Banjarnegara – The existence of the Women’s School (Sekolah Perempuan) in Gumelem Kulon Village, Susukan District, Banjarnegara, convinced Arif Machbub, the village headman to focus more on the improvement of public facilities in the mountainous area. “I think this is the key to the successful of the development of this village,” he told Tempo in early December.
For enthusiasts of cultural tourism, Gumelem Kulon is no stranger. The village is famous for having a group of batik makers, a Banjarnegara specialty. Gumelem also has an annual event, with the performance of the Traditional Art with Jazz named “Gumelem Etnic Carnival.” Although full of tourism potential, Arif claimed it was difficult to manage the economy of his village with its population of 10,414 people. “About two-thirds of the Gumelem Kulon area is in the hills. There are thousands of poor people with very few public facilities. ”
But thanks to a survey from Sekolah Perempuan, Arif now has clear guidelines surrounding building his village. He is no longer guided by the data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), which recorded that out of 2,845 families in Gumelem Kulon, around 1,008 were poor.
Sekolah Perempuan’s survey found that there were 1,500 poor families in Gumelem Kulon. The survey also noted that 40 percent of the residents of Gumelem Kulon Village were poor or very poor. The majority of them live on slopes and hilltops that are isolated, with damaged roads and bridges.
From the same survey, Arif obtained another piece of new data: there were 60 disabled people and 103 poor widows who needed special assistance in Gumelem Kulon Village. So far, he said there was nothing about this in the government archives. “No wonder, many protested about the distribution of Raskin (government food aid),” Arif said.
The survey, which was held from October to early December 2015, was one of the Sekolah Perempuan programs in Gumelem Kulon. Seventeen housewives attended the school since February, with activists from Infest, an organisation from Yogyakarta that escorts villages, initially establishing the school.
The survey uncovered the 14 BPS items of poverty. The Gumelem Kulon Sekolah Perempuan members replaced it with 28 indicators. “The BPS survey measures the economic condition of every home, but in fact one house can be occupied by between two and four families,” said Tursiyem, one of the school participants.
Tursiyem added, now the survey results are being finalized to be processed into data on the current population situation in his village. They only paid Rp. 1,000 for each families data. “The total cost of the survey is IDR 10 million, which can be covered by the village budget in 2016,” said the 32-year-old housewife.
One Sekolah Perempuan participant, Lilis Yuniarti, found that the majority of girls there only completed junior high school. This triggers the spread of early marriage rates. “Because if you want to go to high school, you have to go down the hill using an ojek (motorbike taxi). It costs Rp. 25 thousand one way,” she said.
The Infest Yogyakarta Village Program Manager, Frisca Arita Nilawati, believes that the key to successful implementation of the Village Law is to strengthen citizen participation and marginal groups. “So far, the problem of development belongs only to the local elite,” he said.
Koran Tempo, 26 December 2015