Between the grand plans conjured in national capitals and the realities in distant
provinces lies a chasm of daunting proportions. This is a problem shared by most
developing countries, but it is especially acute in those, like Indonesia, of great size
and heterogeniety and where the nation itself is still young. To regional officials like
Dr. ALOYSIUS BENEDICTUS MBOI and his wife NAFSIAH MBOI-WALINONO, Governor and senior
health official respectively of Indonesia's Nusa Tenggara Timur Provincefalls the
urgent and complex task of bridging this gap.
Some three million people inhabit NTT, the vast majority of whom are Christian (53 percent
Catholic; 32 percent Protestant), and live in small villages and hamlets scattered across
the mostly mountainous islands of the province. Ninety percent are subsistence farmers who
cultivate maize and, in a few moist areas, rice. In Timor, Sumba and a few of the minor
islands, cattle graze freely over open grasslands. Some 60 distinct languages are spoken
in the province, and this linguistic diversity, combined with physical isolation and
differences of customs, culture and religion, contributes to a climate of rivalry and
mistrust. Competition for scarce resources exacerbates the problem. It has apparently
always been so: each tribe or clan has its own distinctive war dance.
For centuries the area's productscattle, horses, sandalwood, textiles,
mother-of-pearl, and in earlier days its people were sold abroad. The profits therefrom
enriched a few but did little to improve the life of the common man. Today the region's
links to the modern economy of Java and the rest of the world perpetuate this pattern; its
resources are extracted but its economy is only beginning to develop. By 1986 per capita
income there was still only one third that of the Indonesian average.
Historically the area was dominated by local rajahs, whose tiny king domswaxed and waned
and were sometimes loosely incorporated within one or another of the great empires based
on Java. Europeans, first the Portuguese and then the Dutch, entered the region beginning
in the 16th century and subjected some of its kingdoms. Yet it wasn't until the turn of
this century that the majority of the rajahs relinquished their sovereignty. Among them
was MBOI's grandfather, the Rajah of Manggarai, whose territory became a tiny part of the
huge Netherlands Indies a subsection of Flores District in the Residency of Timor and
Dependencies, which was in turn part of the province called the Great East. Under the
Dutch the rajahs kept their titles and a modest degree of local authority, and they and
their families remained persons of privilege if not always of wealth.
ALOYSIUS BENEDICTUS MBOI was born in Ruteng, Manggarai on May 22, 1935. His father's
eldest brother was Rajah Bagung of Manggarai. But his father, Mathias Mboi, who had
attended a Dutch mission school and was the first of the family to adopt Catholicism,
chose to rely upon his income as a sanitation officer in the Health Department of the
colonial administration to support his family. His mother Yohanna was also a descendant of
a minor rajah. BEN, as he has always been known, was the second of three boys and four
girls. Despite his royal lineage, he grew up as an ordinary village boy, working in the
household and in the family fields. At his father's insistence he helped a member of the
household (but not of the family) sell food from door to door. As a lark he would slip
into the Dutch tennis club and sometimes act as a ball boy. This he had to do
surreptitiously because his father had once reprimanded him: "We are kings in our
country, and the children of kings should not fetch balls for foreigners."
Another and different childhood memory was of a Dutch doctor scolding his stern father and
his father accepting the tongue lashing. The inferior position of his father relative to
this "greater" man impressed the boy deeply. "From that time on I wanted to
become that man . . . to become a doctor."
BEN attended Dutch language Catholic primary schools on Flores during the period of
Japanese occupation and post-war turbulence (1942-49), but the occupation and war had
little impact on his life or studies. In 1949, the year Indonesia achieved independence,
MBOI was sent to the provincial capital of Kupang, Timoran exciting boat trip of
daysfor middle school. Although that same year his father died in car crash, by dint
of hard work on the part of his mother, and school jobs, he managed to complete middle
school in Kupang and high school Malang, Java (1955). From there he went on to the
University of Indonesia in Jakarta as a medical student. After the first year the costs
his education were borne by the regional government of Flores, which was eager to sponsor
a native son who promised to return home doctor.
During his six-year medical course MBOI taught science, hygiene and other subjects on the
side and became a student leader. In 1959-60 he chaired the Student Council of the Medical
School and was a member of the Presidium of the University Student Council. He also joined
Young Catholics movement, and took up the great issues of the day. Particularly important
was President Sukarno's call for the "return" to Indonesia of the last of
Holland's Southeast Asian territories, West Irian, western half of the island of New
Because of this unresolved territorial problem, when his class graduated in 1961 BEN and
the other new doctors were inducted into the military and sent to officers training. In
1962 he found himself dropping by parachute into the jungles of southern Irian in a poorly
planned but daring effort to dislodge the Dutch. His company commander was the present
Chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces (1988), Benny Moerdani, who is also Catholic. For six
months BEN's outfit skirmished with stray units of the colonial forces and fought the
jungle elements. So remote were their operations that when Holland signed the agreement
relinquishing West Irian in August 1962, the news took two months to reach them. When at
last the men came out of the jungle, Sukarno welcomed them as heroes. Lieutenant Doctor
MBOI was promoted to Captain and decorated for bravery.
