Indonesia's 'Big Bang' Transformation
Indonesia: from authoritarianism to a full-fledged democracy
When you think about Bali, a picturesque, tropical holiday island most likely comes to mind: a piece of heaven with lush tropical greenery, magnificent landscapes, long sandy beaches and world-class surfing spots. You probably also think about the friendly Balinese people, deeply rooted in the Hindu traditions of the island, which is dotted with thousands of temples. For many, Bali's beauty represents Indonesia and it attracts over 3 million visitors per year to the island. But this paradise for tourists is not paradisiacal for the inhabitants at all.
Due to the rapid development of the tourism industry, Bali has undergone drastic changes. These have brought steady income and even prosperity to some parts of the population. But they have also resulted in a lot of major problems, especially regarding the environment, as well as a deep income gap, often along the lines of education and access to infrastructure. While agriculture was traditionally the core of Balinese society and the central pillar of its economy, tourism has now supplanted farming and is contributing about 66% to Bali's economy with 4.91 % current annual growth. Bandung Regency in the south of the island is the heart of Bali's hospitality industry. In 2012 over 125.5 million USD of tax revenue were generated in the Bandung Regency alone.
The economy of today's Bali relies heavily on tourism, and tourism-related jobs are highly sought after by young Balinese hoping for a financially secure and independent life. However development, often unplanned, is having a great impact on the island's natural environment, affecting water resources, and increasing pollution and localized flooding. And in the end it is also having a highly detrimental effect on agriculture. There has been a steady loss of agricultural land, especially the wet irrigated rice fields that represent some of Bali's iconic landmarks, because of increasing urbanization and resort construction. Additionally farmers have to compete with touristic development projects for water allocation. Modern waste-management systems are rare, so private households and tourism facilities are both contributing to pollution.
As living costs on the island are rising, the less developed parts of Bali, those still not involved in the tourism industry, are also facing the consequences of fast-paced development, especially the water shortage. Since these parts lack employment opportunities, many young people are heading south without any preparation. But jobs in the booming tourism and hospitality industry require a certain level of education, professional skills and at least a basic command of the English language. Young people from low-income families and remote rural areas are often not given the opportunity to develop such qualifications.
Indonesian laws are designed to give all citizens the same access to an education. Six years of primary school are compulsory and tuition is free in public schools, though it generally must be paid for further education. But as in many developing countries, the quality of education in public schools is often not sufficient. Private schools are becoming very popular among the well-to-do Balinese, while low-income families still struggle to ensure even basic public schooling for their children, since there are always additional costs for books and uniforms. This situation is widening the income gap in society. Bali's fast economic development constantly attracts huge numbers of seasonal workers from neighbouring islands, particularly East Java. The children of these domestic migrant workers find it difficult to receive formal education as they are required to attend public schools in their home provinces. In the worst case they do not get any formal education at all.
The income gap is widening.
Young women are more likely to find themselves in marginalized situations. It is a deeply anchored custom in Bali to give boys preferential treatment and they are generally given greater support in pursuing their education than girls. Sons carry on the family name, legacy, and ritual obligations, while daughters are expected to marry early and manage their husband's household. Instead of studying many girls are required to help provide income for the family and assist in housework. Some leave school to work in small businesses performing unskilled tasks, sometimes even before they reach the minimum working age: just 15 for non-hazardous work in Indonesia. Girls are also expected to marry and care for children quite early; the average marital age in Bali is 22. Young women feel constant pressure from family and peers to fulfil these expectations. Girls and women have the double burden of finding access to modern employment while conforming to traditional expectations, since the economic reality is that an average family cannot be sustained on just one income
For Bali's sustainable development it's crucial to prepare all young people for the changing economic landscape and its consequences. Providing professional education and the knowledge needed for environmentally conscious behaviour is the key to Bali's future. In acknowledgement of the challenging situation facing the Balinese people, many local and international aid organizations have begun operating on the island. These organizations work primarily in education and environmental protection.
The R.O.L.E. Foundation – an acronym for "Rivers, Oceans, Land, Ecology" – is an environmental stewardship organisation established by Australian Mike O'Leary in 2007. Since then the foundation has gotten involved in the environmental issues facing the island and recently launched the Environmental Ambassador's Program at the Island Sustainability Centre in Sawangan to teach young women and men how to face and solve environmental problems. R.O.L.E. provides a number of environmental education projects in its 1.5-hectare Island Sustainability Education Centre (ISEC) as well as some off-campus projects inside communities.
