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Insights and Analysis

Local Pathways to Disability-Inclusive Governance in Indonesia

December 16, 2015

By Natalia Warat

This is part of a special series for International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

“Nothing About Us Without Us” has become a familiar slogan used by the international disability movement and relies on the principle of full participation for all. However, in Indonesia, where people with disabilities (PWDs) still face enormous barriers, we’re just recently starting to see this slogan being put into practice.

In Indonesia, due to number of social exclusions faced by persons with disabilities, the majority of families with persons with disabilities are living in poverty. (Photo location: Kulon Progo, Yogyakarta)

In Indonesia, due to number of social exclusions faced by persons with disabilities, the majority of families with persons with disabilities are living in poverty. (Photo location: Kulon Progo, Yogyakarta)

The first barrier for people with disabilities in Indonesia often starts at home, where they are commonly kept hidden behind closed doors by their families. This practice leads to further isolation from members of the broader community, who in turn are then not exposed to disabled people, which results in their further stigmatizing disabled people as incapable. The government in turn then lacks awareness and clarity about the challenges PWDs face in both the public and domestic sphere. While a 2013 draft law currently under Indonesia’s parliament represents an improvement from the 1997 Law on Persons with Disabilities, its passage does not guarantee rights in practice, as an inclusive societal movement doesn’t happen through policy change alone.

Indonesian civil society organizations working on disabilities are stepping in and making a difference at the grassroots level. Indonesian Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) situate people with disabilities, their families, and local authorities as “problem solvers” at the village level, to ensure that village planning and budgets respond to the needs of PWDs.


Civil society meets with local authorities to identify social exclusion issues faced by persons with disabilities. (Photo location: Kulon Progo, Yogyakarta)

One example comes from South Sulawesi, where The Asia Foundation’s partner YASMIB successfully lobbied the village government to commit a specific budget for economic empowerment through livestock support accessible for disabled groups or individuals. In the Mallari village, the district of Bone allocated $1,400 (IDR 19.6 million) in their 2016 annual budget to provide assistance to 43 PWDs in the village. By working together as a coalition, they have successfully ensured that disability issues have been accommodated in Mallari’s Village Development Planning document.

Promoting social acceptance among parents of children with disabilities is another key to social inclusion. CSO Yayasan Bahtera facilitates disability information sessions in Sumba that work with parents of disabled children to address stigma and remove barriers to greater inclusion, such as being able to leave the house. For example, the program helped Kresensia Malo, a 12-year-old polio survivor who has difficulty walking, re-enroll in middle school. Whereas her parents were concerned that the long distance to school and bad condition of the roads were too dangerous, the program brought about a fundamental change to her family’s perspective on the rights of children with disabilities to go to school.

Citizens forum involving parents of children with disabilities. This is one strategy to improve parents understanding on promoting and protecting rights of children with disabilities. (Photo location: South-West Sumba)

Citizens forum involving parents of children with disabilities. This is one strategy to improve parents understanding on promoting and protecting rights of children with disabilities. (Photo location: South-West Sumba)

Working at the community-level is also critically important in breaking down the barriers of discrimination faced by PWDs and finding locally-based solutions together. The CSO, KARINA KAS, working in the district of Klaten Central Java promotes inclusive early child education through facilitating discussion, involving parents with children with disabilities and other community members. Through the assistance of Karina KAS, the village has established an early child care center, known as PAUD and open to all children. The center recently welcomed two children with disabilities. One of the children, five-year-old Cahyo, has a speech impairment and suffered from social isolation. Since joining the child center, Cahyo’s speech has improved through increased social interaction.

In many communities in Eastern Indonesia, where rates of poverty are higher than other parts of the country, disability is often considered a divine intervention from God or their ancestors. Having a disabled family member is regarded as a punishment that will bring about further social exclusion for the entire family. Because of these cultural beliefs, many PWDs are hidden away or even ostracized from the community. In trying to change these cultural beliefs, an NGO called PATTIRO deliberately appointed Sri Katon (a young woman who has no hands and functions with her feet) as the district coordinator in Sorong, West Papua. PATTIRO partnered with another CSO SAPDA (based in Yogyakarta) in the program to provide technical assistance to Sri Katon. Upon her return to Sorong, Sri Katon’s first task was to conduct a census among PWD in this incredibly geographically challenging district. This activity inevitably led to conversations about disability with families of PWD directly addressing the stigma and discrimination they face on a daily level. Sri is becoming an important actor for disability mainstreaming in Sorong, and with her colleagues from PATTIRO, she has joined a local coalition of CSOs to endorse Local Regulation on Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Finally, given the recent new authorities provided to the village level, our partner SIGAB is developing an “Inclusive Village” model. In its showcase site of Sendangtirto village in Sleman, Yogyakarta, there have been significant changes not only to public infrastructure such as ramps in the entrances to mosques, but also to the protection of rights of PWDs through village regulation and inclusion of PWD in village structures. The model was born out of a discussion during the Inclusive Forum conducted in December 2014 on the commemoration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, where almost 200 PWDs from other provinces were gathered to discuss governance and access to justice issues. Last month, SIGAB signed an MOU with the Government of Sleman Regency on the implementation of Inclusive Village model in two villages.

The long road to creating an inclusive society in Indonesia is emboldened by these examples of offering new ways of working with the government, civil society, and the PWD community that puts into action the slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us.”

Natalia Warat is a program officer for The Asia Foundation in Indonesia. She can be reached at [email protected]. The Asia Foundation’s support to Indonesian Civil Society and Community-Based Organizations working on disability issues is implemented in partnership with the Australian Government.  The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.


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