by Deviana Dewi, Senior Program Manager, Poverty and Social Development at the Australian Embassy, Indonesia
November marks my first anniversary working at DFAT – an opportunity to reflect on the work that I have done here. As an Indonesian national working for the Australian Government on multilateral development programs with the World Bank, my multilayered identities have never been this interesting – if not confusing. I need to use my judgment to manage aid delivered by the World Bank in my country from Australia’s perspective. In my role, I work on a multi-donor World Bank trust fund, Local Solutions to Poverty. Australia is the largest donor to this program that assists the Government of Indonesia to improve the quality of life of poor and vulnerable Indonesians.
Income inequality is not always bad – it can incentivise people to work hard, innovate, and take risks. Yet, high inequality can hamper economic growth, trigger conflict, and undermine the potential of current and future generations. Sadly, it can be due to factors outside an individual’s control: your family background, where you are born, and what public services you had access to when you were growing up.
I consider myself fortunate as I was born in a more developed part of this archipelago – something I could not choose. Although my parents only finished junior high school, their investment in my education (coupled with good nutrition as a child) has led to opportunities for me as an adult. However, many children from poorer households in rural areas do not have a healthy start in life and a quality education, which are core prerequisites for developing physically and cognitively, and earning a decent living in the future. Half of all four-year-old children born in one of Indonesia’s richest 20 per cent of households are accessing early childhood education and development centres, while only 26 per cent of those born into Indonesia’s poorest 20 per cent of households do.
One of the aims of Local Solutions to Poverty is to improve basic service delivery in early childhood development. For example, since 2016 the program has undertaken a pilot project in 25 districts aiming at refining systems for delivery of high-quality early childhood education and development services in poor and rural villages. With over 15,000 community teachers trained, early results from a teacher performance evaluation have shown that teacher practices have improved in 15 out of the 20 indicators measured. The success has resulted in a national strategy to scale up this approach to 300 of Indonesia’s 514 districts by 2021.
The pilot project was recently awarded a UNESCO Prize for innovation in empowering teachers. The UNESCO-Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers is awarded every two years to projects that have made outstanding contributions to improving the quality of teaching and learning, especially in developing countries or within marginalized or disadvantaged communities.
It’s clear that unequal opportunities at birth and in childhood can perpetuate poverty and inequality in later life. On my first anniversary at the embassy, I reflect on how fulfilling it is to engage in an Australian investment that contributes to breaking this vicious cycle.
Deviana Dewi is Senior Program Manager, Poverty and Social Development at the Australian Embassy, Indonesia. Deviana holds a BA in International Relations at Universitas Katolik Parahyangan and an MA in Development Studies at University of Sussex. She has experience in grass-roots level community development, national level program management, and international research projects, with strong interest in the interplay between malnutrition, poverty, and inequality of opportunities.