Hannah Pia Baral of Australia blogs about her visit to Pesantren Al Fatah, the Islamic study transgender group

One of the best things about ASPBAE conferences is the opportunity to connect and engage with local communities.  This visit was part of the ‘Learning Exchanges with Local NGOs in Yogyakarta’ session on Day 2.

A handful of us (from Pakistan, Solomon Islands, Indonesia and Australia) took up the opportunity to visit Pesantren Al Fatah (Islamic Study Group for Transvestite/Transgender Community).  We all had our own reasons for visiting Pesantren – some were keen to find out how the transgender community’s expression of faith reconciles with Islam and others hoped for a better understanding of transgender people in general.  On our way there the group had the opportunity to discuss our own understandings of the LGBTIQ community.  It was great to be able to openly share our thoughts and perspectives with each other as we have all come from different countries, cultures and faiths.

Shinta Ratri, Chairperson, shared with us that the community was established to facilitate the needs and interests of this transgender community and provide them a space to worship and study their religion.  Pesantren was founded after the 2006 earthquake when they realised that there was an increasing need for people to re-connect with Islam.  The group has 35 members ranging from teens to members in their late 50’s.  Members hail from different regions in Indonesia – Medan, Surabaya, Jakarta, Makassar, Semarang and Yogyakarta.   Some members have come specifically to Yogyakarta to become a part of this group.  Their activities involve routine activities (prayer, reading of the Koran and religious comprehension) and non-routine activities (charity work, specific events such as Muslim Festivals i.e. Eid Day).  Non-Muslim members have also joined the group, supported the activities and have taken away the positive message of the teachings.

Acceptance from their families was not the biggest issue for the members of this community.  Access to prayer areas was their biggest struggle where spaces are usually divided into separate spaces for men and women.   The members of the group believed that as human beings they have the right to pray and have faith.

Pesantren has given this transgender community a place where they are accepted and where they can have the freedom to practice their faith in a nurturing and safe environment.

20th of November was the annual observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR).  TDoR is an opportunity for communities to come together to honour the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.  It feels particularly fitting that we had the privilege of visiting this community at this time.

We thank the officers and members of Pesantren for warmly welcoming us and for spending precious time with us. We shared stories with each other, we laughed, and we got teary at times.  The visit ended with a delicious shared lunch prepared by the community.

We left with our hearts full of appreciation for this transgender community of faith. We hope that Pesantren continues to grow in strength and find the recognition they seek and deserve to have.


  • Special thanks to Dina Lumbantobing (ASPBAE Executive Council; PESADA) for providing the translation during our visit.
  • This blog post was written with contributions from Nashwa Shakeel (Pakistan) and Dina Lumbantobing (Indonesia).

Daring to persist while defining education for the future – By Tanvir Muntasim of ActionAid International

After 3 days of celebrating the past, learning from onsite visits and connecting with the academia and young students through a seminar, the final day saw some spirited discussions to chart the way for the future.

In the morning we looked at the Post 2015 goals while trying to be propositional about appropriate indicators. Two key principles guided our reflections. Firstly, as Alan reminded us yesterday, ‘Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted.’ Secondly, as Divya emphasized ‘we only measure what we treasure’. Enthusiastic discussions led to some substantial formulations which will be submitted as part of the online consultation on Post 2015 indicators.

180 days remain on the countdown to Incheon, Korea, where the future direction of education will be determined and consensus reached. We are going away with a clear road map. We are aware of  numerous daunting challenges along the way-  aggressive corporate push for privatization, relentless insinuation from powerful institutions like World Bank that education is not a public good, State indifference towards the importance of lifelong learning, chronic negligence to the agenda of the youth, dwindling resources and reductive agenda with an insular outlook on the value and purpose of education. But the participants took heart in the power of solidarity, looking around the room and realizing that they are not alone and working in isolation. We didn’t get bogged down by the magnitude of the challenges, but tried to come up with creative and out of the box solutions. We discussed domestic resource mobilization through progressive taxation while reducing dependence on aid, how we can make the schools ready for children rather than the other way round. Provocative approaches like engaging with the fundamentalist groups and corporate sector (but without compromising our rights based principles) were also discussed and debated.

I realized at the end that ASPBAE has pulled off a difficult task with apparent ease- making its members realize that they are part of something much bigger than themselves without compromising their own vision and identity. ASPBAE has also proved that to successfully evolve to survive and thrive, there is no need for social Darwinism. It can be done successfully in a truly collaborative and participatory manner. It has shown true resilience and flexibility at the face of adversity in the past five decades without losing sight of its vision, and it will continue to grow for a long time to come. Granted, not every issue was resolved. But it is better to go back with difficult but right questions than with easy but wrong answers.

