Martine Botha (TC '07) - Facilitating Female Empowerment In Indonesia

After Martine Botha (TC '07) completed both her undergraduate and masters degrees at the University of Melbourne, she worked in communications and fundraising for various organisations including World Vision, Oxfam and the State Library of Victoria. Martine has always been passionate about helping those less fortunate, and was interested in getting some ‘hands on’ experience working in a developing country. With this in mind, Martine took up a role with Australian Volunteers for International Development in 2013 and has been working as a Communications Officer for Caritas Keuskupan Sibolga. The office is situated in Gunungsitoli on Nias Island in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Since working for CKS, Martine has been involved in various projects including partnering with an organisation to provide water filters to poor families, creating an extra-curricular activities program for disabled children at the orphanage, as well as establishing a website for the organisation. Martine's current project is facilitating a vocational education centre CKS runs for underprivileged youth. The courses offered include sewing, computer studies and salon, and targets women in particular. Click on this article to read all about Martine's new project and how it is helping many women in need..

My name is Martine Botha, I’m a Collegian of Toorak College, having graduated in 2007. After completing both my undergraduate and masters degrees at the University of Melbourne, I worked communications and fundraising for various organisations including World Vision, Oxfam and the State Library of Victoria.

I’ve always been passionate about helping those less fortunate, and was interested in getting some ‘hands on’ experience working in a developing country. With this in mind I decided to apply for a role with Australian Volunteers for International Development.

Since November 2013 I've been working as a Communications Officer for Caritas Keuskupan Sibolga. The office is situated in Gunungsitoli on Nias Island in North Sumatra, Indonesia. I’ve had to learn Indonesian pretty quickly, as I’m the only white female living in this town!

Nias is a very poor region of Sumatra, with the poverty rate around 18%. It's been a rude awakening to live in the community for the last year, and work with families who can't afford basic medication, food or running water. Although it’s been exceptionally isolating, this experience has really shifted by perspective, and I’ve gained an understanding of a different culture, diet (rice, rice rice!) and way of life.

Since working for CKS, I’ve been involved in various projects. These include partnering with an organisation to provide water filters to poor families, creating an extra-curricular activities program for disabled children at the orphanage, as well as establishing a website for the organisation.

A project that I’m currently working on that is particularly close to my heart is the Caritas Centre. This is a vocational education centre CKS runs for underprivileged youth. The courses offered include sewing, computer studies and salon, and targets women in particular. It’s been wonderful to watch the participants in these courses grow in confidence, and proceed to start their own businesses in the community.

For a long time on Nias, women were not given the same opportunities as men, and there is still a strong cultural belief that women exist to have children and keep house. Coming from Australia, and indeed having graduated from Toorak alongside women who have gone on to do amazing things professionally, this is still a hard pill to swallow. Indeed for a long time in Indonesia women were referred to as ‘Wanita’ , originating from the Javanese, wanditoto, which means “at one’s disposal to be controlled”.

By providing women with the chance to become economic actors through education at the Caritas Centre, we are hoping to trigger transformation on Nias, and lift many families out of poverty. Statistics indicate the countries that rank the highest on the Gender Inequality Index (GII) have more cases of extreme poverty, and lower GDPs. As these factors are inextricably linked, it makes sense that one of the most efficient ways to combat poverty is to empower women!

If you are interested to hear more about this program and my work in the community, I’ve please view the video in link below. It highlights the stories of some of the women at the Caritas Centre, as well as alumni who have graduated to open their own businesses in the community.

We are always in need of funding and advocates, any donations or promotion of our cause will help change the life of a young woman living on Nias.

https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/the-caritas-centre/