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Navigating Identities in Indonesia

Peace Corps’ Intercultural Competence, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (ICDEIA) approach seeks to reflect and support the diversity of the United States through its staff and Volunteers, who represent a broad collection of social identities, including race, ethnicity, color, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, marital status, and socioeconomic status, among others.

How might a Volunteer’s social identities impact their service?

The information below provides additional context about how different social identity groups may experience service and what types of ICDEIA-related support you can expect from the Peace Corps.

Accessibility and disability considerations

Accessibility remains a significant challenge for individuals with disabilities in Indonesia, particularly in rural areas. Many public spaces, transportation systems, and buildings lack adequate facilities and accommodations, making it challenging for people with disabilities to navigate and participate fully in society.

There is a diverse range of perceptions and societal attitudes towards individual with disabilities in Indonesia. In some traditional communities, individuals with disabilities might be stigmatized or discriminated against. However, there is a growing awareness and recognition of the abilities, talents, and contributions of individuals with disabilities in various fields, including education and employment.

Peace Corps staff are committed to providing support and accommodations for Volunteers with disabilities where Volunteers can communicate openly with Peace Corps staff about their specific needs and accommodations and work together to identify reasonable and available accommodations and support to ensure their safety and well-being during service.

Gender role considerations

Volunteers in Indonesia should anticipate encountering more traditional and conservative gender roles in their workplace, schools, communities, and host families, with male typically having higher status than females who often bear the primary responsibility for managing the households.

Both male and female Volunteers can anticipate being evaluated by their host communities based on these traditional gender norms and may encounter inquiries and occasional criticism if their actions diverge from the societal expectations.

Given Indonesia’s vast cultural diversity, Volunteers should remind mindful of a spectrum of viewpoints and customs regarding gender roles during service and willing to engage with and adapt to these disparities within their host community.

LGBTQI+ considerations

Volunteers should be mindful of potential risks if they decide to openly identify themselves as LGBTQI+, such as discrimination, harassment, and potential legal consequences, particularly in communities with conservative attitudes towards LGBTQI+ individuals.

Volunteers are highly encouraged to learn about local customs, norms, and cultural sensitivities related to gender and sexuality in Indonesia and strive to engage respectfully and sensitively with host communities on these topics.

Peace Corps staff aims to foster open, inclusive, and accepting environments for LGBTQI+, though resources may vary by location. Larger cities in East Java and West Java may have more well-known LGBTQI+ organizations, while smaller towns and villages may have limited or no LGBTQI+ resources.

Volunteers are advised to communicate openly and proactively with Peace Corps staff about their LGBTQI+ identity, as well as any other concerns or needs, to ensure that appropriate support and accommodations can be provided throughout service.

Racial and ethnic diversity considerations

Indonesia has a diverse cultural landscape, consisting of thousands of ethnic groups, which may result in varied attitudes toward racial and ethnic diversity. On Java Island, darker-skinned Indonesians might be assumed from remote or economically disadvantaged regions in eastern part of Indonesia which could led to similar assumptions about Volunteers of color. Black/African American Volunteers might be mistaken for being from Papua, while Asian American Volunteers might be perceived as Chinese Indonesians, highlighting the complexity of racial assumptions.

There is a risk that Volunteers of color might face misconceptions about their nationality, with some assuming they are not “real” Americans.

White Volunteers may experience privilege in various aspects of their service, which could impact their interactions and their experience. This privilege might manifest in access to certain opportunities, perceptions from authority and treatments within host communities. They are likely to attract unwanted attention based on their appearance, leading to inquiries from both acquaintances and strangers.

With the support from Peace Corps staff, Volunteers are highly encouraged to engage in dialogues about race and ethnicity that can enhance the Volunteer experience in Indonesia and help mitigate some of the challenges.

Age considerations

Volunteers above the age of 57 ½ at the start of their service are not permitted in Indonesia due to the mandatory retirement of age of 60 for public school teachers.

