- Collecting to Survive
The workers of Bantar Gebang Waste Landfill
The Bantar Gebang landfill was established in 1989 in Bekasi, East Jakarta. While other landfills in the area have closed down, it has grown to accommodate over 600 trucks per day, which deposit up to 5,000 tonnes of landfill.
Villagers from around Java continue to move into the area on the promise of work sorting through mountains of rubbish for recyclables, despite the 2009 financial crisis reducing the weekly income of the 6 man teams from 15$AU to under 10$AU.
Working twelve hour shifts, workers face not only poor living conditions, but also a myriad of diseases, ranging from skin irritations to tuberculosis. Medical treatment is simply too expensive, and workers have turned to traditional medicines instead. The local elementary school has also begun teaching students how to treat work related infections and diseases as best they can.
Children as young as five begin learning to collect after school, and begin full time work by the age of ten. Since they can earn almost as much as adults, their age and educational needs are often overlooked.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) states that while children in Indonesia are protected by anti-child labour laws, the challenge for the organisation is to ensure the laws are being enforced.
ILO is working with the Bantar Gebang Elementary School to educate students that working in the landfill is not the only option for their future.
As the landfill’s international investment opportunities increase, both the conditions of the workers and the productivity of the landfill are being improved. Regulations for safer working conditions, free medical care for workers, and increased future prospects for children have been introduced. The landfill's administration is also implementing advanced waste management technology to produce power from 15 meter deep methane pits, and in February 2010 their first unit of power hit the grid. Initial predictions have the dump producing 26 Megawatts at full capacity, three times the output of a similar landfill in Bali. Along with additional work opportunities from the on-site fertilisation plant, these improvements show enormous potential and point to a better future for the workers and their families.
- Life amongst the tidal zone
The children of Marunda Village
Jakarta's decentralisation push has been seen as one of the most ambitious overhauls of a developing country in the last decade. From Indonesia's near financial collapse in 1997-98 to today, under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the economy appears to be thriving. By allocating large parts of the country's annual budget to separate regions for projects they deem necessary, local governments are funding issues affecting their areas, rather than issues the federal government recognises.
Marunda Village is located on the northern outskirts of Jakarta. Companies have poured funding into the village to establish aquaculture farms where locals cultivate shrimp and krill in holding pens, while living in accommodation provided by the company. The village lies within the ocean's tidal zones; for the livestock to survive the water needs to be changed daily, which is provided by the natural flow of the ocean tide.
A government run school also lies within the tidal zones. At high tide children wade through water to pile rocks as a make-shift pathway to the classroom to partake in morning studies. Through the national government's decentralisation push the aquaculture industry has thrived and provided income and housing for local villages. However the local school has been overlooked in the recent allocation of funds.
Roostien Ilyas, a social worker and founder of the Nanda Dian Nusantara Foundation in Jakarta has been working with Marunda Village to improve education for the children, before parents decide to remove them from school to help with their work. She seeks to empower the children to be 'proud of being village children' and to avoid the 'Jakartan dream' of transit to the central city. By working within the community and approaching the parents first, she listens to their wishes and adapts the project to meet the needs of the children's education.
- Singing in the streets
Jakarta's child begging syndicates
In mid-2007 the Jakartan government passed a by-law which allowed authorities to fine motorists who gave handouts to street beggars, with a penalty of up to Rp 20 million (AU$2,300) or 60 days in jail, in an effort to dissuade street begging. Begging syndicates have since been affected, as motorists raise their windows at traffic lights to avoid being harassed and possibly penalised with a fine. Even as women adopt sympathy tactics to receive handouts - often renting a baby from a mother unable to beg - they are still met with cold stares and empty hands.
During Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, when most of Jakarta's long term beggars and scavengers return to their villages to be with family. The empty streets soon fill with fresh, new, opportunistic street beggars looking to cash-in on the city's new-found cheer as Eid ul-Fitr (the breaking of the fast) is celebrated. Ramadan 2009 saw authorities not only enforcing the new laws for motorists but also commencing a round up of the seasonal influx of beggars, rationalising that they posed a threat to the stability of the city.
By half way through the Holy month authorities had rounded up 1,465 beggars and contained them in a large shelter. While taking names and origin of the detainees they found all arrested were from villages outside Jakarta. Most were women and children. Jakarta's ‘city of dreams’ will continue to bring migrants to the industrial epicentre. However the majority will find themselves unemployed, living on the streets and collecting plastic to sell as recycling or begging at traffic lights.
The Pelita Ilmu Foundation (YPI), work with families to provide education for their children, both formal and informal. Through a program called the ‘Income generating activity’, YPI work with parents of street singers to show them ways to generate income without taking their children out of school. By working with the family first, they face little resistance as they understand why the parents have taken their children out of school, and provide ways to remedy the income loss when they return to school.
- Temporary Transience
Chasing the Jakartan Dream
Through the early 1990's Jakarta’s blend of capitalism and socialism encouraged industrial growth. While the evolving infrastructure provided work for most citizens, the poor were paid less than the middle class. They could feed their families but many had nowhere to live, and the government would not accept responsibility for housing them. Shanty towns emerged, often adjacent to the high-rise buildings and sprawling factories symbolizing Indonesia’s industrial boom.
The capitalist years moulded Jakarta into a city of systems. While the government created jobs for the poor, the work was often menial and class divisions widened.
The industrial boom encouraged villagers seeking a better future for their children to migrate to Jakarta. However they were the first to lose their jobs during the economic crisis in 1997. The shanty towns became breeding grounds of hostility and rioting, which resulted in the government’s downfall. The newly elected government failed to maintain the infrastructure which provided employment for the poor, and the scavenging system evolved.
As the shanty towns overflowed the Senen train tracks were transformed into a community of collectors living under makeshift shelters. Their lives revolve around train timetables and the schedules of plastic buyers, and they face constant harassment from government officials demanding money to protect them from eviction.
Despite decentralisation, villagers are still lured by the 'Jakartan Dream'. Most provide for their families, but opportunities for children in the villages are limited. Jakarta is perceived to be a city of dreams, where employment is abundant and money flows freely. But villagers arriving on one way tickets are often left to fend for themselves with no work and limited education.
Roostien Ilyas, social worker and founder of the Nanda Dian Nusantara Foundation in Jakarta, works with local governments around Java to encourage regional employment and stop the transit to Jakarta. "Everybody has the right to go anywhere, this is their country. But each province also has a responsibility to their people." She is also developing a migrant database to keep track of the ever-changing population, to identify their needs and origin, and place responsibility back onto their home provinces.
While the conditions for workers are harsh their strength, honor and commitment shines through. They live a life along the train tracks collecting rubbish knowing that their sacrifice will afford an education and a better future for their children.