The Children's Interactive Environmental, Diet and Exercise Program is one of these. Here school classes from all around the Bukit Peninsula come to the ISEC to learn about the earth, nature and the environment. The centre focuses on hands-on learning. Children learn about waste separation, starting with what actually constitutes waste to how to compost organic waste and why it is dangerous to burn rubbish. The kids really love it! In the beginning, they are often very shy and a little bit sceptical, but the fun and game-like approach helps involve them in the education process and they open up quickly. Kids receive a stamp in their Eco passport for every workshop they attend (composting, seed planting, etc.) The passport is provided by R.O.L.E. and after completing all the workshops, children are 'official' caretakers of Mother Earth.
It is one thing when foreigners come to teach. But when young, inspiring and enthusiastic locals are committed to their island, it is easier to spread the word.
By educating the youngest members of the community, R.O.L.E. aims to bring environmental awareness into families and communities and have a positive impact on the future development of the natural environment on the island of Bali. The Bali WISE subproject was designed to break the poverty cycle by ensuring women and girls acquire skills and an education. The project provides free education, job skills and employment opportunities to women in need. Its goal is to equip these young people with the skills to launch environmental awareness campaigns in their own districts, since they all come from various parts of the island, and raise awareness among their friends and families. It is one thing when foreigners come to teach. But when young, inspiring and enthusiastic locals are committed to their island, it is easier to spread the word. In June 2012 R.O.L.E separately established Bali WISE to focus on skills education for women and girls in particular. Every year around 200 women graduate from Bali WISE ready to enter the job market.
The programme provides women with basic skills like reading, writing, and competency in the English language; life skills such as personal hygiene and health; and office skills. It also teaches vocational skills with the support of hotels, spas and other business institutions. Any unskilled, undereducated and underemployed woman from Bali and the surrounding Indonesian Islands can apply to attend courses at Bali WISE.
The Bali WISE programmes are designed to provide young women with the skills they need to pursue their dream jobs in the hospitality and tourism sector. Women start with the Basic Work and Life Skills Program which takes three months and focuses on building their English speaking skills, as these are crucial for working in internationally renowned hotels, restaurants or spas. It is amazing to watch the girls grow and become more confident over time. They undergo an obvious change in perspective, moving from being family focused and dependent to becoming women who dress and walk with confidence, speak for themselves and are less subordinate to the expectations of their families. After completing the first step, graduates can apply for the vocational programme, which is more focused on the tourism sector and includes topics such as budgeting, food handling and customer service.
Participants can also participate in the application process for the Role Model Program, which is designed to provide on-site training in one of the partner hotels, such as the high-end Ayana Resort and Spa and the Conrad Hotel in Tanjung Benoa. The hotels themselves decide which apprentices to take based on their English-speaking ability and other relevant skills. This is very valuable experience for the girls, as they learn to overcome their fear of and prejudice towards the large hotel chains.
This vocational training is a wonderful opportunity for girls to practice their new skills and a great boost to their self-esteem. It is important to point out that the girls incur no costs for the education they receive at Bali WISE. Participants additionally receive an allowance of Rp 700,000 (around US-$ 70) for the first three months and Rp 900,000 (around US-$ 90) for the second phase of their education. This money is meant to help with accommodation and transportation costs. It makes it possible for young women in particular to move out of their family homes farther inland on the Balinese mainland and take the huge step towards independence without placing a huge financial burden on their families. The R.O.L.E. Foundation has successfully worked to increase the employment opportunities available to young women from poor communities by providing access to education, vocational training, and job placement, as well as assistance in starting up eco-friendly micro businesses.
The training is very comprehensive, so students are in high demand when they finish their training. Some former students include Juni, who is employed at the Sanur Beach Hotel; Dewi, who works as waitress in the Ayana (a high-end resort); and Siti, who has become Head Chef of Bali WISE's on-site restaurant, the Silly Snail Café. All were hired on right after completing training. Alumni are always welcome and encouraged to visit Bali WISE if they need help or want to share their experience and tips with new students. Such visits are always very inspiring for the younger women. They seem to motivate them to strive even more eagerly, as they know hard work will be crowned with success and Bali WISE can be their steppingstone to a brighter future.