Australia Awards in Indonesia

The Australia Awards are prestigious, transformational scholarships and short courses offered to emerging leaders for study, research and professional development in Australia

04 Jan 2018

Empowering Domestic Violence Survivors Through Financial Literacy

There is nothing more empowering than the feeling of economic independence, particularly for women. Domestic violence advocates have long emphasised the importance of financial independence as a key step to leaving abusive relationships. Australian alumna Sylvia Yazid aims to prove just how effective financial education can be in helping survivors becoming economically secure.

Sylvia and her team conduct financial literacy and entrepreneurship workshops targeting domestic violence survivors in Majalaya, in Bandung district, West Java. Women from four villages have received training at the local community post called Bale Istri, which means a shelter for wives. The training, funded by the Alumni Grant Scheme, is conducted by the SAPA Institute in cooperation with the Center of Excellence – Small and Medium Enterprises Development at Parahyangan Catholic University, where Sylvia works as a lecturer. At the SAPA Institute, Sylvia teams up with Sri Mulyati, an alumna of the Transformational Business Leadership short course at the University of Sydney under an Australia Awards scholarship.

“The project aims to give women more skills and more confidence in their abilities to manage finances,” said Sylvia. “Based on the stories we hear from these women, it’s clear most of them solely rely financially on their abusive husbands, and we want to boost their confidence to believe that it’s possible that I can do it, I can do something, I can become independent.”

In Indonesia, one in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. West Java, where the project takes place, ranked third among provinces with the most cases of violence against women in a 2016 report by Indonesia’s Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan).

Healing from abuse and rebuilding a meaningful life after domestic violence can be challenging. With low self-esteem, moving forward into a new life that’s purposeful and positive can be a difficult transition and this is reflected in how they value themselves, said Sylvia. One of the basics is to introduce financial literacy.

Sylvia, who has Master and PhD degrees under her belt, sees a correlation in women’s behaviour under the project involving domestic violence survivors and her thesis – The influence of NGOs on Policies on Migrant Workers – which she completed at Monash University in 2011.

“Many of these women don’t value themselves as workers, they don’t take into account that they have the right to get a salary and most of the problem is they don’t calculate and record their business expenses,” she said. “They tend to feel that women’s work is not valuable, and as a consequence, this (attitude) is echoed in how they do business.”

“What is needed is a change in mindset,” Sylvia said. “We have to be honest, it (the workshop) is never as perfect as planned. One of the barriers is their involvement … as in some cases they face difficulties in getting (their husbands’) permission to attend the workshop.”

In 2016, Komnas Perempuan found that 75% of all reported cases last year were cases of domestic violence. In total, there were 13,602 reported cases throughout all of 2016, an average of around 37 each day. This staggering figure however represents only a fraction of the real occurrence of domestic violence, due to under-reporting and poor data collection.

“This project is a learning process for us too. I believe the most important things for us to learn are how do we communicate; how do we share our knowledge; how do we share information that creates support networks and how to move forward,” said Sylvia.

Sylvia hopes the project’s next step forward is to engage potential partners to work on developing the skills necessary to achieve independence, greater stability and opportunity for domestic violence survivors.

The workshops are available on YouTube at and on Instagram @see4womens.

Are you an Australian alumnus who is keen to create your own impact and apply your studies to the real world? Send your proposals for the Alumni Grant Scheme Round 1 2018 before 20 January 2018.

For more information and the application form, please visit:

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