What Do The Global Goals Mean To You? (Part I: Indonesia)

Lesley Teoh

193 of the world's leaders have committed to 17 Global Goals to end extreme poverty, fight inequality & injustice and fix climate change by 2030.

Despite rapid economic growth in Asia, problems of inequality have persisted and far too many remain mired in poverty. At Asia for Good, we believe that by offering commercial solutions to social issues, social enterprises are emerging as a sustainable means to achieve these goals for a more inclusive Asia.

As part of our collaboration with the Global Goals campaignwe spoke to 6 social entrepreneurs across the region to hear what these goals mean to them.



Chapter W empowers rural Indonesian women to start businesses with a social impact. We empower these women by making them micro-entrepreneurs who sell solar lamps in their own communitiesChapter W has created employment for 21 rural women (you can read more about these Mothers of Light here in 3 villages in Riau, Indonesia.

The program not only equips women with the skills to start a business, but a business with social impact. Through mentoring, refresher training and guidance along the way, our Mothers of Light have made tremendous impact in their communities and beyond. They have sold close to 3000 solar lamps, benefiting almost 12,000 people in 30 surrounding villages.

As the villagers no longer need to use kerosene, they enjoy a cumulative cost savings of about US$128,000 in 1 year. This also translates into the removal of 500 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, as well as the prevention of health issues related to kerosene use indoors.

Q1. As a social entrepreneur seeking to create positive impact, what do these goals mean to you? What will achieving this goal mean to your beneficiaries?

Chapter W works in the intersection of 3 of these goals:

  • End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

These goals are not only the reason why organizations like Chapter W and individuals embark on their initiatives to help reduce poverty and so on. Such initiatives will exist even in the absence of UN-led goals. After all, people have been trying to address the age-old problem of inequality even before the UN existed.  

For me, Chapter W does what it does because we believe in a fairer and equal society and that it is simply not right that you are deprived of opportunities just because you are poor or you are of a different gender or you happen to be born in a poor country.

At the macro-level however, these goals are important because it helps to achieve three main things:

a) Create a common, global standard to aspire to in addressing the most pressing problems of our time

b) Help to make it easier to mobilize action across different stakeholders, through heightened awareness

c) Put some form of informal pressure on governments to show improvements and progress towards these goals.

The ultimate goal of non-profits and social enterprises is to be successful till your success makes you irrelevant.  This will occur when the goals are met, and your beneficiaries no longer require your assistance or services. This is a good thing.

Q. My vision for a better world is one where…

My ideal world is one where the best minds focus their energies on producing meaningful solutions to solve pressing global problems, instead of dedicating time to solve trivial human problems (how many kinds of smartphone improvements do we really need?), or engaging in activities that bring about short-term rewards, but create long term risks to society.

Q. What role can social enterprises like yours play in achieving these goals?

Social enterprises exist because capitalism, in its classical or dominant form, fails to address the social or environmental aspects of the society they are part of, but instead pursue profit-generating activities at the expense of such aspects.

Chapter W addresses the economic, social and environmental aspects through our Mothers of Light program. For example, we create jobs for rural women, thus reducing gender inequality. The rural women introduce solar lamps, thus reducing energy poverty and create access to clean energy. The revenue Chapter W earns is pumped back to strengthen the program, and expand to other areas. It's a virtuous cycle.

Q. No action is too small to make a difference.  How can other people do their part to contribute to so that we can achieve these global goals? 

Nelson Mandela once observed, “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”

For people to contribute to these goals, they must at least care enough, or be empathetic. I believe that each person has some form of skill or talent that they can contribute productively.

The problem is that some think they don’t have anything to contribute or they ask themselves, ‘Who am I to make a difference?’

Very simple things, such as using recyclable bags instead of plastic bags, will matter once the actions are multiplied at a global level. If you have technical skills like accounting, you can help a non-profit improve its accounting processes. If you are good at art, you can produce pieces to raise funds for your selected non-profit.

If you are a teacher, you can educate your students on the problems of inequality so that your students care. Maybe one of them will care enough such that one day, that student will be the one who will end up changing the world.

But at the very least, all of us can follow the spirit of the Hippocratic oath: ‘First, do no harm.’  

If you wish to learn more about how you can support them, please visit Chapter W's website

Read part II of this series on Greater China, featuring the founders of DOMAT, S.T.O.P Poverty and Teach4Hk.

If you want to find more about socially conscious living in Asia, check out Asia For Good's social enterprise directory.


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