He had been the only doctor to volunteer for the mission.
The army next assigned BEN to the surgery staff of the military hospital in Jakarta. This
was a boon for it permitted him to bring to fruition his courtship of ANDI NAFSIAH
WALINONO, a medical student n South Sulawesi whom he had met in 1958. Their romance had
repeatedly foundered on the rocks of religion, for like the vast majority of countrymen
NAFSIAH was Muslim; indeed her parents were hajis, having made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
"We broke up about a hundred times," NAFSIAH remembers, "everything and
everyone was against our relationship. " But they persevered in their affections, and
when NAFSIAHgraduated in 1964 they were married. Days before she had converted to
Catholicism. In their efforts not to give offense, the couple were married twice: first in
the customary Islamic and local ceremonies of her homeland, then in Catholic rites in
Jakarta. It was an unusual marriage, and from it grew an extraordinary team.
ANDI NAFSIAH WALINONO was born in 1940 at Sengkang, on the island of Sulawesi. She was the
eldest daughter of Haji Andi Walinono, titled Aru wage (later Ranrang Tua), whose kingdom
in South Sulawesi, like those on'Flores, had long since been subsumed as a dependent
territory within the Netherlands Indies. Despite the turbulence of the
timesoccupation by Japan followed by the national revolution NAFSIAH recalls a
childhood free of care: "We had everything we wanted." Her mother, who had
previously been widowed, was her father's second wife. NAFSIAH was the oldest girl among
the six children of this marriage and the eldest of her father's daughters. Although her
mother had been the first women of her area to break with tradition and attend a Dutch
school (but was married before she could finish), her father was stubbornly traditional
and believed girls should stay at home and marry young. It was only at her mother's
insistence that NAFSIAH and her sisters continued their education beyond primary school.
Once decided, however, her family provided the best Western education then available, and
NAFSIAH soon proved an outstanding student in a succession of exclusive Catholic girls
schools in Ujung Pandang (Makassar),Jakarta and Surabaya. This intensive and positive
exposure to Christianity paved the way for her eventual conversion, and she now credits
the teaching Sisters of the Order of the Holy Family and the Ursulines with awakening in
her a compassion for the poor and other unfortunates. "We had always lived a
relatively easy life," she says, "but because of the nuns . . . I was able to
also see the other side of life."
When she was 12 the family moved to Jakarta because her mother recognized that with
independence and democracy the influence of the rajahs would wane and power would be based
on intellectual achievement. She therefore persuaded her husband to study for a law degree
which he completed at age 42. NAFSIAH attended junior high at St. Ursula's (1952-55) and
high school at St. Maria's (1955-58) in Surabaya. She had long wanted to attend university
and study medicine and, since her mother wanted one of her children to become a doctor
("to take care of her if she became old and sick"), NAFSIAH was able to get her
to agree to her training.
NAFSIAH began her medical course at the University of Indonesia, Jakarta, in 1958. Aside
from her studies and intermittent courtship with BEN MBOI, whom she met in her first year,
she was caught up in the extracurricular life of the school and of her Catholic women's
dormitory "I never had any problem in studies and I had fun organizing and chairing
committees," she comments. On reflection, she attributes to these experiences
valuable lessons in working in organizations and with women. She was the first Buginese
woman to become a doctor.
When she graduated on July 4, 1964, Indonesia was locked in confrontation with its
neighbor, Malaysia. President Sukarno opposed the newly formed federation. NAFSIAH, as
well as the other young doctors, was assigned to three and one-half months of military
training. She completed her course (but was not given a military rank) and was assigned as
a "volunteer" at the border. She might have been sent into action Although
there turned out to be little of ithad not her mother, in order o get her released
from military service, suddenly consented to her marriage to BEN. He had just been
appointed, coterminously, Military District Doctor and District Medical Officer in Ende,
Flores. After their wedding NAFSIAH was posted to Ende, too, as director of the Ceneral
Iospital. Thus began their partnership of service to Nusa Tenggara Timur.
