The Marginal People also Have the Same Rights as Human Beings

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What comes to your mind when you hear the expression “the marginal people”? In this article, we would like to discuss the marginal people with  Prof. Irwanto, Ph.D., Professor of  Faculty of Psychology, Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia (AJCUI). This year, he received a research grant from the British government in HIV/Aids research. Here is our interview or Questions (Q) and Ask (A) with Prof. Irwanto:

Q: Who can be considerd as marginal people?

A: First, people who are marginalized by society are usually those who have physical, mental, or intellectual disabilities. Second, marginalized people are those who are ranked the lowest socially because they regarded as deviating from the conventional norms such the LGBTQ people or young junkies. Third, marginalized people are those rejected by society because society is scared of them, such as people with leprosy or HIV. This apprehensiveness happens because of misinformation about what they suffer from, and as a result, such people become marginalized.

Q: What are the rights of these marginalized people?

A: Their most important right is the right to live. What is meant by living here is not just a matter of eating, drinking, or sleeping, but also a thing of dignity as a human being, such as the right to have an education. These marginalized people have the right to have knowledge and jobs similar to normal people in general. They also have the right to improve their quality of life, such as the right to have good health, the right to be educated, and the right to have decent employment.

Q: What have you done to help these marginalized people?

We have a project that has been running for a year now, namely the ‘Yes, I Can!’ program. This program involves institutions such as Lembaga Penelitian dan Pengabdian Masyarakat (Institute of Research and Community Services), Organisasi Perubahan Sosial Indonesia (Organization of Indonesian Social Changes), Sanggar SWARA (Association of Transgender Youths), and Yayasan Rumah Kita (an organization that cares for street children). The goal of this program is to improve the social and economic status and the life quality of the marginalized people such as ex-prostitutes, by giving them access to essential services (health, education, and employment).

The program will run for two years. In its first year (2018), we prepared a group of selected people consisting of 30. These 30 people were given a variety of training programs such as training provided by the Hospitality Program from AJCUI, nursing by Tarumanegara Univesity, and other training programs offered by Astra and Martha Tilaar. After attending the training programs successfully, they are given certificates. It is hoped that such people do not need to be dependent anymore because now they have skills they can offer in the form of the certifications they have earned.

Q: As a young generation, what can we do to help these marginalized people?

A: First, don’t be scared. Second, fight the negative thinking. Fear comes from negative thinking. For example, if you meet transvestites, you might be scared of them. You must get rid of your negative thinking and fear. Third, try to join social activities that care for the marginalized people. In other words, as a college student, you do not just acquire knowledge in the classrooms, but also learn life lessons outside the classrooms.

Q: Do you have a piece of advice for the young generation regarding the issue of these marginalized people?

A: I think it is our obligation as people with certain privileges—for example, we were born in a family with functional economic status and a good education—to use our rights as assets to help marginalized people. I always believe that balance is essential in our lives. Let us look at this world in the efforts of searching for balance continuously. We have to find opportunities and make real contributions.