I will be leaving Yogyakarta with fond memories and strong resolve, knowing that an uphill battle lies ahead, but also realizing that we will have staunch friends who are also committed this monumental struggle with the biggest stake of all- a life of dignity for the coming generations on a liveable planet.


Claiming spaces to ensure quality lifelong learning for all – A blog by Sashi Kiran, ASPBAE Executive Council Member from the Pacific

Festival of Learning – array of cultures, communities, colour, traditions and music…. yet in harmony. Various community and country representatives brought each with them richness of their experiences, sharing issues, dreams and goals …. from different contexts, different challenges but no matter what geographical location the Vision is Same.

Claiming spaces to ensure quality lifelong learning for all, having the peoples voices heard in each of the global agenda to ensure inclusion and quality – it’s an on-going fight but achievable with so much civic commitment.

The space created at the festival called on the actors to re-look at strategies in a forever changing climate. Are there new ways of being? New ways of engagement? New partnerships to engage with to achieve our objectives?

As difficult as it may seem, we do have to re-look at our ways of engagement in an ever-changing political scenario. Not only how we engage with new players in the development world, but how we engage with each other. There is much lessons learnt around us – are we sharing, are we embedding emerging issues or fighting each other in spaces where solidarity is important? With limited resources around us, integration of the thematic areas and issues are key to holistic development. The realisation has been very validating to us as an organisation.

Participants shared their success stories as they visited NGOs around Jogjakarta advancing towards empowerment. We went to Apikri, a body that has enabled marketing of crafts from Indonesia in many global markets. We surely have a lot to learn. Knowledge exist within our own sector, only if we can reach out to each other across oceans to share.

There has been much talk over the years of Private Public Partnership, of course there is need for engagement with these important stakeholders, including the Government, faith-based bodies etc., but in order to advocate, there is a need for strong research to prove our case. We in the Pacific are quite weak with our data and research. Isn’t it time we looked at actors in our region who have the capacity for research and building of capacity of our sector – the universities? FRIEND has been partnering with universities in various outreach but research is a key area where we need to seek out partnerships. We also have many civil society organisations with strong research ability- Action research –  like Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA). Maybe time to look at how we can engage other civil society in building the capacity of the sector. There is much work to be done in our ocean region to build our capacity to engage.

For the Pacific Islands to have its voices heard, we have to re-look at the way we communicate internally within the region, can we speak with one voice?

We are custodians of the largest ocean and hence a resource base much desired by various super powers. What are we doing to claim this space of ours? Only collectively can we hold stakeholders accountable in the region. Can we revalue our ocean resource and demand that this be valued? Can we look at new technologies and utilise these to ensure protection of our resources for sustainability of generations to come?

So as we learnt from each other, from various spaces created, it was time for reflection for me, in my own journey, the journey of our organisation, and the lag we still have to go through as a sub region guarding the largest ocean.


ASPBAE in the forefront for an education goal in the global arena – A blog by Uwe Gartenschlaeger, DVV International

2015 will be a decisive year for the adult education community. Using the celebration of the 50th Anniversary to get prepared for this discussion was a fantastic idea of the leadership of ASPBAE. Different to Europe, where EAEA – my own organization – is not paying too much attention on this topic, ASPBAE was and is in the forefront of the movement for a decent education goal in the global arena.

Listening to the presentations and discussions of the last days, I would like to share some observations:

  • We should take care not to lose our focus on NFE and Adult education. The formal education system has several very strong advocates, it is the non-formal and informal education, which is neglected quite regular,
  • The discourse in education is strongly interconnected with other discourses about the future of our planet: Climate change, health issues, gender and social equality just to mention a few.
  • We should intensify our efforts to link up with the youth movement. Non-formal educators must constantly try to adapt to the problems, mindsets and languages of young people, who are facing multiple challenges today: orientation in a complex world, finding decent jobs and income, having a clear set of values are some of them.
  • Methods of teaching are in the center of our business. The learning process matters, let’s not limit ourselves to the outcome discourse
  • And last but not least: Money matters! If education is a human right and public good, NFE is an integral part and should be financed!

Congratulations to ASPBAE, all its members and staff – lets be united for another 50 years of struggle and passion for Youth and Adult Education!

Uwe Gartenschlaeger, DVV International, Vice-President of EAEA


Usa Duongsaa, former ASPBAE President, blogs about her site visit to the Youth Service Centre of Indonesian Planned Parenthood (PKBI)

A team of 8 ASPBAE delegates and partners (from India, Indonesia, Mongolia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, and the U.K.)  conducted a learning exchange to PKBI, where they met with 7 PKBI staff and volunteers working in different units.

