Brave young woman leading Indonesia cleanup

Indonesia is the second largest contributor of plastic waste to the world’s waters. The country’s large and growing population (261m people) and rapid development contributes to this issue, which has tremendous impact on both the environment and tourism. For this reason, people from Indonesia have engaged in a number of movements, such as Trash Hero, […]

Indonesia is the second largest contributor of plastic waste to the world’s waters. The country’s large and growing population (261m people) and rapid development contributes to this issue, which has tremendous impact on both the environment and tourism. For this reason, people from Indonesia have engaged in a number of movements, such as Trash Hero, to clean up their country and raise awareness of this problem. Agustina Iskandar, the leader of World Cleanup Day Indonesia, will gather all those people together to join the forces on 15 September. Altogether, already 13 million people are going to take part in the event.

Agustina is a young woman who was born in the period of conflict, which lasted until 2005 in Indonesia. She lived in a village where she saw lots of terrible scenes as people got killed almost every day. However, her life didn’t get easier as the country is still rather conservative as to the roles of men and women. That is how she found Let’s Do It! World for herself – the movement that unites people despite their background and supports them in aiming for the same goal of keeping world clean.

What have been the challenges for you as a leader in Indonesia?

There were people in my hometown who didn’t like me because I am a woman and very active as a leader. They saw me as a threat. I didn’t understand it for a long time until our public lawyer mentioned it to me. That time I had transformed my home into a learning centre and taught little children. In 2011 my home was destroyed and burned to the ground. People hated my family and me and even threatened to kill us if we went back there. It was a hard time for me. I didn’t receive any justice and eventually we were expelled from my hometown. However, that didn’t deter me.

How has that experience affected you?

I always wondered what we were doing wrong that people couldn’t stand us. It didn’t fill me with anger though. I finally stopped wondering and accepted the struggle because it is for a good reason. That reason is to unite people and spread kindness.

What happened after moving away from your hometown?

We moved to Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia and there I found Let’s Do It! World movement. It’s difficult for women to be leaders in my hometown as majority still live in a conservative way. Women can’t be leaders there, they have to stick to traditions, which dictate that women should always obey men. When I took off my hijab I even lost some friends from my childhood and school, they didn’t want to associate with me anymore. Nevertheless, I may have lost many friends but never want to lose the passion to have a better world to live in.

Have you finally got support for what you do?

Yes. I’ve got much support from friends and also ministries. We got support from Ministry of Youth and Sport Affairs which is networking with all youth in Indonesia and many youth programs. The ministry collaborates with us to do cleanup together. Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs supports our training. Also Ministry of Environment and Forestry support us.

Why was joining Let’s Do It! World important for you?

By joining Let’s Do It! World movement we are able to unite our vision of saving the planet. People despite gender, background, religion or ethnic group can engage in similar actions, make similar contributions while respecting each other. Through this movement we hope that we can bring peace in our beloved country Indonesia. For me, Let’s Do It! World movement is more than an event or an activity. It has become a tool to unite, reconcile people to think beyond diversity, religion and background.

What do you do as a team leader there?

As a team leader, together with my team, I lead 34 provinces in Indonesia. We have built the team in each province and are now preparing to bring 13 million people to join World Cleanup Day on 15th on September.

You are cooperating with Trash Hero movement as well.

Yes, Trash Hero is a part of our national core team in Indonesia. They will activate all the Trash Hero chapters on 15th of September, too. And we just got the support from Scouts in Indonesia. They will bring 20 million members to join the World Cleanup Day.

How do you feel, do young people understand the importance of clean world better?

Yes, sometimes they understand better than elder people. They are active to join the movement and learn quickly from this project. Most of our leaders in the provinces are also young people.

What motivates you the most organising all this?

I am inspired by this project. I’m also excited because as a woman I still can be a leader and can do something bigger in my country. I didn’t have such a chance in my past. It was forbidden to do such kind of things because women can’t lead.

What are the challenges right now?

It is quite a complicated matter when there are about 261 million people with 1340 ethnicities and 1158 languages that need to be guided to do a collective action. Religion is a sensitive issue in our country. Let’s Do It! World can be the reason why people need to unite and do something for the planet. We need to take care of this planet. After all we live on the same land, breathe the same air and share the same water in this Earth.