A book and a film called “Berdaya di Kaki Langit Indonesia” (Empowered Under the Indonesian Sky) were officially launched on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Katadata, the book’s publisher, invited community figures whose stories were included in the book to speak at the launching. Among them were Asnaini from Aceh and Sugito from Yogyakarta. Other speakers included Ade Wahyudi, Katadata’s director; Budiman Sudjatmiko from the House of Representatives (DPR-RI); and Sujana Royat, Deputy Minister of the Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare for Poverty Alleviation. They opened the launching with their inspiring speeches. The book’s publication was the result of cooperation between Katadata, PNPM Mandiri, and PNPM Support Facility (PSF).
The launching took place at a movie theatre, Epicentrum Walk XXI. The film, lasting 24 minutes, showed villagers across Indonesia working hard to combat poverty. Photos of communities active with PNPM were displayed around the room.
The villagers shown in the movie included those who lived on the remote Bromo Mountain and the Raja Ampat Islands in West Papua. They represented other PNPM beneficiaries throughout Indonesia.
Villagers in Bromo Mountain built a clean water facility as well as health-care facilities to bring down the maternal mortality rate. Women in Raja Ampat were able to develop their economy by processing fish into local snacks such as abon and kerupuk.
Ade Wahyudi from Katadata said that their inspiring stories deserved national media attention. He hoped that the book launching would draw this attention.
“PNPM is an oasis in development activities. People are not numbers,” said Budiman Sudjatmiko at a discussion of “Tantangan Pemberdayaan Masyarakat di Era Pemerintahan Baru” (challenges in empowering communities under the new government).
Budiman pointed out that PNPM Mandiri was in synergy with the Village Law. In terms of funding and accountability, the law could be seen as a plus for PNPM.
Sujana Royat explained the power of PNPM Mandiri. He said that the key to alleviating poverty is trusting people to manage the funds.
“In PNPM, we simplify complicated bureaucracies. As a result, we have higher productivity,” he said.
Asnaini, the only female village head in Aceh
Asnaini and Sugito went to the stage to give speeches during a discussion of “Tantangan Pemberdayaan Masyarakat di Era Pemerintahan Baru” (challenges in empowering communities under the new government). Asnaini promotes PNPM Mandiri in her community and is the only female village head in Aceh. Sugito works with PNPM Urban and is a motivator in his community, Karangwaru in Yogyakarta.
Asnaini has been active with PNPM Rural ever since it was called PPK, the district development program. The story of Pagasing, her village in Takengon, Central Aceh, became part of the book.
A contribution of Rp2 billion from PNPM Mandiri helped improve the infrastructure in Pagasing, including electricity, and its SPP program helped push the economy. Asnaini and the rest of the 500 villagers worked hard to make the village prosper.
It was not easy to be the first and the only female village head in Aceh. Asnaini had to face some challenges. But the people wanted her to stay and to be strong.
“I first declined the request to work as the village head. It’s considered taboo for women to be leaders,” she recalled.
But the community kept asking her to be their leader. They came to her house and encouraged her to step up, and even talked her husband and uncle into giving her permission. They told them that if Asnaini wasn’t given permission, they would elect the previous village head to return to the office even though he didn’t have the capacity the village needed.And they said that Asnaini’s husband and uncle couldn’t protest it.
“My husband was silent for a while before finally agreed to their request,” said Asnaini, who received an award for the category of Woman in Aceh in 2012. “Then what about my family? If I worked as a village head, I wouldn’t be able to stay home for 24 hours at a time.”
Her first year as a village head was full of tests. Some people demanded to see a statement of her vision and mission but she didn’t have any. She based her programs only on people’s aspiration and needs.
Now she has been their leader for four years. However, when it comes to customary affairs such as local weddings, she gave the authority to the hamlet head. She shared that the community was not ready to separate the customary and government affairs of her job.
“Women are always seen as number two while they can do more than the work just related to beds, wells, and kitchens. We can help our husband improve the family economy. We can educate our kids so they can be helpful for the country,” Asnaini said.
PNPM activities in her village showed good progress in the field of agriculture, especially with shallots and chili peppers. The community was also able to process the harvest into ready-to-market food products such as keripik. However, if the harvest failed and the market price dropped, the community would have trouble in repaying the loan.
“If they can’t pay it on time, we reschedule our payment,” she explained.
Asnaini tried to be transparent in managing her village activities. She would post information about each project on a community bulletin board.
“With PNPM, we can see the result of a project,” she said.
She said she is ready to manage the funds provided by the new Village Law. She would use the money especially to empower women in her village. She also planned to empower youth by involving them in a clean water project managed by the village.
Sugito, a motivator
Sugito comes from Karangwaru in Yogyakarta. His work started with his concern about the Kali Buntung River. People used it as landfill and so it frequently flooded into residential areas. A local resident was even dragged into the stream.
Sugito wanted to change this situation. He was hopeful when learned of a program called Community-based Environment Arrangement for Residential Areas (PLPBK). The community was eligible for the program because of their success in managing the funds distributed by PNPM Rural.
Sugito convinced the community to clean up the river, and they agreed to support him. Some of them even gave away their land for the project.
“Our river was dirty, and we came up with the idea to create shelters, walking paths, and a playground. The community liked the idea and came to help. We asked some of them to provide a bit of their land for the park without any compensation,” he explained.
Those who agreed to give away their lands asked PNPM to issue a certificate to show a clear statement about their donation to prevent potential future conflicts with their grandchildren. And it didn’t take long for such a conflict to happen. The child of one land owner has already protested the donation.
“But the child finally realized that the land would benefit the community,” Sugito explained. “There are four segments that we need to complete in this project. We have finished two.”
Sugito has worked on cleaning up the river since 2009. The community of Karangwaru Riverside worked on two rivers: Kali Buntung and Kali Code. Segment one was to build a gazebo and a playground. In 2011, the focus of the project was to rearrange the environment, to strengthen the retaining wall (talud bronjong), to create walking paths, drainage, open space, and a septic tank. By 2012, the area around the river looked green and clean.
“The back of the houses that used to face the river were considered ugly, now it is just the opposite. Students can relax and do their homework there. Many children come to play there in the afternoon,” Sugito said.
As the project developed the community received more funds, including some from the public works ministry called the Acceleration and the Expansion of Residential Infrastructure Development Program. Additional funds came from the regional government. Sugito and the community made sure the money was managed properly.
“We don’t want all the programs to overlap,” he said.
To keep the park nice the community cleaned the river every month and involved nearby university students in the effort.
In regards to the Village Law, Sugito said that PNPM activities would be centralized mainly in the cities. He hoped that his community can continue participating in order to finish the remaining segments of the project.
“PNPM is special. Projects done by the community provide a much better result than the ones done by a third party,” he said. “Involving the community can also diminish the risk of fraud, as they want the best for their own place.”
He said that if the government will discontinue PNPM, he would go to state-owned enterprises (BUMN) and the private sector to find the funds for development projects.
After listening to Asnaini and Sugito, Deputy Minister of the Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare for Poverty Alleviation, Sujana Royat said that people shouldn’t be worried about the continuation of PNPM Mandiri. He urged the next government to be careful in spending the state budget, and stressed that investing it in the improvement of our human capabilities and social entrepreneurship can be a great asset for Indonesia.
“Whoever wins the presidential election, they should understand the concept of PNPM,” he said. “We also build partnerships through the Corporate Social Responsibility Program (CSR). We believe that Indonesia will move forward if we empower our people. There are millions of champions in PNPM who work hard to improve their communities.”
Read the book “Berdaya di Kaki Langit Indonesia” here.
My writings for PSF website.