Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in Indonesia

August 20, 2015

  • Poverty is often passed down to the next generation because poor families cannot afford health services and education for their children.
  • A government program aims to help break the cycle of poverty by providing conditional cash transfers to support children’s needs.
  • The program has reached 3 million families and has improved children’s health and education.

Cirebon, Indonesia, August 21, 2015 – For very poor families, affording basic education and health care can be a struggle. The high costs for transportation, school supplies and health services are often unsurmountable.

When her children were ill, Nani, a mother of two in Cirebon, West Java, could not take them to a doctor.  “I could afford only to buy traditional medicine from people who pass by,” she said. Missed school days impact children’s performance and diminish their chances of graduating from school, trapping them in an endless cycle of poverty.

Fortunately, conditions have now changed for Nani’s family.

“With the help of a government program, I can now bring my children to the health clinic and get her proper medicine. After two days, she is much better,” she said happily.

" With the help of a government program, I can now bring my children to the health clinic and get her proper medicine. After two days, she is much better "


Mother of two, Cirebon, West Java

Family Hope Program to end the cycle of poverty

Nani’s family is one among millions of poor families who have benefitted from the government’s Family Hope Program.  Supported by the World Bank and launched in 2007 by the Ministry of Social Affairs, the program’s coverage has increased eightfold in recent years.  In 2014, the program reached some 3 million poor households in 33 provinces.

Eligible beneficiaries are families in the bottom 10% income percentile with pregnant mothers and/or children aged 0 to 18 years old, according to the National Unified Database of poor households.

The program provides cash ranging from Rp 800,000 ($68) to Rp 2.8 million ($37) for each family every year, depending on their size. The average amount received is about Rp 1.8 million ($152) which represents about 15% of what a poor family would spend in any given year. Payments are made on the condition that families keep their children in school and get them to a health clinic when needed.

 “I use the money to buy my son’s school books and uniform. Before, my son was reluctant to go to school because his uniform was torn and he didn’t have the right books. Now that I can buy them, he is excited to go to school again,” said Kurniasih, whose son will soon graduate from junior secondary school.

Some 11,000 trained facilitators are on board to help families meet the conditions set by the program.

Siti Fatimah, for example, shuttles between three villages to check if the children of the families she works with are attending classes. “If they don’t (attend classes), then the family may receive less money,” says Fatimah.

But so far, so good, she says.  “I see a change of behavior. Families now realize that going to school is important for their children’s future, and not only because there’s a risk of getting less cash support.” To further promote positive behavior change, the program now offers group sessions.

Program facilitators recently began organizing family development sessions for mothers. They include a range of training modules in health and nutrition, good parenting practices, child protection and financial management of family expenses.

“These group sessions help mothers learn from each other.  We are now like our own little support group,” said Ros, a mother of two. “We remind each other when to take our children to the clinic or how to help our children study.”

Results of the program

An evaluation has shown that the program has been successful in improving the probabilities of:

  • elementary school students continuing to secondary school by 8.8% and
  • enrollment at junior secondary school by 10%


Additionally, it has:

  • increased the number of antenatal visits by 7.1%
  • increased the likelihood of children having complete immunization by 7%
  • and reduced stunting by 3%

Family Hope is now also helping to start small businesses so families can supplement their incomes. For example, in Cirebon, people are cultivating ginger in their gardens. The PKH program provides seeds as well as training on harvesting ginger. Once the crops are harvested, the program helps arrange visits by buyers.

“We have received training on how to grow ginger and it’s quite easy. Hopefully, once we sell them, we will make more money for our families,” said Maimunah, from Dukupuntang, Cirebon.

Other small enterprises have also launched, including a goat farm and a micro-credit venture for female entrepreneurs.

Dadang Tresnayadi, Head of the Cirebon Social Affairs Office in Cirebon, explains that the target is not creating wealth for the families. “But at least children from poor families will now have a better chance to eventually climb out of poverty,” he said.