Karya Mahasiswa: “On Poverty”

Pada semester ini kelas Ekonomi Kemiskinan turut dibuka dengan Bahasa Inggris sebagai bahasa pengantarnya. Hal ini terkait kurikulum yang mewajibkan mahasiswa setidaknya mengambil 18 SKS mata kuliah yang diantar dengan Bahasa Inggris. Kelas Ekonomi Kemiskinan dalam konteks ini pun menjadi Economics of Poverty. Terkait dengan rangkaian kegiatan perkuliahan, kami melakukan kunjungan lapangan ke Koperasi Kasih Indonesia – koperasi simpan pinjam bagi masyarakat miskin di daerah Cilincing Jakarta Utara – yang digagas oleh Leonardo Kamilius, alumni FEUI angkatan 2004. Setelah kunjungan tersebut, mahasiswa diminta membuat essay mengenai “What is Poverty?” dan “How do you see it?”. Berikut adalah essay terbaik yang ditulis oleh Aria Gita Indira dengan judul “On Poverty”.

Adapun untuk cerita lengkap mengenai kunjungantersebut dapat  dibaca pada link berikut: https://salamduajari.com/2012/03/23/perjalanan-memahami-fenomena-kemiskinan/.

On Poverty

by: Aria Gita Indira (1006689782)

It was high school when I was first acquainted with the expression carpe diem. “Seize the day,” my teacher would say, “because there is no promise of tomorrow”. The motto was filled with dreams of youthful joys and urged us to suck on the marrows of life. It was not until last Wednesday that I viewed an alternative interpretation of the phrase, the context of poverty gave it an ironic, much grimmer tone. Seize the day, because there is no promise of tomorrow.

On 22 February 2012 for the purpose of studying poverty we boarded the adventure bus headed for Cilincing, North Jakarta, the home of Koperasi Kasih Indonesia the main operation of which was to provide micro financing for its members. Leonardo Kamilius, the founder of the cooperative, explained the reason so many people are entrapped in poverty is due to low access to capital and financial services which is caused not by inadequate income but the existence of physical and psychological barriers for people to save. We must remember that majority of these people live on or under the minimum wage which means their propensity to save is also very little. Not only will it be difficult to find a bank who will be willing to open a savings account for their minimum saving, it is even more difficult for the individuals to come up and say “I would like to save Rp10 000” without putting their prides on the line.

Be it as it may, the problem was not simply the lack of outlet in which people could save, the second and more dire problem was people’s consumptive nature, that they were so used to spending every cent of their monthly income on basic necessities that any addition would just be spent on additional expenditures. The red line was that there seemed to be no money left to save for the rainy days and there never will be.

Leon realised that the problem could not be fixed by simply providing an outlet in which to save but to also completely change their behaviours and begin a saving tradition. Methods range from providing incentives to threats that relied strongly on the relationships of the members. The staggering 0.2% rate of credit crunch is a result of the tough love mechanism they have adopted, because people literally come door to door to retrieve the money.

The next stop was a members’ meeting that was held in a dark living room. From the sunbeam that passed through the front doors, silhouettes of the enthusiastic women’s (and one man’s) faces was barely visible. We would ask questions and they would answer. Someone brought up the topic prosperity, whether they think they’ve reached that state and how they would define it to begin with. There was the unanimous answer that they sought for a trouble free life. It was inspiring to hear these women and men talk with such enthusiasm and optimism about how they refuse to accept their current condition as the result of fate.

The Human Rights Commission’s Report defines poverty in three ways; the first is that poverty is a situation in which there is dearth of essential facilities, resulting from inadequate income. The second definition is failure to meet the basic human needs; or to remain deprived from such needs (food, clothing, housing, health and education). The third and modern definition of poverty is to be deprived of opportunities and unavailability of security.

There is a song written by a New Age band, in the final verse the vocalist would sing with his haunting voice, “I’d walk upon the edge of no escape and laugh, I’ve lost control”. I would define poverty to be a state where you have completely lost control of your life, to be in that point where you sleep at night thinking that you just barely made it through the day and wonder if you would be around to do it all again tomorrow, secretly wishing that you wouldn’t have to, because after all, tomorrow is not a promise. It is an inhumane state of hegemony that prevents people from their pursuit of happiness and I don’t believe that anyone should be subject to live under such circumstances.


Sarshar, Mubashshir (2010). Amartya Sen’s Theory of Poverty, National Law University, Delhi

The song She’s Lost Control by Joy Division from the album Unknown Pleasures (1979).

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