In Jakarta, my slum destinations are mainly Tanah Abang and Tambora, two of arguably the worst slum conditions in the city. The area is extremely vulnerable to flood perhaps due to poor infrastructure and improper waste management system. As someone who is extremely passionate about toilets and sanitation, I made sure that I checked out the toilets in the slum areas. According to a survey conducted by YCAB foundation (ycab.org), 53.1% of the households do not own a bathroom at home. Instead, they use public bathrooms which are decent-looking and hygienic, and only 14.5% use self-made bathrooms. Open defecation is not as common in slum areas as compared to the villages, where they build 'bathrooms' on top of the river. Tambora is one of the most densely-populated areas in Asia, and by that statement living conditions are very tough. It's really heart-warming to see despite their tough living conditions they still have a positive outlook on life. The hundreds of women that I get to meet throughout the summer are really inspiring when it comes to running their own businesses and their households.
I had the privilege to gain a scholarship to go to Nairobi in Kenya to do fieldwork research and come up with a grant proposal to solve a waste management and sanitation issue in Mathare, Nairobi. To my surprise, I received a $10,000 scholarship for coming up with the winning waste management and sanitation solution proposal for the second largest slum in Africa.
Having gone to the slums regularly in Jakarta, I knew what to expect in terms of what it looks like physically. It met my expectations. However, the friendliness of people in the slums was something I was most definitely stunned by. Students from Genesis Joy High School, who are my tourguides, my information source and my friends are filled with laughter, talent and intellect. Everyone was so friendly and approachable and I had the most amazing time being with them.
In the first day in the slums, they took me around the villages named after countries like Kosovo and Nigeria. We talked, they braided my hair, we played tennis and football and they took me to their houses. I was genuinely at my happiest. They told me about the crime, insecurity, waste, sanitation but they also told me about their hopes and dreams of getting out and then coming back to change their area.
Looking around and talking to them taught me that flying toilets (excreting in a plastic bag and throwing it anywhere) is the most popular option. Another pressing issue is the amount of trash thrown everywhere. I decided to do my solution proposal tackling both issues, which surprisingly got me the scholarship which I can use to start up the project after I graduate. I’m more than excited!
I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work together with KIVA (kiva.org) an international NGO that gives 0% interest for microcredit and Yayasan Anak Cinta Bangsa (ycab.org), a local NGO that provides affordable education, lifestyle training and gives microcredit for women. My job is to collect 200 stories from 200 groups consisting of 10 women each from rural areas in my hometown Tangerang. Since KIVA is a crowd-funding site, they require stories to be told from the groups so anyone in the world could lend money in stages of $25, and that's what I'm doing. Being quite familiar with KIVA from my IB geography class, the stories and photographs are what attract lenders from lending, and that's why I'm really excited to be given the opportunity to lead this project. The stories are a gateway for 2,000 women to get their microcredit loans totaling to $200,000.
How do I write the stories? I rode motorcycles to go to the rural areas in Tangerang, going through the clients' homes personally, joining their group evaluation or lending meetings. I talked to three out of ten people in each group, and select one from the three that I find most interesting to write about. After casually chatting with them about their lives and businesses, they would invite me to their businesses and that's where their photos are taken. Since the locations are quite far away from one another, each whole day from 10am - 5pm, I would only be able to get 2-5 stories. Despite the really time-consuming nature of the task, I really enjoy talking and getting to know the women and how microcredit has changed the way they do business.
IDA (STADION AJI IMBUT)
33 year-old Ida aims to seize her fourth entrepreneurial opportunity by expanding her original business. Dedicated and determined, the mother and soon to be grandmother has set up an in-home business selling food, oil, candles and other necessities for her neighborhood. Her shop is equipped with a variety of money-making ideas, and with the investment of increasing stock, buying a fridge, blender and cooking gas, she is now able to successfully expand her business.
Married to a fisherman after just finishing her primary school, Ida became a housewife and dedicated mother to an eighteen year-old. Often home-alone, Ida made great use of this opportunity by deciding to open her own business, which she lovingly calls her 'second child.'
Her fourth loan will go towards opening a proper business away from home, where she hopes to gain more customers and expand the items sold in her store. Ida is a representative of her group, 'Stadion Aji Imbut' (Aji Imbut Stadium in East Kalimantan), consisting of 9 other members equally as hard-working and business-savvy as she is.
