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Monday, May 28, 2007

Some Portraits of Poverty in Indonesia

Around two years ago I had a private student who happened to have a very rich husband. Her rich husband who is a very successful businessman in Semarang makes them able to send their children to best school. Besides, of course the husband has a lot of successful business associates. I can imagine with good education and many business associates of the father, her children will easily get good connection, access, and facilities to be involved in good business later on.

When someone comes from a poor family, he/she only knows poor people too, with limited education and horizon, how could they improve their own social status?

(I am talking about the situation in Indonesia, and not in America where people believe in American Dream with its’ “from rags to riches” motto.)

I remember one time a neigbor of mine talked to his son, “No need to get high education. I only graduated from junior high school and I can have a job to support my family. You can just follow my path.”

His narrow-minded horizon—only graduating from junior high, getting involved with people with similar background—limited him to think further. Now that he can have quite a good business and get enough income to support his family, didn’t he think that if he sends his son to a higher education, the education will make his son a better businessman? By having a higher education, his son will get wider connections and access to be a more successful businessman?


Patriarchal culture also has resulted in poverty. Believing that the husband must be the sole breadwinner and the wife must be the homemaker has made many people trapped in poverty. One family living in a neighborhood of mine sticks to this opinion.

Wanting to be called as a “responsible” husband, the man (a senior high school graduate) asked his wife (a junior high school graduate) to stay at home only as the homemaker. In the beginning of their marriage, this small family lived “enough” although they still lived together with the woman’s old mother in their small house. After the first daughter was four years old, the couple decided to have the second child. Believing that a woman who is still breastfeeding will not get pregnant, the wife didn’t use any contraceptive. However, two months after the second baby was born, the wife got pregnant again. Ridiculously, (I assume it was due to lack of knowledge, or lack of money to buy contraceptive tool), she got pregnant again and again until the fifth baby!!!

With five children at home, the wife could not help the husband work or do something to help make their ends meet. The fact that the income of the husband as a janitor was of course not enough. They could not give their children nutritious food. It made them grow not well, and lack of intelligence. The first daughter just graduated from junior high school. To reduce the family’s burden, the parents married her off. Ironically, the last news I got, she was forced by her husband to work as a prostitute somewhere in Surabaya. Her younger siblings didn’t do well at elementary school so that the parents asked them to stop going to school eventually.
And we can imagine when later on they grow up, if they don’t have good horizon to view this life (so that they will change it), they will stay poor and create more poor offsprings?

PT56 22.35 270507


johnorford said...

that last story is shocking!!

to me it it shows that poverty is like a vicious circle.


A Feminist Blog said...

That's right John, poverty is indeed a vicious circle. :(

triesti said...

if u look at the stats during the crisis, the income spent on food is decreasing while the spending on tabacco is increasing. now, since most of indonesian women dont smoke, and being patriachal families, food is taken by men, then the children, leaving women with left overs. Again.. its the women that had to carry the burden more than men.

A Feminist Blog said...

Hmm ... very right Triesti, not only in the eastern countries, I assume. In the western countries, women are still exposed to poverty more than men. This is also supported by one comment I got in my other blog. :(

amellie said...

the story reminds me of one of my relatives. the couples keep getting a new baby every single year, but they have no money to feed them! It's quite frustrating to see them living like that.

As my mom always says, children are amanah from Allah SWT...