Sharing knowledge for grass-roots community empowerment in Indonesia

UNSW Canberra Academics Involved: 
Associate Professor Minako Sakai

Not long ago Dr Minako Sakai was a panellist at the World Economic Forum in Jakarta, discussing religion and development in Islamic economies. A few years later, on Indonesia’s Independence Day, she and several other dignitaries were invited to the Indonesian Presidential Palace. It struck her as powerful that the work of a female Japanese academic, fluent in Indonesian and living and working in Australia, was being openly respected in the Islamic nation.

“These types of experiences make me realise my work is bigger than I thought,” Sakai says. “This is good, because engagement is not a photo opportunity, it is a long-term relationship.”

“That is something I have learned from Muslim people. They often ask what are the contributions they can make in life. Perhaps they can raise very pious children or give donations or knowledge that can be handed down to the next generation. I hope for the same thing, for my work to create some key differences for the future.”

Sakai’s research, which particularly looks at social policy and developments in Indonesia through an ethnographic anthropological lens, is always translated into Indonesian to ensure the market can share in the knowledge. She works directly with Indonesian academia as well as Indonesian NGOs, charitable organisations and policy makers.

A well-respected spokesperson in the Indonesian media, Sakai is always happy to share her knowledge as it helps to bring her goal – the creation of key change for the future – to fruition.