Ibu Eka engaged in discussion with her High School students
“Are you proud to be a woman? What makes you proud to be a woman, Ibu?” asked one of the students in the first meeting. A simple question, and a deep one.
“Women are great at multi-tasking!” I answered spontaneously.
And then I thought, a better question might be, what DOESN’T make me proud to be a woman?
Women have played a significant role in the development of our country of Indonesia, whether they get credit for it or not. And although today we have women represented in many different roles in society, they are still often neglected in country-wide development and planning. This despite the fact that, at the household level, they hold equal decision-making status and are often described as the silent head of the home or “informal” power.
Why do these roles persist? And how can we change them?
Students and teacher collaborating on “I AM RISING” painting in celebration of V-day
In the “Women Rise for System Change” unit, I’m helping my high schoolers dig deeper into the current roles of women in social spheres, economic development and social justice, and discussing with them how women can rise for the betterment of ALL. The unit begins with a brainstorm and discussion about the book “How Women Rise” by Sally Helgesen & Marshall Goldsmith. This book outlines a basic template for change:
- Start with one thing – Making sustainable and lasting change requires focus. Not just momentary “let’s do it” enthusiasm, but the willingness to make a sustained and consistent effort over time. We accomplish this by taking one step at a time, not trying to change everything all at once and burning out.
- Don’t do it alone – It’s difficult to change a habit, but it’s almost impossible to change it alone. Why? Because, as humans, we all have built-in operating systems that can be hard to overcome. For instance, when we find ourselves in a familiar or triggering situation, we tend to default to our habitual response. Having a supportive partner in the work can get us back on track when we falter.
With this template in place, we work together to start identifying our “next best step” – making connections with our community and local organizations who are working towards the same goals and creating social action.
Ibu Sari, the founder of PKP Community Center in a panel discussion with our high schoolers for V-day last year.
For instance, we are collaborating with PKP Community Center, a local organization founded to facilitate the empowerment of Balinese women and girls and advocate for gender equality in the local area of Payangan, north of Ubud. PKP empowers women by providing valuable job skills through education and programs that teach women cooking and catering skills or making and selling clothes and accessories. Their center also provides a critical safe haven for divorced women who are often highly stigmatized and ostracized in their communities.
In the last unit we ran with PKP, our students worked alongside Ibu Sari, its founder, whose boundless energy and desire to improve the lives of local women, men, and children proved to be an inspiration and left a lasting impression on our learners.
The high schoolers were self-directed in their efforts to support the center in whatever way they could. They thought long and hard about how they could be genuinely useful for the long-term. In the end, they decided to help PKP sell some of its products, as the organization’s market had shrunk dramatically during the pandemic. In the process of helping them, our students learned about taking stock of inventory, assessing the accounts, marketing the products, and selling products to a consumer. In a broader sense, they learned how smaller, local actions like this can really ladder up to make a difference, and eventually help create system change.
The “Women Rise for System Change” unit is a perfect example of how Green School focuses on REAL learning:
- Relationship-oriented – In exploring topics around social justice, students often have their own worldviews challenged by diverse perspectives. Their relationships to one another shift through class dialogues that encourage tactful disagreement and respectful conversation.
- Experiential & Evolving – We don’t just learn about social justice theory and best practices, we take action on it by partnering with local organizations like PKP. Through these collaborations students experience what social action looks like in practice and how it evolves depending on global contexts – be it shifts in government policy or the impacts of a global pandemic.
- Authentic & Interconnected – Students start by connecting with, and more deeply understanding, social movements/questions and historical occurrences within a local context of Indonesia. Identifying the role of women in social, economic and development processes here gives them a framework for identifying those roles in other contexts.
- Local – At the end of the unit, our students can feel that they’ve made a real difference in their local community. Our continued collaboration with the PKP Community Center allows students a real opportunity to facilitate the empowerment and lasting financial independence of women and girls here in Bali.
At Green School, we believe when learning is REAL it is internalized, it plants a seed in the soul that is nurtured into a deeply held and life-long belief in the power of individual action to affect system change.