Reflecting on the special privilege of witnessing our female Balinese scholars grow into confident and empowered young women, Kania Maniasa, Executive Director of the Green School Bali Foundation, shares how these local scholars develop global perspectives at Green School, and create positive change in their communities
In recent decades, the world has made so much progress toward elevating the voices of women in business, in politics and in activist movements. While we are moving toward a world where women and female-identifying peoples are valued and supported, there is still much progress to be made.
Here in Bali, Indonesia, women have played a crucial role in society for generations – raising children, working jobs and acting as glue for their family and their community. They nurture balance and harmony across our beautiful island. While their value is understood and appreciated, why are their voices so often not being heard?
As a Balinese-American woman, I am fortunate to see the world through two different cultural lenses. I see how important a Balinese woman’s role is in their home and community. At the same time, I have appreciated seeing more and more Balinese women become successful business owners and leaders in their fields. They are an inspiration to me and to so many women on my island. Part of the reason why I am so devoted to my role and the work that I do for the Green School Bali Foundation is that I get to witness the evolution of Balinese girls to empowered young women who are able to redefine their role in communities.
Two examples that come to mind immediately, of the many I have seen are of Tirta and Ni Luh.
Tirta advocating for climate justice during Green School’s Sustainable Solutions event
Tirta, High School student in Grade 11, has been at Green School for more than 8 years. She recently wrote and illustrated a children’s book – What is a Safe Touch? – to teach young people about how to protect themselves from sexual abuse. Explaining her motivation for this project, Tirta explained how she realised that most young kids don’t yet know what their boundaries are when it comes to their space and privacy, let alone how to communicate those boundaries. For Tirta, education is an extremely important tool for children, giving them crucial knowledge to identify and avoid sexual violence. Her book will be available in both Bahasa and in English so it can help as many young people as possible.
Ni Luh, a recent Green School Alumni, did her final capstone – or “Greenstone” – project about her healing journey as a victim of sexual assault. A perfect example of what our Green School Voices movement is all about, Ni Luh shared “In Grade 10 I was finally able to remember what happened. I was drowning in anger, the only option I could think of was to talk to my friends. I knew they would be there for me no matter what, but there were Voices in my head that were saying that maybe they would not believe me or take me seriously. I felt the shame like many women feel when they are harassed. But I did not want those Voices to hold me back any longer, because I was tired. My friends showed me so much support and validation, and from that I felt brave enough to embark on my healing journey.
There have been many steps in my healing journey. One of my first experience of coming to terms of being objectified was my Voices performance when I was in Grade 8.”
The Voices movement created a safe environment where she started feeling more comfortable sharing her feelings and, gradually, experience. She spoke about the rising cases of violence against women in Indonesia, and the importance of protecting women, girls and female-identifying peoples under the country’s legal system. Through this platform, and by allowing her voice and story to be heard, Ni Luh was able to provide support and inspiration to others who have experienced similar trauma, creating a positive ripple effect of support out into her community. She was further encouraged by the recent #MeToo movement to realise she’s not alone.
Ni Luh presenting her Greenstone, Let Me Hold Your Hands, speaking out against gender-based violence
When I see Tirta and Ni Luh, and how much they have grown to become such wise and confident young women, I also see the gift they are giving to Bali and to the world, one that will count for generations to come. They have opened a path, and have given space for other girls to feel they are supported and heard.
Tirta and Ni Luh are proof that individual voices and impact can lead to cumulative change. The Green School Local Scholarship Program nurtures young Indonesian children like Tirta and Ni Luh to become the future changemakers for their community and beyond. Each child at Green School receives an education that allows them to see the world not only as it is, but as it can be, and to rise in action for that future world. Our community supports each child in pursuing their own pathway to become powerful, remarkable, and confident young women. And, most importantly, for their voices to be heard.
“Being a part of the V-Day event and activism on campus has empowered me to speak up about my journey. It has allowed my voice to go further and further.”
– Ni Luh, Green School graduate
Kania mentoring session with Local Scholarship students
Written by Kania, Executive Director of the Green School Bali Foundation