Together BEN and NAFSIAH constituted half the doctors on Flores an island of 750
thousand people, 750 kilometers long. While NAFSIAH managed the 100-bed hospital and
treated 30 to 50 private patients on e side, BEN traveled the length and breadth of the
island, often walking for hours from one remote village to another, treating the very Ill
and setting up small rural clinics to be managed by local nurses or midwives. For BEN this
was a homecoming and the fulfillment of his pledge to be a doctor to Flores. But for
NAFSIAH, this was a new world which she was an outsider, and at first she felt the usual
insecurities of the newcomer. People warmed to her efforts and she was soon at home; but
more than 20 years later she still remembers with appreciation three, tiny, barefoot
Florenese nuns who came to welcome her with gift of bananas on her first Patron Saints
As a doctor NAFSIAH was naturally esteemed, and as a clever linguist re was in no time
able to address her new neighbors and patients in the cal language. Furthermore, NAFSIAH
was the first woman doctor to serve the area, a predominantly Muslim one where women were
constrained in their interactions with men. She provided an opportunity for them to have
access to medical service which was psychologically comfortable and socially acceptable.
Among her initiatives at the hospital was the creation of Ende's first dependable blood
bank. As there were no facilities for storing blood in Ende, her bankwas made up of
willing volunteers, ready to be donors the moment a transfusion was needed. In
establishing her blood bank NAFSIAH worked through local Catholic parishes and encouraged
hesitant donors by saying, "Christ gave his blood for us, so why should we not give
our blood for other people." In 1966 NAFSIAH gave birth to their first child, a
daughter, Maria Josefina Tridia Mboi, called Tridia, a name created by NAFSIAH and BEN by
combining Trikora and Dwikora, the names of the two volunteer military operations in which
they had served.
For his part, BEN tackled the problem of gaining dependable financial support for his
rural clinics. Ad hoc offerings of fruit and vegetables from poor patients would not, in
the long run, be able to support even simple on-going health services. Innovating, he
introduced a rudimentary pre-paid program in which prospective clinic users made annual
contributions in non-perishable commoditiesof beans, rice and the likewhich
the clinics could sell for cash. To his knowledge, it was Indonesia's first experiment
with a rural health insurance scheme.
In addition to discharging the taxing responsibilities of District Medical Officer
(military and civilian), BEN was also Dean of the Ende branch of the Malang (Java)
Teachers College. He played a part in military operations directed against the Indonesian
Communist Party following a coup within the army in 1965events related directly to
the assumption of power by Lieutenant General Soeharto and the realignment of national
power giving a strong role to the militaryand was promoted to Major.
In 1967 BEN was posted to Kupang as Chief Medical Officer and Medical Commandant for Nusa
Tenggara Timur Province. For the next several years he discharged these responsibilities,
at the same time shuttling back and forth between the province and Jakartawhere he
had a seat in the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (DPR, national parliament). BEN, a reluctant
parliamentarian, had been appointed one of the 75 members of the pro-government Army
Faction. "I saw myself incompetent as a parliamentarian," he says. "There
you talk and talk, you see, the work is only talking. And I do not like talking. I like
action." Nevertheless, he used his influence as an MP and as Vice Chairman of the
Commission on Social Welfare to promote a health centers program which emphasized
preventive health care in rural communities, and to lobby, unsuccessfully, for the
adoption of his rural health insurance scheme. Of his years as an MP he disclaims any
personal achievement and likes to emphasize that, in Indonesia, "it is more a group
BEN MBOI believes that in the early decades of Indonesian independence, contentious and
self-serving rivalry among political parties thwarted the achievement of important
national goals. Therefore, as Indonesia prepared for its first legislative elections under
Soeharto in 1971, he worked actively as provincial campaign chairman for Golkar, the
president's non-party coalition of "functional groups. " He was quite successful
in electing Golkar candidates in NTT. However, when asked to retain his own seat he
declined, and he and NAFSIAH embarked, instead, upon an intensive agenda of postgraduate
study in Europe.
When her husband began his double life as Provincial Medical Officer in Kupang and MP in
Jakarta, NAFSIAH found a house for them in Jakarta and returned to the University of
Indonesia Medical School to specialize in pediatrics. Her program included working as a
pediatrics assistant at Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital, Jakarta's largest, as well as
research and teaching. She pursued it with characteristic energy and at the same time
carried on a private practice for as many as 50 patients a day. Their second child,
Gerardus Mashur Mboi, was born in 1970. A year later she completed her pediatrics
training, just in time to join BEN and travel to Belgium.
They settled in Ghent with the children. NAFSIAH entered the Rijks Universiteit in Ghent
for advanced studies in pediatrics while BEN, with a scholarship from WHO, earned his
Masters Degree in Public Health at the Prince Leopold Tropical Institute in Antwerp. He
later took several brief courses and surveyed national health insurance programs in
Belgium, Norway, Holland, England and West Germany and spent a short time studying
management at the University of Louvain. Meanwhile, NAFSIAH moved to Amsterdam to follow a
course in Social Pediatrics. In choosing this she had her husband's career in mind.
