Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Education

    Secured livelihoods for women and youth in Indonesia and Malaysia

    Project Number: 256.1004

    In rural areas of Indonesia and Malaysia, the local population has so far lived largely from agricultural self-sufficiency. Due to external developments, including massive environmental changes, many families are forced to adapt their lives and find new sources of income. Mission 21 supports particularly vulnerable village communities and groups in this process with a broad range of training courses and provides graduates with assistance in implementing their own projects in practice. At the same time, for many children and young people in rural areas, a quality education cannot be taken for granted. For secondary schools and vocational training, they have to move to district or provincial capitals. For many families, the costs are prohibitive. In some areas, girls are also married off as minors, do not go on to school or become victims of exploitative working conditions in the course of labor migration, sometimes abroad. For this reason, Mission 21 supports young women from poor backgrounds and remote regions in particular with educational scholarships through this project.

    Background information

    A large part of the population in Indonesia and Malaysia suffers from poverty and high unemployment. According to the World Bank, around 43 percent of Indonesia's population has less than US$ a day to live on. About 20 percent of men between the ages of 15 and 24 and one-third of young women do not have jobs or go to school. Although attendance at primary and secondary school is compulsory, only half of children from low-income families are enrolled in secondary schools. Due to socioeconomic and geographic factors, many families cannot afford to educate their children. In addition, remote rural areas, including Mission 21 project areas in Sabah, Kalimantan, Papua and Timor have limited educational structures compared to urban and semi-urban areas.

    Overall, the differences between rich and poor and between urban and rural areas are glaring, as rural villages are often neglected in government development programs. In the predominantly rural regions of the islands of Borneo and Papua, the indigenous ethnic groups live mainly from subsistence agriculture and forestry. However, this is increasingly threatened by deforestation, erosion and the spread of monocultures, especially palm oil plantations. Pollution from coal, ore, and gold mining also creates massive health hazards. In East Kalimantan, major demographic changes are expected due to the planned construction of a new capital city. Immigration from other parts of Indonesia has led to ethnic conflicts in the past and will continue to be a major challenge in the country in the future. Due to a lack of economic prospects, Timor has become a hotspot for the recruitment of migrant workers. As a result, many young people are tempted to leave the region, often ending up in exploitative employment due to illegal practices.

    In addition, traditional cultural norms and poverty in Indonesia and Sabah still lead to the marriage of underage girls and structural disadvantage of women in society. Investing in women's personal, intellectual, and economic empowerment is central to gender equality in society, poverty eradication, and inclusive economic growth. As mothers, heads of households, and bearers of neighborhoods and social networks, they are particularly important in bringing about social change. In Mission 21's partner churches and organizations, women are very involved in volunteer work. The empowerment of girls and women is showing visible success, including in filling leadership positions in Mission 21's partner organizations.

    Project goals

    Mission 21's partner organizations work with the target population to develop strategies that help improve living conditions in the respective project region.

    • Access to quality education and vocational training, to acquire knowledge, skills and self-confidence.
    • Promotion of nature conservation and sustainable agriculture
    • Promoting income-generating activities and access to markets
    • Strengthening the equal participation of women in society
    • Promotion of local languages and cultures to strengthen the self-confidence of indigenous communities
    • Promotion of physical and mental health care
    • Training and support for community organizers to promote development in remote regions.

    Target group

    In particular, girls from remote areas, families lacking cultivable land, lacking employment opportunities, or entire villages at risk from external threats, to name a few. Once a certain level of self-reliance and independence is achieved by the target groups, project activities can be shifted to other locations and groups. This strategy reduces friction within communities. At the same time, it contributes to a gradual expansion of project activities to include more beneficiaries.


    According to the needs and potentials of the target groups, activities are carried out in one or more impact areas.


    • Providing scholarships for formal education programs
    • Vocational training courses for individuals and groups
    • Training program for community organizers and leaders
    • Establishment of community learning centers
    • Raising awareness among women, training on self-confidence and teamwork (life skills).
    • Operation of dormitories
    • Awareness campaigns to promote preventive health care.


    • Awareness-raising measures for the conservation of ecosystems
    • Use of self-produced organic fertilizer to improve soil quality and biological pest control.
    • Production and use of local seeds
    • Mixed crops and mixed cultivation, diversified crop rotation
    • Agroforestry
    • Preservation of knowledge about traditional foods and remedies from the forest
    • Balance between crop production and animal husbandry
    • Promotion of urban gardening/farming.
    • Installation of clean water and adequate sanitation facilities
    • Strengthening capacities for adaptation to climate change
    • Seminars for producers, traders and consumers to know their rights in the control of mechanisms and regulations in food production and distribution

    Income promotion

    • Establishment and maintenance of training centers
    • Food processing and preservation
    • Retention of traditional craft techniques
    • Training of new craft techniques
    • Product development
    • Product packaging, branding and trade
    • Price control and quality control by primary producers
    • Access to markets (local, regional)
    • Online marketing
    • Construction of infrastructures according to the techniques and practical exercises
    • Microcredit financing / revolving loan fund
    • Organization of producer groups
    • Promotion of entrepreneurship

    Project progress

    Currently, 749 women, 102 men and 6 transgender people are organized in production and marketing groups in the five projects on Borneo. Of these, 250 women in Banjarmasin and the surrounding area work as weavers of rattan products, in the textile industry and the culinary sector. On average, they earn considerably more than the government-imposed minimum wage for this region. Mission 21 supports the project financially and with its know-how. Ueli Knecht, a long-time Mission 21 employee, is involved in the program as a consultant and accompanies local project managers. From this collaboration, an independent cooperative of women producers was founded in Banjarmasin at the end of 2019, which was also recognized by the government. As part of an integrated approach, project work in the selected target regions has been closely coordinated since 2019 to provide more comprehensive support to the target population. Despite limited production areas and sales opportunities due to the Corona pandemic, agricultural production for self-consumption, training in the production of textile masks, and online training in organizational development and digital marketing have been introduced.

    Indonesia and Malaysia

    • 26 million Indonesians live on less than 80 rappen per day
    • 25.3% of the population in Sabah lives below the poverty line
    • 1.2 million women in Indonesia were minors when they married


    Project budget 2023

    CHF 340,400


    Jacqueline Brunner

    Responsible Church Partnerships

    Tel. 061 260 23 37
    ► E-mail

    Mathias Waldmeyer

    Team leader and program manager Asia
    Tel: +41 (0)61 260 22 63
    ► E-mail

    Hope thanks to your support

    Mission 21
    Protestant Mission Basel

    PO Box 270
    Missionsstrasse 21
    4009 Basel, Switzerland
    Tel.: +41 (0)61 260 21 20

    Donation account:
    IBAN: CH58 0900 0000 4072 6233 2
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    Mission 21 e.V.

    Wartenbergstrasse 2
    D-79639 Grenzach-Wyhlen
    Phone +49 (0)7624 208 48 69

    Donation account:
    Savings Bank Lörrach-Rheinfelden
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    IBAN: DE05 6835 0048 0001 1250 95

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