HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Indonesian National Council on Social Welfare which was organized by Mrs. NASUTION and her associates today includes 23 national nongovernmental groups, 18 provincial coordinating councils of social welfare, 17 schools with social work faculties and 9 national government agencies.
  • The organizational approach Mrs. NASUTION initiated in Jakarta 18 years ago became the model. The National Council guides and assists member organizations in recruiting volunteer workers and experts, organizing workshops, collecting funds and distributing donated food, clothing and medicines.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “her leadership of a volunteer movement, institutionalizing social services through cooperation by diverse civic and religious groups, schools and government agencies.”

 CITATION

Orphans, the blind, mentally deranged and the aged, lepers, cripples and other handicapped persons suffered neglect during the early decades of Indonesian independence following World War II. Customarily they had relied upon closely knit, supportive family ties; in stable rural villages family tragedies could be accommodated. However, as fast-paced revolutionary changes shaped a modernizing commercial and industrial state, this social cushion disintegrated, leaving adrift those shunned or least able to compete.

Indonesian cultural values emphasize shared responsibilities within the village. Muslim, Hindu and Christian teachings also stress care for the needy. Informal welfare efforts, however, have proved inadequate as Indonesia’s population more than doubled to number almost 148 million. Social tensions were aggravated by urbanization as millions flocked from villages into Jakarta and other ballooning cities.

JOHANNA SUNARTI NASUTION became concerned with social welfare as a girl. Born in Surabaya in 1923, she learned from her Javanese father and Dutch mother of the intellectual currents shattering the old feudal relationships. She was schooled in Yogyakarta and Bandung and in 1947 married the future General Abdul Haris Nasution by whom she has had two children.

Indonesians sometimes say: “If you want something planned, talk with the men. If you want something done, talk with the women.” In this spirit Mrs. NASUTION pursued her work independent of her husband’s military career, although on occasion their relationship has opened doors. Reaching far beyond her initial work with soldiers’ families, her efforts have been directed with continuity and fidelity to the larger needs of the country.

The Indonesian National Council on Social Welfare which was organized by Mrs. NASUTION and her associates today includes 23 national nongovernmental groups, 18 provincial coordinating councils of social welfare, 17 schools with social work faculties and 9 national government agencies. Working together are the Muhammadiyah and Aisyiyah—major Muslim organizations for men and women respectively, the Red Cross, Bishops’ Conference, National Council of Churches, Hindu Dharma Council, several federations for the handicapped and similar nonprofit associations.

The organizational approach Mrs. NASUTION initiated in Jakarta 18 years ago became the model. The National Council guides and assists member organizations in recruiting volunteer workers and experts, organizing workshops, collecting funds and distributing donated food, clothing and medicines. The Council also assists in placing children in families, schools and jobs, and in marketing handicrafts, vegetables and fruits for cooperatives. Management guidance is provided to homes for the disabled, sick destitutes and orphans. The Council helps draw up the welfare portion of the government’s National Development Plan, working closely with the departments concerned to achieve equitable distribution of welfare. All is accomplished by a headquarters of 15 paid staff and 55 volunteers.

Through her energy, initiative and vision, Mrs. NASUTION has infused her colleagues in their own organizations with purpose and professionalism. Much remains to be done, but the cadre of social workers she has inspired now has tools to aid Indonesia’s least fortunate.

In electing JOHANNA SUNARTI NASUTION to receive the 1981 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes her leadership of a volunteer movement, institutionalizing social services through cooperation by diverse civic and religious groups, schools and government agencies.

 RESPONSE

With a prayer of sincere gratitude to Almighty God, I wish to say thank you very much to the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation for selecting me to be among the 1981 Awardees. It never crossed my mind that I might be chosen to receive this honorable award. When the news appeared in the local paper, Kompas, I was taken completely by surprise.

In recognizing my services, the Board of Trustees has paid tribute to the dedicated works and sacrifices of my fellow volunteers living in different parts of Indonesia, especially those untiringly engaged in the day to day chores of endless social welfare activities.

With your kind permission, I am happy to accept this honor only as a representative of all my co-workers. On their behalf I wish to express our sincere appreciation for this invaluable honor.

This is the second time my family has been honored by people of the Philippines. In 1971 Mindanao State University awarded my husband the degree of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causal The recognition came when he was Chairman of the People’s Congress, striving to restore Indonesian constitutional democracy.

Centuries of colonial subjugation, a war, and decades of instability left Indonesia with widespread and complex social problems. The combination of physical destruction, backwardness, and neglect, gave rise on the social front to an accumulation of manifold problems which we had to face as we tried to build up our nation and move toward the kind of just and prosperous society stipulated in our constitution.

During the two decades following independence, our government was kept busy restoring security and order in an effort to defend our national integrity. Meanwhile the Indonesian population continued to swell, reaching almost 150 million at present. During the 1970s and up to the present the primary focus of attention has been on economic development. Under these circumstances social welfare was not given an effective priority. The government budget set aside for this purpose has always been very limited relative to the magnitude of social welfare problems.

Clearly we Indonesians face an enormous unmet demand for social services. There is a need to nurture self-reliance and encourage the initiatives of the public as a whole in joint efforts with government institutions.

Fortunately our people are very religious and have a strong sense of family ties and mutual assistance. This is true especially in rural areas where 80 percent of our population live. Therefore our primary objective became to develop widespread social services to be carried out by local communities themselves. In other words we wanted to promote the motivation and organization of community-based social services.

It is our conviction that efforts in the field of social welfare are likely to bear most lasting fruit if carried out by the government and the people in a spirit of self-reliance. I repeat, development in the area of social welfare has to be executed by all citizens with their government in cooperative efforts based on family spirit. It is this understanding which has inspired the motto of the Indonesian National Council on Social Welfare: Self-reliance and Family Spirit.

I realize that the more one engages in social work the more one becomes aware of problems that are still more widespread and fundamental. It is not enough to sympathize with people in need. They should be helped to become people who can help themselves, to become respected members of society. It is in this way that we will be able to build a nation and a society where every one has the freedom to strive for a more decent life.

I pray that our simple efforts breathe of the same spirit that filled President Ramon Magsaysay of whom it is written:

“He was a simple humble man, who cared for all people as individuals and believed in their dignity and importance.”

 BIOGRAPHY

JOHANNA SUNARTI NASUTION remembers a happy childhood. She was fortunate in her youth in the closeness and love of her family, in having a fine education, and in receiving from her parents a strong sense of purpose. When she was born on November 1, 1923, in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia was under the rule of the Dutch. Throughout her childhood her parents worked actively for both the freedom and the welfare of the Indonesian people. Love for her country and devotion to her countrymen have been bywords for JOHANNA ever since.

Her father, Raden Panji (title of a lesser prince): Soenario Gondokoesoemo, was a member of the Javanese elite. As a young man he had been exiled to the Netherlands along with other suspected nationalists. There he completed his education in economics and married a Dutch girl, Maria Hendrika Rademaker. Impressed with the young aristocrat’s qualifications, the Dutch sent him back to his homeland to work as an executive on the railways. Because of his birth and position he received the same privileges and perquisites as a Dutchman.

In 1927 R.P. Soenario Gondakoesoemo left Dutch government service to become director of the National Bank of Indonesia. Soon thereafter he became a founding member and treasurer of the nationalist political party, Partai Indonesia Raya, known as Parindra. Following independence he was awarded two medals for serving the cause of freedom. In his mind patriotism and civic responsibility were inseparable. “If you are to become a good leader,” he told his children, “you must take care of the poor people in your country.”

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)