnerable to economic hardships. Conversely, poverty can contribute to a higher likelihood of disability due to inadequate health care, unsafe working conditions, and limited access to necessary support services. The intersection of disability and poverty creates a complex web of challenges that necessitates a comprehensive and multi-pronged approach to address the underlying causes and alleviate their impact on individuals and communities.

Examining Government Initiatives on Disability and Poverty

The Indonesian government has enacted several notable laws and regulations to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Indonesia. Act No. 4 of 1997 emphasizes equality and non-discrimination, outlining rights related to education, employment, accessibility, rehabilitation and social welfare. Law No. 23 of 2002 addresses explicitly child protection, including the right to education and social integration for children with disabilities.

Law No. 11 of 2009 focuses on social welfare, recognizing persons with disabilities as members of society facing challenges and social dysfunction. While these laws provide a foundation for promoting equality, it appears that continual evaluation, improvement and allocation of resources are necessary to ensure effective implementation and sustainable impact.

NGOs’ Role in Addressing Disability and Poverty

NGOs play a pivotal role in addressing the challenges that individuals with disabilities face living in poverty in Indonesia. These organizations are instrumental in promoting social inclusion, providing support services and advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities. Through a range of initiatives, NGOs actively contribute to improving the lives of this marginalized population.

One exemplary NGO working to help disabled people in Indonesia is Yayasan Mitra Netra (YMN), which focuses on supporting individuals with visual impairments. YMN’s efforts are centered on empowering visually impaired individuals through education, vocational training and job placement.

Among many, there are a couple of YMN’s accomplishments that stand out, such as the Braille mathematics books that use special symbols, as well as initiating the development of an electronic dictionary. During the first years of its work in the 1990s, the YMN was the first organization to provide computer courses for blind people, and in 1992, the organization also built an online library, providing access to books to people throughout Indonesia.

Another notable NGO is the YCAB Foundation which focuses on improving the lives of people with physical disabilities in Indonesia through education, skills training and economic empowerment programs. One of their flagship initiatives is the “Mobile Learning Center,” a mobile unit that brings education and training directly to communities, particularly in remote areas. This program focuses on providing accessible education for children and young adults who face barriers to accessing traditional schools. The Mobile Learning Center offers a range of educational activities tailored to the specific needs of individuals with physical disabilities.

By bringing education to their doorstep, YCAB Foundation ensures that these individuals have the opportunity to develop essential skills and knowledge, enhancing their prospects for employment and economic independence.

Making Efforts

Addressing the intersection of disability and poverty in Indonesia requires a multifaceted approach that includes government initiatives and the important role of NGOs. Laws and regulations provide a foundation for promoting equality, but ongoing evaluation and resource allocation is crucial for effective implementation. NGOs like Yayasan Mitra Netra and the YCAB Foundation make significant contributions to empowering individuals with disabilities through education, vocational training and economic empowerment programs. By working together, stakeholders can create a more inclusive society that ensures equal opportunities and improved quality of life for all Indonesians with disabilities.

– Betsy Watters
Photo: Unsplash

Freedom in Indonesia
Indonesia, renowned for its diverse population and rich cultural heritage, has faced and continues to grapple with challenges in pursuit of transformation. The country has remarkably transformed over six decades, transitioning from the tumultuous era of Sukarno’s “guided democracy” to becoming a thriving democracy and a regional powerhouse. It has grown from a near-failed state and regional pariah to a successful economy with a 25 million-strong middle class. Here is some information about societal freedom in Indonesia.

Progress in Indonesia’s Societal Freedom

A 2007 report by the Asian Studies Association highlights that Indonesia has witnessed extraordinary changes, highlighting the expansion of democracy, economic advancements and social development.

From the start of the study in 1997 to the publication of this article in 2007, the Indonesian population experienced a surge from approximately 200 million to more than 236 million — resulting in the rapid construction of homes and buildings, and the expansion of cities. Rice fields have given way to urban development, and forests have been cleared for agricultural purposes.

Indonesia has also made strides in political freedom through democratic elections and an active civil society. Women now enjoy full political rights and political parties must adhere to 30% gender quotas.

Education has also made progress in Indonesia, with an increase in school participation rates and longer durations for children staying in school. At present, approximately 90% of all Indonesians aged 15 or older possess the ability to read and write.

NGOs are currently working to drive societal freedom in Indonesia. Currently, there are efforts underway to address social issues, promote equality and empower marginalized communities.


Kopernik, an influential NGO, actively contributes to societal freedom in Indonesia by finding innovative solutions to social and environmental challenges. Kopernik’s remarkable distinction lies in its application of SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

For 13 months, the organization actively partnered with the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (MAMPU) program. This collaboration prioritized women’s empowerment while simultaneously strengthening sustainability objectives.

During the project, Kopernik actively collaborated with five women’s empowerment organizations to establish a financial sustainability framework. The initiative produced promising outcomes as it trained women homeworkers and women-led microbusinesses, empowering them to sell their products online. Consequently, by the end of 2020, these women achieved an impressive 74% increase in their profits.

YCAB Foundation

The recently published YCAB Foundation Impact Report for 2022 shines a light on the organization’s remarkable accomplishments in empowering underprivileged youth and communities. Since its establishment in 1999, the foundation has made a significant impact on the lives of 5 million underprivileged youths and low-income families.

YCAB actively prioritizes the empowerment of mothers, student learners and youth earners, as well as fostering a thriving social enterprise ecosystem. Its impact report for 2022 demonstrates how the foundation actively empowered the next generation of youths through ongoing education. It successfully reached 3.7 million youths, resulting in an impressive 86% employment rate among graduates.

A significant number of Indonesia’s 30 million women entrepreneurs continue to encounter challenges in expanding their businesses. The foundation empowers Indonesian women by promoting economic independence and fostering sustainable businesses for their well-being. YCAB initiated the Indonesia Women Empowerment Fund (IWEF), which has invested in nine women-led start-ups and facilitated additional private capital investments.

The report highlights YCAB’s commitment to bridging the digital divide and promoting digital inclusion. In 2021-2022, YCAB embarked on a digital approach to foster societal freedom in Indonesia, reaching a total of 2.4 million Indonesians through digital outreach. The organization launched the nationwide movement Do Something Indonesia, engaging more than 20,000 youths aged 16-24 to support social actions through digital platforms, introducing more than 100 campaigns.

NGOs Involved in Anti-Corruption Endeavors

Transparency International is currently working on eliminating corruption in Indonesia. Its findings present a positive outlook on Indonesia’s political anti-corruption efforts.

Scoring 40 out of 100, Indonesia has achieved a two-point improvement on the CPI (Corruptions Perception Index), reaching its highest score since 2012. This signifies the country’s progress in combating corruption within its government, including through the efforts of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Civil society organizations and citizens actively engage in supporting anti-corruption measures, showcasing a growing awareness and support. International cooperation and partnerships strengthen these efforts, contributing to the progress made by Indonesia in eradicating corruption and fostering a transparent and accountable governance system.

The Road Ahead for Indonesia

As Indonesia moves forward, it faces both opportunities and challenges. The government has implemented constitutional reforms aimed at protecting human rights, religious freedom, freedom of expression, media and women’s rights. However, there are still challenges to be addressed, particularly in ensuring freedom of expression and promoting equality for minority groups.

 – Tanya Hamad
  Photo: Flickr