Volunteerism Equals Living a Life of Service to Others
05 July 2022
Get to know Zoe Rimba, a UNV Subnational Planning Officer at UNICEF Indonesia, on bringing values of volunteerism to child-responsive urban policies.
One hot and humid summer day in 2019, Zoe Rimba was standing in front of the UNICEF Headquarters in New York as an international graduate student. She had just completed her studies in international and community development and was about to return to Indonesia. At that very moment a thought came to her mind that what a great honor and privilege it would be to be able to work for the cause of children across the globe!
At the time, Zoe was fresh out of school, ambitious, idealistic, and driven to apply what she had learned for the good of others. However, she was also largely confused about the future. Could she really be a part of the solution to the issues she cared the most? How is she going to put into action the big dreams she has? Where should she even start? These were some of the major questions to which Zoe didn’t have the answers at the time. But she knew in her heart that whatever the future brings, she wants to do something meaningful for the women and children who are living in remote and underserved areas of Indonesia.
Zoe had this conviction that there is much to be done when there are 11 provinces out of 34 that are still considered “disadvantaged areas” by the Indonesian government. She never thought that two years later, she would be serving as a United Nations Volunteer for UNICEF Indonesia.
When she started her assignment as a Subnational Planning Officer in the summer of 2021, it was one of those full circle moments when her hopes and dreams, combined with her previous professional and academic experiences made her fit for this role.
Zoe’s main role is to support UNICEF Indonesia’s urban and subnational planning and budgeting programs for children. “We believe that in 2022, we should dedicate our attention to child responsive urban planning which addresses urban inequities and disparities among children in cities. We also need to develop structures and systems for sustained participation of children and young people in policy making and decision-making processes. The key objective is to influence national government policies on planning and budgeting to reflect the voices, needs, and rights of children”, Zoe states.
She points out that their approach towards urban programming for children in Indonesia is two-pronged. First, they are working to strengthen governmental systems around planning and budgeting through evidence-generation, capacity building activities, and advocacy. Second, they are also working directly with children, adolescents, and young people to ensure their valuable participation in policy making and decision-making process through participation platforms like the Musrenbang (Public Participation in Planning and Budgeting) and Forum Anak (Child Forum). This commitment is reflected in one of their urban programs related to Child-Friendly City Initiatives.
This is why this year, Zoe is supporting the work of the Social Policy team at UNICEF Indonesia in advocating for the integration of UNICEF’s global framework on Child Friendly City Initiatives (CFCI) with the Government of Indonesia’s own CFCI initiative called the Kabupaten Kota Layak Anak (KLA).
“We see an opportunity to strengthen the government’s KLA initiative by conducting an assessment of the KLA implementation across Indonesia, including the 24 indicators in the current KLA guideline. I have contributed to the planning of our CFCI work under our annual work plan this year, engaged with our implementing partners who are rolling out adolescent participation programs in key provinces across Indonesia, and participated in technical discussion meetings with the Indonesian Ministry of National Development Planning/Bappenas, the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection/Kemenpppa, and the Ministry of Home Affairs/Kemendagri. Most memorably, I supported UNICEF Indonesia’s Urban 20 engagements, as a part of the Indonesian G20 Presidency”, she said.
2022 is a historical year for UNICEF Indonesia. UNICEF is supporting several global events, one of them being the Indonesian G20 Presidency. As a part of this, Zoe believes G20 is a great opportunity for UNICEF to encourage all stakeholders involved in this important endeavor to carry the voices of children, adolescents, and young people in Indonesia to the global stage. It is also an exciting year for her as she has the unique opportunity to be a part of UNICEF Indonesia’s coordinated G20 efforts in the Urban 20.
For the Urban 20, she has helped the Social Policy team with event-planning for the Urban 20 Webinar on “A Common Framework: Towards Child-Friendly Cities Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, Climate Crisis, and Rising Structural Inequalities”, from drafting the concept note and terms of reference, preparing the event rundown, to liaising with the event organizer. She was also asked to represent UNICEF Indonesia as one of the speakers in a session where she presented “Children in Urban Settings in Indonesia” to over 300 hundred people in the audience.
In the words of Ali Moechtar, Social Policy Specialist and Zoe’s supervisor, “working as a team with Zoe has been a fantastic opportunity for me. She has been instrumental in supporting the UNICEF Jakarta Office in the programme area Urban/Subnational planning and budgeting by connecting UNICEF with governments, CSOs, and youth and adolescents. Also, we asked her to be a speaker in the Urban 20 Webinar, representing UNICEF Indonesia, to give her more opportunities for capacity development.”
Indeed, Zoe is hopeful for the future of cities. She is glad that UNICEF Indonesia is emphasizing on the importance of working with and for children, especially during a global pandemic, climate crisis, and rising structural inequalities. There is an African proverb that says it takes a whole village to raise a child. The same thing is true for creating inclusive and sustainable cities for children regardless of their socio-economic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. It requires a whole-of-society approach to tirelessly work and produce concrete and measurable results for children. This is why Zoe says that the spirit of volunteerism must always be ignited because each one of us has a special role to play.
Volunteerism to me means living a life of service to others. It also means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Only then it is manifested in our daily work: that what we do, do not come from a place of power or some sort of advanced knowledge, but truly from a place of deep understanding of other people's unique backgrounds, guided by your personal, professional, and spiritual convictions, and finally, strong passion and desire to learn, share, and walk alongside those we serve.
Adrian Kusuma Pratama, Urban & Subnational Planning Specialist, and another supervisor of Zoe says, “I thoroughly enjoy working with Zoe. Her understanding of urban/subnational planning and budgeting activity is excellent. Her commitment to work is beyond question. She has been actively involved in designing the program for urban/subnational planning and budgeting while completing the administrative tasks."
Looking back at that exact moment in New York and the big questions she used to have, Zoe now realizes that she is not the solution per se, but in fact a part of the bigger picture. It’s heartening for her to see that the United Nations instills this culture in the people who are serving this great intergovernmental organization. Every day, she carries the honor, joy, and gratitude she has to be able to serve the United Nations Children’s Fund in Indonesia.
In her very own words, “I commend the United Nations Volunteer for its concerted efforts in bringing volunteers from all over the world to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals and hope that more volunteers across Indonesia and around the world will join us as we serve our country and the global community as changemakers, and produce results that last for generations to come.”