SANTI (UNKNOWN TEAM)
Committed to financially supporting her family, Santi works seven days a week in her very own food and beverage business. Together with her husband of fifteen years, Santi raised her thirteen year old boy and five year old girl. She made sure that she instilled the importance of education on her children, as she was not given the opportunity to finish her education. Through her business, Santi manages to earn an average of Rp. 75,000 a day, with an initial start up of the same amount.
Before starting her own business in front of her home three years ago, she was working in the local market, where she earns a much lower income and spends less time with her children. She now sells ice coffee, gorengan (fried snacks), doughnuts, Indomie (instant noodles) and bakso (meatballs) in her shop. Additionally, she caters to farmers a whole meal consisting of rice, meat and vegetables, with help from her husband.
Through her initial loans, Santi bought ingredients to make the food that she sells. Santi admits that finding customers with her business located in front of her home is a struggle. To resolve the obstacle, she hopes to open a small restaurant called ‘Warteg Tia’ named after he five year-old daughter. She aspires to hire people for her restaurant and add more variety to her menu.
ACIH (BUAH MARKISA)
Having been married since the age of 15, Acih had trouble having a child, and only after the age of 31 is she blessed with two boys now aged 11 and 10. Before starting her own business of selling household appliances, Acih worked in the factory where she packaged products. She now earns an average of Rp.700,000 each weak from her business.
The appliances she sells include fans, stove, clothes lines, fridges and more. Knowing that there are already people selling household appliances being sold in her village, Acih avoids competition and increases her income by going to other villages. With her motorcycle, she goes to different villages, that are quite far away in distance from where she lives, and sells a variety of household appliances.
Acih requires more loans in order to sell more products, as the supply is not meeting the demand of the villages. In addition to selling appliances, Acih also credits clothing and sells traditional snacks. She is a representative of the group ‘Buah Markisa’ (Passion Fruit) consisting of entrepreneurial businesses related to food, bags, clothing and gas.
SUHAENI (BURUNG MERPATI)
Due to a medical condition, a doctor advised her not to use contraception. As a result, Suhaeni is a 42 year-old woman and a mother of six children, with the oldest one being 21 years old and the youngest one 13 months old.
Suhaeni buys the onions and either sell them the way they are or blend them to make sauce for Tukang Bakso. Her seventeen year-old son Rio Saputra helps her by going around the village with a bicycle selling the onions. Through her business, Suhaeni profits an average of Rp. 500,000 each month.
On top of that, she makes cake which her husband sells at his workplace. Before her business, she worked in the factory sewing clothes. Suhaeni is a representative from group Burung Merpati (Dove), which centers around businesses selling of groceries, clothing and food.
Rohima sells chicken noodles, fried snacks, ice drinks, coffee and porridge in front of her home while her husband goes around the village selling chicken noodles and fried snacks in a cart.
At 40 years old, Rohima has five children, with the youngest one being 12 years of age and the oldest one 25. Her business is more like a family business, where her children and husband are involved in either selling or making the food. Due to a varied selection of food and beverages, Rohima and her family profits an average of Rp. 100,000 a day, with most of the profit coming from Mie Ayam (chicken noodles).
In the morning, Rohima and her family sells porridge in front of her home, and in the afternoon her husband goes around selling chicken noodles, while stays in front of her home selling the varied selection of food her business has to offer.
The business to Rohima means more than just a source of income, but she ties it with her marriage and family. Decades of being in the same business, Rohima and her family has grown the business from being a small shack of snacks to an almost-restaurant serving full meals. In the future, Rohima hopes to expand the variety of food and beverages she sells and make a restaurant that would attract more customers.
After being invited to meet Jack Sim (a.k.a Mr. Toilet and founder of the World Toilet Organization), I got myself into a poster-designing job for the upcoming Bottom of the Pyramid World convention. The bottom of the pyramid refers to the four billion people living in emerging economies, and this convention is meant to further unleash opportunities at the base of the pyramid. The convention encourages key stakeholders from multiple sectors and industries worldwide to share knowledge, engage with issues and explore partnerships to bring sustainable and affordable solutions.
Our posters briefly showcase various already-existing and affordable innovative technologies that are targeted at this particular market. It was definitely an interesting experience designing the posters but it's even more amazing to meet the product designers and representatives of the products. Being the youngest person in the convention, with everyone else being businessmen/women, social entrepreneurs, government officials, it's quite the learning experience! I had opportunities to network and exchange business cards, learn more about what they do and also gain some guidance to start up my own social venture. As an aspiring social entrepreneur, this convention has not only inspired me but also opened up my channels into making my aspirations a reality.