Volunteers in Indonesia should consider the physical demands of the service, as the climate and terrain may pose challenges. Temperature, humidity, rugged and uneven terrains can be physically demanding.

In many Indonesian cultures, respect for elders is deeply ingrained, and older individuals are often revered for their wisdom and life experience. As a result, older Volunteers may find they are automatically accorded to a certain level of respect and deference in their host communities.

While being respected for their age can be a positive aspect of service, along with this respect may come certain expectations of traditional roles and behaviors associated with age and authority. They may find themselves being placed in positions of leadership or given greater responsibility, regardless of their qualifications or preferences.

Peace Corps staff will work closely with all Volunteers to assess their individual health needs and determine if any accommodation or adjustments to their service are necessary to ensure their well-being and safety. This may include factors such as access to medical care, proximity to amenities and availability of transportation options.

Religious considerations

Islam is the predominant religion in Indonesia, followed by Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and other indigenous beliefs. The roles of religion in Indonesia differs significantly from that in the United States, with religious affiliation often playing a more prominent role in various aspect of public life, such as routine paperwork and job application.

Volunteers serving in Java may encounter workplace environments and communities where Islamic values and practices influence daily interactions and decision-making processes. Similarly, in East Nusa Tenggara with predominantly Christian and Catholic populations, Volunteers should consider the religious dynamics within their communities and workplaces.

While Indonesia is known for its religious tolerance, Volunteers should be aware of local customs and sensitivities regarding religious expression and behavior that may be perceived as disrespectful and insensitive.

While personal questions about religion may be less common, Volunteers should carefully consider how they will respond to inquiries about their religious beliefs and practices, considering cultural differences and potential implications.

If a Volunteer wishes to identify with a particular religious group, Peace Corps staff will provide support. It is essential to discuss this decision thoroughly with staff beforehand to understand any possible consequences. Peace Corps Indonesia encourages open communication between Volunteers and staff regarding religious matters to ensure that Volunteers feel supported and understand the cultural implications of their decisions.

Considerations for Volunteer couples

To be eligible to live together during their Peace Corps service in Indonesia, couples must be legally married in an opposite-sex marriage. It is important to note that same-sex marriage is not legally recognized nor culturally accepted in Indonesia.

Couples serving in Indonesia will encounter similar challenges and rewards as individual Volunteers, but their marital status will introduce additional dynamics to their community integration experience.

Indonesian host families, colleagues, and neighbors will likely express curiosity about the couple’s relationship, leading to discussions about gender roles, family planning, and levels of independence or privacy.

During the pre-service training period, spouses will live in the same community but in separate households to facilitate language learning and cultural adaptations. At the conclusion of the training, the couple will be placed with a host family at their permanent host community, where they are assigned to teach at different schools, requiring them to navigate professional responsibilities independently while maintaining their relationship.

Couples should be prepared to communicate openly and support each other through the unique challenges and opportunities that come with serving in Indonesia, including adjusting to living arrangements and managing expectations of their shared experience.

Types of ICDEIA support available in country

Peace Corps Indonesia regularly conducts training sessions for Volunteers on the topic intercultural competence, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (ICDEIA), providing Volunteers with strategies to navigate cultural-related discussions and conversations. The training sessions cover topics such as cultural differences, gender roles and norms, providing them with opportunity to reflect on their own perspectives regarding their own cultural and identity backgrounds, gender roles and norms, and how these perceptions have influenced them personally.

Peace Corps staff are trained to support Volunteers in navigating their experience in Indonesia, including addressing issues related to ICDEIA. They can provide guidance and resources to support Volunteers integrate into their communities effectively and address any challenges they may encounter.

Peace Corps Indonesia may collaborate with local organizations and partners that promote ICDEIA. The organizations may offer additional support and resources for Volunteers to engage with diverse communities and participate in initiative aimed at fostering understanding and acceptance.