Inclusive Village Forum: Efforts to Bridge Vulnerable Groups

Authors: Lorensia Berlian, Project Officer for HEAL, Tifa Foundation and Roni, Program Assistant for Human Rights, Tifa Foundation
Editor: Brigita Rumung, Knowledge Management & Comms Officer Tifa Foundation

Vulnerable Groups and Social Protection Records
Three years of the Covid-19 pandemic still leaves many challenges that the government must respond to immediately. One of them is the data collection and distribution of social assistance for vulnerable groups. Data validity and synchronization between the central and regional governments are still low and not yet cohesive. Not to mention that the accuracy of data for distribution is still low, program targets are different, data updating is not integrated, access to documents is limited, the distribution of assistance is slow, so that there are still many Beneficiary Families (KPM) who really need help without getting their rights. As a result, vulnerable and poor groups are increasingly marginalized.

Tifa's research (2021) found that the human rights conditions of vulnerable groups in West Nusa Tenggara are concerning. For example, their basic needs are difficult to fulfill and there are a high number of cases of human rights violations. Some of them, (1) 68% of respondents admitted that they had to pay for children's treatment at health facilities in the midst of a family economic crisis; (2) 79% of respondents faced online learning obstacles due to low digital literacy and lack of information and technology infrastructure, (3) 15% of children with special needs (mental) could not participate in school, and (4) 15.30% of respondents admitted that they were unable to express their views and thoughts in public.

In the socialization around social protection in May 2022, the results of this research were corroborated by real findings in the field about the large amount of social assistance that has not been right on target in at least 10 villages assisted by Tifa. One indication that this challenge continues to recur is the absence of a representative group from the village / kelurahan that voices social protection issues. Therefore, Tifa and the village/kelurahan government initiated the formation of the Inclusive Village/Kelurahan Forum as a way to voice social protection from the village so that all people, especially vulnerable groups (including children, women, and disabilities) and the poor get their rights as mandated by the constitution.

Community Involvement
Forum Desa/Kelurahan Inklusif (FDI/FKI) is a forum at the village level that serves as a medium for community involvement, including vulnerable and poor groups, in accessing social protection programs. In order to achieve this goal, the involvement of community participation is an absolute thing that must be achieved. The involvement in question is not just about attending certain meetings or voting, but prioritizing the aspirations of the community, especially in reaching vulnerable and poor groups in the village.

This involvement was also implemented in the process of formulating and forming the FDI/FKI. The elements involved as members came from the village government, women and disability groups, youth groups, KPM representatives, and representatives of elderly groups. All of these groups spearheaded the entire formation process, which included several stages:

1. Discussion of the concept of FDI / FKI
This is an initial activity that discusses the basic framework of FDI / FKI including the significance, definition, legal basis, functions, principles, and objectives of establishing FDI / FKI. Prospective FDI / FKI members are actively involved in designing the basic framework, including building a common perception that refers to the characteristics and needs of each village / kelurahan.

2. Training of prospective FDI/FKI members on human rights and social protection
This training was organized in collaboration with Tifa and Village Facilitators. This training is an effort to instill the values and basic concepts of human rights and social protection for the FDI/FKI board. By understanding the basic concepts of these two issues, FDI/FKI is expected to be able to become a democratic and non-discriminatory forum in carrying out its role in the village. In addition, it can also be a mouthpiece that voices the principles of human rights in the village.

3. Discussion of the Decree of the Village Head/Lurah and determination of the management structure
The series of discussionswere carried out in a deliberative and participatory manner by involving all elements of FDI/FKI. This involvement is an effort to minimize the barrier between policy makers in the village / kelurahan and the community in determining decisions. In addition, by sitting together to discuss the decree, it provides a space for all parties to build an understanding of the basis and substance of policies at the village level. The determination of the management structure was also carried out democratically and without discrimination.

Policy Stakeholder Support
The final step in the preparation and establishment of the forum is the inauguration of the forum so that it becomes one of the legal bodies at the village level and is included in the work agenda of the village government. The number of board members for each forum is around 16-18 people, representing various groups in the village. The total number of FDI/FKI members from the 10 villages assisted by Tifa is 162 with a composition of men by 58% (93 people) and women by 42% (68 people).

The inauguration was attended by policy makers from village to district level in West Nusa Tenggara and East Java. One of them was the Regent of Central Lombok, H. Lalu Pathul Bahri, who is committed to ensuring the rights of vulnerable groups. "Vulnerable groups are groups of people who need full attention. If vulnerable groups are labeled/stigmatized which makes it difficult for them to fulfill their rights, all parties, especially the government, are obliged to guarantee and ensure that their rights are fulfilled," said Bahri.

Not much different from the government in West Nusa Tenggara, the Head of the Pasuruan Regency Social Service revealed that the existence of FDI / FKI can be an example for other villages in Pasuruan Regency to maximize social protection programs and this forum should get budget allocations from village funds. Support from policy makers is important, because collaboration between the community and government at any level is the key to successful development in the village. Especially if the commitment and support can be realized, not just spoken. Therefore, FDI/FKI should also be a driving force so that the government can seriously maximize the fulfillment of social protection for the community, especially the vulnerable and poor.

FDI / FKI is not present as a solution to the challenge of fulfilling access to social protection for the community. FDI / FKI is one of the community's responses to take part in solving the various challenges that exist. This forum will be a forum for unraveling challenges, such as helping to validate data on social assistance recipients, reporting to the government on beneficiaries who have not been targeted or have not even received their rights, encouraging the acceleration of social assistance distribution, and becoming a partner for the government in the village to maximize social protection programs.

The forum hopes that governments from the village to district level can provide support by, (1) accelerating the updating of integrated data on beneficiaries on a regular and transparent basis, (2) encouraging local governments to include FDI / FKI in the Regional Budget (APBD) plan at the district / city level and the Village Fund Budget at the village level, (3) ensuring that social protection programs are run accountably, at least through accessible databases and the distribution of measurable and targeted social assistance.

With synergy between all parties, the hope is that this FDI / FKI can become a bridge for the community, especially the vulnerable and poor groups, in accessing the social protection to which they are entitled. 

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