Education is the Key, Says Saragih

Sabastian Saragih is a Programme Officer for the Regional Asia programme based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He joined RWI in March of 2018.

He has been working in the development sector for more than twenty years in the areas of human rights, sustainable livelihood and disaster risk reduction. He has experience working with many different development players at a global and regional level, including international NGOs, UN agencies, governments and companies.

Saragih comes from Yogyakarta, a famous tourist city in Indonesia, which is close to the Borobudur temple. However, he works in Jakarta so he commutes by taking a one hour flight every week.

He grew up in a small village surrounded by rice farming in Deli Serdang District North Sumatra Province. His parents were not “pure farmers” because both of his parents were public servants. His father also graduated from a prominent university in Java. During that time, only few people graduated from university. So, Saragih’s father’s decision to make a living in a small village which people sometimes perceive as “class suicide” had a huge impact on Saragih. His father always said:

We can only improve our lives if we improve our society. The most strategic way to improve society is through education, especially for those who have difficulties to access education.

Saragih has a Master’s degree in agriculture and sustainable culture from the Scottish Agricultural College.

He wanted to work at RWI because he has been passionate about working with marginalized communities and farmers ever since his time at University.

He used to work as an independent Consultant. However, the assignments were diverse, stressful and hard to dwell into sepcific topics.

As a short term consultant I just jumped from one assignment to another assignment. From conducting evaluation, assessment, programme design, research etc. in different topics in a short amount of time. I learnt a lot but it was in a very unsystematic way.

He also says:

I wanted to work at an organization that offered more of a learning environment, and I think RWI provides that kind of environment. We get to develop ourselves and our passions systematically.

His focus right now is on human rights cities. The Paris agreement and disaster risk reduction from a human rights perspective are additional areas that he is responsible for.

“Human rights cities are our programme to promote human rights approaches at local level and by that support local governments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030. The Paris agreement is a legally binding commitment among the countries that signed it. We would like to contribute to the effective implementation of this agreement by providing analysis and instrument for the state to implement their commitment, This is also called nationally determined contribution (NDC).”

Previously he has had experience of working at FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization) with a post-disaster programme. He has also worked with different projects that are related to foreign trade with DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australian Government). There he analyzed the relationship between commodities and poverty and the regulatory issues that derives from trade.

I think human rights are a fundamental right. I think the human rights approach in this region is not yet applied or implemented compared to other countries.

Saragih thinks RWI is different from other organizations he has worked at since the institute has made him feel comfortable and there is a personal relationship to ones colleagues here.

This is very comfortable. I think that even within the first two weeks, I already had an individual conversation with RWI’s director Morten Kjaerum. I think it is a very supportive environment where we get to develop ourselves and have a comfortable atmosphere where you can connect directly with your colleagues.

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