Sophia: Yesterday (Sunday 13 March 2016) I had the privilege of joining the meeting of the Rengganis women and children’s learning centre in Salamrejo village, Kulon Progo district. My colleague from Mitra Wacana WRC, Ignas Kleruk Mau, facilitates this group. He suggested I share some information about Australia (where I’m from), with a focus on women in Australia. He also invited me to ask the members of the learning centre about their lives and experiences, so we could create a cultural exchange.
I prepared a presentation about Australia for the meeting. I came across some really interesting facts about Australia, and put them in context by comparing them to facts about Indonesia. In terms of population, Australia is a big country (6th largest in the world), with a tiny population (56th in the world). Indonesia, however, is a sizeable country (15th in the world), with a huge population (5th largest in the world). This explains why, when the women asked me what struck me most about Indonesia when I first arrived, the level of crowdedness came to mind!
I also found some alarming statistics such as one in three Australian women over the age of 15 experience physical violence, and the perpetrator is often their partner. Many of the women in the learning centre felt that violence was a major issue for women in Indonesia too. I’m so proud to be working at Mitra Wacana WRC which is educating women about their rights, facilitating community discussions about these difficult topics and advocating for laws to protect the victims of violence.
Some of the women at the learning centre also mentioned the limited options for work and education in the village. A number of them had worked abroad for up to six years, as it was the only way they could earn enough money to support their families. For me working overseas was a choice, I’m doing it for the experience. I miss my family and friends desperately after only three months away from them; these women have amazing strength to live overseas for so many years! They shared their hopes that they could give their children more opportunities than they had. This touched me deeply and reminded me how hard my parents worked so I could go to university.
The women in Kulong Progo also wanted to know about poverty in Australia. I researched this after the meeting and was shocked to read a 2014 report by the Australian Council of Social Service which found that 13.9% of Australian households live below the poverty line (with a disposable income of less than $400AUD per week for a single adult, higher for larger households to take account of their greater costs). The report notes that poverty rates in Australia are higher for women (compared to men), children and pensioners, sole parents, people in rural areas rather than cities, adults born in countries where the main language is not English (compared to people born in Australia or other English speaking countries), indigenous Australians and people with a disability.
This got me thinking, who is responsible for protecting the vulnerable? Could it be more privileged people, the government or NGOs? Every human being is entitled to adequate healthcare, primary education, sanitation, drinking water, food and shelter, but it takes effort for every person has access to these things. The world’s resources are not evenly distributed. It seems to me that the privileged, governments and NGOs can all do something to meet the basic needs of disadvantaged people. Privileged people can donate some of their disposable income to help others; governments can create policies to make sure all their constituents have their basic needs met; NGOs can raise awareness of important issues that need to be addressed. This might be a simple perspective, but I am inspired by the people I’m working with and the women I met in Kulon Progo who are doing what they can to improve the lives of disadvantaged people in their communities. (SD, 14 March 2016)
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, ‘Australia’ last updated 07/03/2016 and ‘Indonesia’ last updated 25 February 2016, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html (accessed 08/03/2016)
OurWatch and Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, 2013, ‘Violence against women: key statistics’, http://media.aomx.com/anrows.org.au/s3fs-public/Key statistics – all.pdf (accessed 08/03/2016)
Australian Council of Social Service, 2014, ‘The Poverty Report 2014’, http://acoss.org.au/images/uploads/ACOSS_Poverty_in_Australia_2014.pdf (accessed 14/03/2016)