“Every citizen has the right to obtain instruction [education] where the government is obliged to provide and implement a national education system governed by law.”
—From the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 31.
“I have found myself increasingly drawn to the study of law and human rights,” says Agita Pasaribu, who goes by Gita. She feels fortunate to have studied with professors involved with the United Nations and other organizations interested in human rights. She reveres the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its outline of fundamental rights to life, liberty and security, rights still unavailable to billions. “There is no better way for me to affect change than through the law,” Gita says. “Human rights law influences government policymaking and provides a cornerstone for freedom and equality.” Yet everything depends on the right to an education which Gita sees as worth fighting for.
Before Indonesia’s independence in 1945, education was restricted to the elite, resulting in a literacy rate of less than five percent of its citizens. Developing its human resources presented a huge challenge for the new government. Literacy rates have risen drastically, but now there aren’t enough jobs for those with an education.
For Gita, the solution did not lie in any kind of retreat from education. She had dreamed of studying abroad, and during her second year at university, won an exchange placement with the ASEAN Students’ Visit India program. She attended Arya University in Jaipur and IIT Delhi in New Delhi. The experience pushed her out of her comfort zone, but she found the opportunity to exchange ideas with international students thought-provoking and invaluable. She returned to Indonesia and completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Law at University of Indonesia and at the end of 2014 will earn a second major in communication studies from Indonesia Open University.
Gita’s generation of young people are “creative, connected, concerned and keen to succeed,” she says, but more than six out of ten young workers are trapped in low-skill occupations. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) formed an economic community (AEC) which aims to improve ASEAN economies for competition with advanced economies. Yet to compete at this level, Indonesian young adults require skills beyond traditional education.
Where creating jobs for youth has become a top priority, change is possible, but it entails collaboration among schools and government ministries, social partners, and youth organizations at international, national, and local levels.
Many young adults in Indonesia lacked access to the resources and opportunities for personal and professional development. So, with a tagline, “Going Global, Being Indonesian,” Gita created a media portal on Twitter in 2011, Tweet kuliah, specifically to connect young job-hunters with employment opportunities nationally and worldwide as well as to inform them of activities and events to support their academic experience through NGOs and governmental programs for personal and professional development. The hashtag @tweetkuliah also helps youth event organizers publicize events. Her not-for-profit online platform has already reached 11,500 followers and is growing. Gita is also developing @tweetkuliah’s web application for free downloads on tablet computers and smartphones.
@tweetkuliah led Gita to write a column for youth development issues and information in daily newspapers in Indonesia, the campus magazine and ezine Kompas Muda, and Halaman MOVE Media Indonesia. She was invited to participate in the UNESCO Youth Desk Workshop, “Engage, Ensure, Encourage, Empower” in Jakarta. 2012 was a busy year for Gita. She was selected as Indonesia’s delegate to the “Young Women’s International Leadership Summit” in Munich, Germany, and also as a delegate from Indonesia for the International Youth Forum in New Delhi, India. She was also selected as a Youth Representative from Indonesia for the Global Youth Forum in Bali, Indonesia. In 2013, she was selected as an official delegate of Indonesia Youth Forum and to participate with the Indonesian delegation in Asia Pacific Week held at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. Whether Gita ultimately focuses on law, education, or as a social entrepreneur in fashion, she is an unstoppable young woman.