Bambang Pradityo works for KBH Bogor in Indonesia. KBH Bogor is a legal aid organization that uses paralegals to help local farming communities and labor unions understand and advocate for their rights. Bambang, however, has faced significant challenges in his work. Efforts to build a strong paralegal network were not going well, and finding sustainable funding for their advocacy work was a constant concern. As Bambang puts it,
“The problem in Indonesia is that while we have a government bill for legal aid where NGOs can provide training to paralegals, the government provides insufficient funds. We need to find alternative fundraising for these paralegal programs.”
Bambang participated in the Global Legal Empowerment Network’s learning exchange in the Philippines in May 2015. Over four weeks, activists from Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Myanmar shared challenges and solutions to their own legal empowerment work and went on individual host assignments to learn about local issues and strategies across the Philippines.
Bambang worked with the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), an NGO fighting to protect the environmental rights of local communities.He participated in interviews with ELAC’s paralegals, attended community meetings to understand the ecological issues affecting local fisherfolk, and attended labor trainings and spoke with unions to understand their specific approaches.
Through this experience, Bambang learned of sustainable empowerment models used in the Philippines, such as eco-tourism projects run by paralegals that both raise money and promote local environmental justice. He also learned about innovative ways of using private sector business to support legal empowerment work, and how to create alliances of local NGOs to unite for greater advocacy impacts.
Bambang came to the Philippines with a set of challenges and left with a set of innovative ideas. Since the learning exchange, he has started a cooperative farmers market in Jakarta where he sells organic produce to help fund KBH Bogor’s paralegal work with local farmers.
In one year, the organization’s net profits have increased by 40%.
He has also coordinated regional networking events with other paralegal organizations to create strong and cooperative alliances across Indonesia.
The learning exchange was a transformational experience for Bambang, and as a result, it was a transformational experience for his organization, its paralegals, and their clients.