Australia Awards in Indonesia

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19 Feb 2024

Abdul Majid: Pioneering Inclusivity Despite Adversity

The year 2017 was the last time Abdul Majid witnessed the clear blue sky and serene moonlit nights. His world darkened gradually since 2004 when visual impairment struck his left eye, culminating in complete blindness 13 years later.

Rather than succumbing to despair, Majid dedicated himself to advocating for the rights of people with disability, starting from his hometown of Sidoarjo, East Java.

"To continue my life, I sought to understand the concept of disabilities, the opportunities, and challenges," said Majid, who works as an online media journalist, typing and writing without sight.

Leading the charge as the Chairman of Lira Disability Care (LDC) since 2020, Majid champions the rights of people with disability through this non-governmental organisation. While recognised as a prominent figure in Sidoarjo, Majid felt his knowledge and connections were lacking. Motivated to broaden his horizons and expand his network internationally, he enrolled in the Australia Awards Short Course on "Democratic Resilience: Youth Participation in Indonesia's Democracy", run at the Queensland University of Technology in 2021.

"I sought fresh insights, perspectives, and connections, recognising the potential that the Short Course offered. Thus, I mustered the courage to apply," Majid expressed.

Collaboration with Participants with Disability

Though unable to physically travel to Australia due to COVID-19, Majid easily adapted to the Short Course's online format.

"The materials were accessible. Our course leader, Angela Romano, was highly responsive,” Majid noted.

Teamed with two other visually impaired participants and one with low vision, Majid’s group successfully completed two projects. The first project was an advocacy video addressing disability stigma in politics and democracy.

"We aimed to highlight regulations supporting the involvement of youth with disability in these realms, encouraging their active participation,” Majid explained.

The second project was a book summarising global and Indonesian disability rights movements and relevant regulations. Published in 2021, the book gained online attention, and the event was attended by Angela Romano and representatives from the East Java Regional Election Supervisory Board (Bawaslu Jatim), disability organisations, and students.

Uniting Sidoarjo in Inclusivity Campaign

Majid wasted no time applying the knowledge gained from the Short Course. He leveraged the momentum to spearhead a campaign for disability rights in Sidoarjo, proposing a Regional Regulation on Disabilities (Raperda Disabilitas) to the Sidoarjo Representatives Council (DPRD Sidoarjo).

"My initiative to propose Raperda Disabilitas in Sidoarjo coincided with the Short Course. Perhaps it was meant to be," said Majid, a husband and father of one.

“During the Short Course, I acquired valuable insights, such as creating a movement, launching creative campaigns, and utilising digital media effectively. The results have been very positive,” Majid affirmed.

Two years later, in January 2023, the Speaker of DPRD Sidoarjo, H. Usman, promised that Raperda Disabilitas would be passed within the year.

To reach this milestone, Majid utilised various strategies, from online campaigns and news articles to social media engagement and online petitions. He actively engaged with DPRD Sidoarjo, united people with disability organisations, lobbied political party members, and collaborated with journalists and religious organisations like Nahdlatul Ulama Sidoarjo and the Forum for Religious Harmony.

“Our movement enjoys broad support from all segments of society, not just from the Organisations of Persons with Disabilities community,” Majid emphasised.

Raperda Disabilitas aims to ensure the fulfilment of the rights of persons with disabilities, encompassing access to work, healthcare, political participation, and education.

Throughout the campaign, Majid often sought guidance from the Australian Consul-General in Surabaya, Fiona Hoggart, on online campaigns and identifying key institutions to engage with.

Majid’s D-Link Project

Following the success of Raperda Disabilitas in Sidoarjo, Majid swiftly transitioned to his next endeavour as a recipient of the Alumni Grant Scheme (AGS). Through AGS, Majid launched the D-Link program designed to provide entrepreneurial training tailored for individuals with disabilities.

The idea to empower people with disabilities arose from Majid’s own reflection on the economic impacts of COVID-19 on this community. D-Link offers skills training and equipment and facilitates connections with investors and markets for people with disability individuals.

Currently, D-Link has facilitated the formation of two business groups. The first group is Ciprat Sidoarjo batik craft business, comprising eight individuals with various disabilities, including intellectual, mental, and sensory impairments. The second group, Salon Y-AMI, consists of six parents of children with disabilities who received training to become hairdressers.

Kicked off in November 2022, the final step of the D-Link Project culminated in an event held on 27 July 2023, where D-Link collaborated with Jatim Financial Service Authority (OJK Jatim) to organise the East Java Inclusive Finance Festival. The event showcased the works of people with disability and was attended by notable figures such as Anthony Clark, the Deputy Consul-General of Australia in Surabaya, and Dante Rigmalia, Australia Awards alumna and Chairperson of the Indonesian National Commission on Disability, along with representatives from OJK Jatim.

Majid found it easier to engage with various stakeholders due to his status as an Australian alumnus.

"Being an Australian alumnus greatly helps me engage with stakeholders," he confidently remarked.

Completing the Short Course significantly influenced his disability advocacy work, earning him increased respect and trust from others.

Majid aspires to pursue a Masters of Disability Policy and Practice degree in Australia through an Australia Awards Scholarship.

"I am persistently trying through ELTA (English Language Training Assistance), which will provide me with the IELTS, and then I will apply for a Masters program in 2024," Majid expressed, seeking prayers for success on his educational journey.

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