IPPA was established originally in Jakarta in December 1957, and established PKBI in Yogyakarta in 1967. PKBI is engaged in a wide range of activities to promote sexual and reproductive health/ rights, maternal and child health,  and reproductive health education among young people in schools/universities/ communities, marginalized and vulnerable populations, including unmarried mothers, GLBT, male and female sex workers, and women with unwanted pregnancies.  Their activities include training and awareness-raising, information provision through website and radio programmes, documentation and media production, advocacy and campaigns, outreach, counselling (including couples counselling and voluntary counseling and testing for sexually-transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS), health clinic, and youth clinic.  While they have received some funding for specific short-term projects from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, HIVOS, and the government, PKBI staff also do fundraising and hope to be self-supported in the future.

After presentation from PKBI’s staff members, there was a lively question-and-answer session and discussion about various aspects of their work, including challenges faced by the PKBI such as existing stigma and taboo against GLBT, sex before marriage, talking about sex and condoms, and even threats and physical violence against people with different sexual identities.  However, when asked what they were proud of most about their work and what they thought were their greatest strengths, the staff shared interesting and inspiring responses, i.e. –

“I am the youngest sibling and always regarded as the kid in the family, but working here I now know life better. I’ve learned we are all human”. 

“We serve, we face stigma but we strongly believe that women have a choice regarding their own pregnancy”. 

“It’s difficult to find correct information about reproductive health, even from the internet.  But here I can get the information I need, which I can also share with my siblings”.

“I learn to value life and see people as people, not as Christians or Muslims.  I also learn that money is not everything.”

“This is my comfort and safety zone.  Here I have many friends of same sexual orientation.  I find comfort and safety that I cannot get anywhere else, not even at home or in society”.

At the end of the session, Usa Duongsaa from Thailand shared some experience of the AIDS Education Programme of Chiangmai University and the Constellation for AIDS Competence in building NGO capacities on the Community Life Competence Process for use in their work on HIV/AIDS and other related issues.  Peter – Clinton Isaac Foaese from New Zealand facilitated some fun exercises and also shared his experience of Vibe’s work with young people.


Takafumi Miyake of JNNE Japan blogs about the panel discussion on the post-2015 education agenda at the University of Gadjah Mada

At the key note speech, Hubert Gijzen, Director, UNESCO Indonesia Office suggested to have broader perspectives or zoom out when we discuss post 2015 development agenda, for which 17 goals are currently proposed. He emphasized inter-connectedness of many goals, which can be grouped into 1) unfinished agenda of MDGs, 2) peace and security, and 3) added goals to SDGs.

The 1st panel discussion was about the post 2015 education agenda. I thank Robbie for sharing CSOs experience at ESD conference in Nagoya, Japan, where we succeeded improving the outcome document in spite of the fact that Japanese CSOs were excluded and segregated from the conference.

I totally agree to Heribeit’s remark that we need to ensure that goals and targets to be agreed in May 2015, Korea will be adopted as education goal in SDGs at UNGA in September 2015, New York.


ASPBAE President Robbie Guevara writes his impressions on the Seminar on the Post-2015 Education Agenda

The post-2015 development agenda will require both a catalytic and transformative shift in the way we conceptualize and implement development. This was the key argument that Dr. Hubert Gijzen, Director and Representative UNESCO Jakarta, presented at the start of his keynote speech.

He further said that if we do not transform ourselves then we are in trouble. But how do we transform ourselves?

Often when we say we are catalysts, we focus on catalyzing change with the stakeholders we work with. Taking a narrow chemistry definition – a catalyst is a substance that hastens a reaction while not being changed by the reaction.

If we are to be effective as education advocates then we need to not just be a part of this transformation process, but equally be transformed by what is essentially an education and learning process.

In addition Dr Gijzen emphasized the need for us to be able to zoom out, to see and appreciate the bigger picture, while also zooming forward to see and work towards the desired future. Often we need to be simultaneously be grounded in the present, see into a shared vision of the future while keeping a broad overview to ensure that one takes a holistic and integrated perspectives.

This ability to view multiple perspectives is learned. However, the more educated we become, the more we know about less. Is this the kind of education we advocate for?

This morning was an opportunity for us to look at the bigger picture – through the global picture of the post 2015 development agenda; while keeping our eye on the shared vision of sustainable development; and also focusing on the minute details of the Indonesian context.

May we take these abilities to transform ourselves and keep these multiple perspectives in sight as we prepare to plan and strategize for the future we want.