During my time at AIESEC I have come to know and respect my generation’s dedication to making a positive change on the world. More than any generation before us, millennials are aware of the problems in our world, what causes them and what stops us from fixing them. When I talk to young people about AIESEC, I am surprised by how many have heard about the Sustainable Development Goals and how quickly they identify one which speaks to them on a personal level.
For those who don’t know, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are seventeen goals set by the United Nations that seek to tackle and transform the world’s most formidable issues. Succeeding the original eight Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs sought to expand the scope of their development focus to new areas. Despite this expansion, the first goal remains relatively the same. The first MDG called for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger whilst the first SDG is “No Poverty.” This seeks an end to poverty in all its forms everywhere.
According to the U.N., poverty must be understood as more than just a lack of income or resources.
“Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.” -U.N.
Since the 1990s, we have seen global poverty cut in half. Though this is an incredible achievement, poverty remains an ongoing struggle in countries all over the world. Indonesia is one example of this.
Currently, 11% of Indonesians live in poverty. Considering Indonesia’s enormous population of 264 million people, that number adds up to around 29 million people. That’s more than the total population of Australia.
Indonesia presents a unique challenge with regards to poverty alleviation. The South Asian country has an unusual geography that spans over 17,000 islands resulting in a diverse population with no two communities being quite the same.
In addition to this, poverty is not limited to specific areas of the country. In Indonesia, poverty exists in both rural and urban spheres making it difficult for developers to target certain areas.
Several pockets of Indonesia have been highly affected by the continuing depreciation of the Rupiah since the 1990s. This has led to an increase in prices of basic necessities, affecting the poor most severely. In some communities, this has undone much of the development work that had already taken place there.
Despite these tribulations, Indonesia has made strides towards ending poverty. Between 2006-2013 10 million people were able to escape poverty. This has been the result of a number of poverty reduction initiatives led by the Indonesian government as well as partner institutions.
I believe that youth are are to play a pivotal role in ending poverty in Indonesia. Currently, people under the age of twenty five comprise more than a fifth of the population making them a huge untapped resource for economic change.
Luckily, they are being supported by a number of organisations. The United Nations has provided target programs and policies that educate and empower youth. When U.N. representatives asked Indonesian youth what they care about they responded with answers relating to everything from gender to infrastructure to health.
In particular young Indonesians are concerned about the role that health is playing in perpetuating poverty. Indonesia has some of the highest maternal mortality rates in Asia with 262 deaths for every 100,000 live births. To combat this, the U.N. initiated services that help Indonesian youth access services and advice concerning reproductive health.
Indonesian youth have also been heavily involved in microfinance development. Since 2007, Indonesia have run the PNPM programs, which seeks to reduce poverty through community oriented microfinance solutions. This involves working with local communities to map out community potential and direct funds into realising goals. So far, the World Bank has invested $10 billion into the PNPM programs.
The way Indonesians youth engage with the promotion of the SDGs mirrors the passion I have seen here in Australia. It is said that millennials are more socially conscious than the generations that have preceded them- and it is in actions like those of young Indonesians that prove it.
However, Indonesia still has a long way to go. The rate at which poverty is declining has slowed and many people are sitting just above the poverty line. Only a small downtick in the economy could have far reaching consequences, with the highest at risk being families with young children.
If you would like to help Indonesia reach its development goals, AIESEC has a number of opportunities for youth to volunteer. Our programs in Indonesia focus on education, environment and economic growth. To browse our programs visit https://www.aiesecaustralia.org/explore/indonesia