The Heroines of LeaN On: Messages and Actions of Moms to Support Pandemic Control

It was an inspiring afternoon for the LeaN On communications team to have the opportunity to converse with two exceptional female caseworkers. The COVID-19 task force’s behavior change tagline: Ingat Pesan Ibu (Remember Mom’s Message) reminded our team to trace some of the stories of mothers who joined LeaN On’s outreach as caseworkers to communicate COVID-19 risks to marginalized community members in various areas in Indonesia.

Carrying out caseworker duties in between their household errands is certainly not easy. However, we found that many female caseworkers had performance records beyond their fellow caseworkers. They are heroines (namely ‘Srikandi’ in Javanese literature) who always make extra time, efforts and mobilize their resources to help the LeaN On program participants who need various social support in the midst of a plaguing pandemic.

We learned about the common thread that connects the motivation and work ethics of the LeaN On heroines during our enlightening remote interviews.

The Drive to Act

It was four in the afternoon when Partini confirmed her availability to talk to the LeaN On team over a phone call. Although she has just returned from her neighborhood social activity in Sleman Regency of Yogyakarta, Partini, a caseworker under SAPDA and ASB Indonesia-Philippines supervision, greeted us warmly.

We heard about her efforts to get wheelchair assistance for Surono, one of the LeaN On participants with disabilities, and inquired if she has any recent updates. Apparently, Partini had submitted the request on behalf of that person long before joining LeaN On, but it did not succeed. When she met Surono again during her risk-communications outreach for LeaN On, that re-ignited her to resubmit the application to the Social Affairs Office.

With several documents that she had collected with Surono’s family, Partini continued her mission to obtain a free wheelchair so that Mr. Surono could be more mobile and active. “We applied to the Social Affairs Office … What a coincidence, this month I was also appointed as the social support verification personnel. But currently, the free wheelchairs are not available, so we’ll have to wait for the next round. At least his paperwork (passed) the verification stage. Hopefully (the support) will be available soon,” explained the optimistic caseworker.

Partini, Surono and his wife in a COVID-19 risk-communication session

This was not the first and only time Partini facilitated marginalized community members to fulfill their social support rights. She is also waiting for a reply from the authorized office on an appeal to provide tuition-free school access for a child with disabilities who dropped out of school due to economic conditions. The child is also a LeaN On program participant.

When we asked her why she was willing to spend extra time and energy preparing and submitting requests for assistance for the LeaN On participants, Partini answered without hesitance, “If people are in need and I can help, why not.”

Field Experience and Passion

Shortly after the telephone call with Partini ended, we contacted Nining, a LeaN On caseworker under ThisAble’s supervision for the City of Bandung, West Java. While unwinding, Nining received our call and told us about other social work-related activities that she attended that day. We could only imagine what a busy day it must have been for Nining and Partini. Both of them have multiple social activities while dealing with the pandemic challenges themselves.

Conversation on her daily errands gradually shifted to the LeaN On outreach she has been conducting in Bandung for the past few months. Nining enthusiastically shared how grateful she was to learn the news that several LeaN On participants with disabilities, whom she helped register for the social service’s Assistance for Persons with Disabilities, finally received support. We could hear the joyful voice on the other end of the phone.

Nining when providing COVID-19 prevention education to LeaN On program participants

We asked her further about the submission process to facilitate social assistance. Nining eloquently explained how she and her fellow social workers collect data on persons with disabilities in their coverage area, both before and during the LeaN On outreach. Her comprehensive explanation about the types of social assistance and their work drills reflects the long hours of field time and passion. Nining has indeed served communities as a social worker for a long time.

“In 1986, I started as a social worker, but my coverage was only a neighborhood, so I joined the local Posyandu (Child Growth Monitoring activity) as a health volunteer. From a Posyandu volunteer, I was assigned to the village-level PKK (family empowerment and welfare committee) all the way to the sub-district level. In PKK, I got exposed to extensive programs for the communities, including family planning and community-based rehabilitation programs for people with disabilities,” said Nining, recalling her early engagement in social works.

Support from their Family

Their drive and passion for helping others in need, or a “calling,” as Nining said it, as well as the field hours and high dedication, that also underlined Partini’s perseverance, are not the only virtues they have in common. Having supportive families is their next similar quality. To a homemaker and mother, the relatively intense outreach followed by additional activities to facilitate social assistance for many participants in need are certainly not an easy thing to juggle. Managing their time and energy is important, but so is the continuous support from their spouses and children.

“I cannot drive a motorbike on my own for outreach visits. So I ask my husband to drive me around and he gladly does it even for farther sites.” And Nining added, “Fortunately, there is only my husband and I at home as our children all grown up and have their own families… Occasionally we’d have our grandchildren over. Alhamdulillah (Praise to God) I can manage my time.”

Partini laughed when she shared her family reactions, “… having my children and husband protesting is normal, Sis…” Quite often, she returned home late because she had to complete various matters related to her social works. Fortunately, both her husband and children continue to show understanding and support for her important role in society.

From Partini and Nining, LeaN On learned that engaging women in disaster management to fulfill the marginalized communities’ rights to information and support is a strategy that should be embraced and maintained. A noble task performed out of a calling and based on extensive experience and dedication will certainly be more effective and fruitful, just like the two LeaN On heroines’ actions.

LeaN On by INVEST DM is an inclusive RCCE program that aims to provide access to risk information and education on COVID-19 prevention, including information on available social protection services, for 165 thousand people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups in seven regions in Indonesia. This program is supported by the American people through USAID, and in partnership with BNPB, Kemenkumham, MAJu (The Asia Foundation) and a consortium of partners consisting of Mercy Corps Indonesia, ASB, ThisAble, Human Initiative and AtmaConnect.

LeaN On by INVEST DM is a USAID funded COVID-19 risk communications & engagement of people with disabilities & vulnerable groups in seven regencies in Indonesia

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