Adaptation, empowerment and mutual benefit in the times of COVID-19


Mutual benefit in Indonesia: how people with a disability are finding new sources of income during the COVID-19 crisis

On March 11, 2020, WHO declared COVID-19 as a Pandemic and as we all know, since then, the world has been forever changed. This status should not be underestimated; there are only a few diseases in history that have been classified as pandemics. Impacts are being felt across Asia Pacific, where Water for Women projects are being undertaken and our partners are responding in remarkable ways during times of adversity.

Since entering Indonesia in early March and through the late April, 2020 there have been 7,775 positive people infected with COVID-19, 960 people recovered, and 647 people have died.

The flow on impacts caused by the virus are many including the paralysis of several sectors, such as manufacturing, tourism, transportation, trade, and construction. As a result, there were many layoffs (layoffs) and the cessation of several small and medium businesses (SMEs).

One group that has felt the impact of this shut down is people with disabilities.  Yayasan Plan International Indonesia’s project entitled ‘WASH and Beyond: Transforming Lives in Eastern Indonesia’ under Australia’s Water for Women (WfW) Fund is working with people with disabilities. They, along with the Disabled People's Organisations (DPOs) they work with through the project have seen first hand how COVID-19 has impacted the livelihoods of people with disabilities:   

"Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the massage effort for groups of people with disabilities has been completely closed. We do not have any source of income, because no one dares to come for a massage for fear of contracting the virus", said Baiq Hadijah, Head of Samawa Disability Persons Organisation.

People with disabilities are not letting themselves be discouraged by the current difficult conditions however. The project has been supporting them with agency building through Participatory Action Research (PAR) where they learn to advocate for their WASH rights including foundational gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) training. This process has helped them during the COVID-19 crisis as well.

During this pandemic situation, their massage business had to close, but they have adapted quickly to become mask-making entrepreneurs! So far YPII has been supporting their new business direction in fabric mask production, procurement and distribution. 

"There are several people with disabilities who have the ability to sew, have tried to pioneer the business of making masks. Initially for our own needs, but including many requests from outsiders. The most orders are currently coming from Yayasan Plan International Indonesia, which ordered 1,440 masks with 3 layers of cotton fabric according to the Ministry of Health's recommendation" said Baiq Hadijah.

This order provides mutual benefits for people with disabilities and YPII.  For YPII the order helps staff continue to undertake their frontline COVID-19 response across Sumbawa in a situation where mass shortages are creating challenges in obtaining personal protective equipment during this health crisis. 

For people with disabilities, Baiq Hadijah said that orders from YPII has been helping them to earn income during the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of their other business. He also empowers all persons with disabilities in his group. For those who have the ability to sew, the task is to sew the masks. While those who do not have that ability are tasked with cutting cloth, washing and ironing masks so they are ready to use and distribute. 

He hopes that the current condition will soon recover so that the lives of groups of people with disabilities return to normal by carrying out activities as before, but in the meantime, this partnership is helping many stay employed and stay protected.

Author: Jatmoko who works as Yayasan Plan International Indonesia WfW project’s Provincial Project Coordinator in NTB province. (Story edited for Water for Women website)



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