"He loves his province very much . . . and I felt that somehow he would like to go
back. And I would go with him. I knew in that area there were no big hospitals. So I
thought I have to be prepared. If we go back to NTT then my knowledge of primary health
care or social pediatrics will be much more of a benefit than my clinical knowledge."
During this year and a half abroad they saw foreign aid from a new perspective. Supporting
the fund raising activities of groups concerned with third world development such as
Elf-elf-elf Action and the Bishops' Conference "Every weekend I gave lectures on
Indonesia and my wife danced," recalls BENthey discovered that the money came
not from the rich, but from people who had themselves been poor and who now wanted to help
Returning from Europe BEN immediately reassumed his post as Provincial Medical Officer
with NAFSIAH as his senior staff member; she became Deputy Director of Kupang's General
Hospital, and, amidst other official duties and her private practice, established the Red
Cross Blood Transfusion Service in Kupang. BEN took up his political activities as
Provincial Chairman of Golkar, and narrowly avoided being appointed Vice Governor. Instead
he was called to Jakarta to head the army's Institute for Preventive Medicine.
As the senior health officer in the Indonesian Army (December 1974-July 1978) and now
colonel, BEN worked to enlighten his colleagues, "particularly among the general
staff," about the desperate need for preventive health care within the services. One
measure of his success was a five-fold increase in the budget for preventive medicine
during his tenure in office. As BEN campaigned for his cause, NAFSIAH had their third and
last child whom they named Henry Dunant (Hade) Wanggur Mboi, after the founder of the Red
Settled in Jakarta again, NAFSIAH resumed her practice in pediatrics and was prevailed
upon to take over the Blood Transfusion Service of the Metropolitan Jakarta Red Cross. She
replaced a system based upon paid donors with one of volunteers. With typical panache she
did so by convincing Jakarta's Governor Ali Sadikin (1971 Ramon Magsaysay Government
Service Awardee) to require all new applicants for automobile licenses to present
themselves for examination as potential blood donorsa fair plan, she thought, as bad
drivers were the cause of automobile accidents whose victims were among the primary
recipients of transfusions. Despite the predictable uproar, her stop-gap plan succeeded.
At the same time, NAFSIAH launched a campaign to promote a truly voluntary system. Through
mosques, churches, schools, radio and television and the business and diplomatic
communities she explained the need for blood. She modernized storage and distribution
facilities and made donating blood easier by building up a fleet of bloodmobiles. By the
time she left, Jakarta's 11 biggest hospitals were being provided safe blood by a large
and well organized pool of volunteers.
"I prayed day and night so that he will not become governor," admits NAFSIAH
about BEN's return to Nusa Tenggara Timur as its top official in 1978; and even BEN
acknowledged that, given a choice, he would have preferred to be Minister of Health.
"I have no idea about how to be governor," he said, "as for Minister of
Health, I do."
Despite reservations, BEN and NAFSIAH now returned to Kupang for what turned out to be two
five-year terms. Here they would bring to bear upon the daunting problems of the neglected
province the fruits of their splendid educations, their useful connections in Jakarta, and
what practical wisdom they had gathered from years of preparationin the province, in
the capital and abroad. President Soeharto signed the order naming BEN Governor on the
16th anniversary of his parachute drop into Irian Jaya.
As a native son and longtime civil servant in the province, BEN was in many ways familiar
with NTT. He had traveled the territory from one end to the other as district and
provincial health officer, and had observed the deleterious impact of rural poverty and
backwardness upon health, and upon health care. But as far as politics and public
administration were concerned, he felt unprepared.
In the beginning, fortunately he says, he could do little but react to the chain of
calamities that assaulted his province during his first two years. Earthquakes, tidal
waves, drought and plagues of grasshoppers and mice followed one on the other; "we
were always on our way to some disaster area. " The worst of these was a famine in
Paga District, Flores already gripping the land when he and NAFSIAH
arrivedthat the government succeeded in relieving only by bringing in rice by boat
from Java. As the new governor observed, this happened when some other districts in NTT
were producing a food surplus. He soon discovered that transport connecting the many
regions of his province was almost nonexistent.
BEN refers to the early disasters as "blessings in disguise," for it was from a
critical examination of their causes and consequences that he came to understand what was
wrong in NTT, and what changes were necessary. His medical experience stood him in good
stead, he believes, because "a doctor is trained from the first day with a systematic
way of thinking." Consequently, BEN approached each calamity as though treating an
illnesstaking the history, making a diagnosis, formulating a therapy, and making a
prognosisand applied the same technique to the province at large. The disease, he
concluded, was generalized and so must be its treatment.
The combined forces of nature, history, culture and chance had conspired, he observed, to
trap NTT's people within their own vicious cycle of backwardness, and this had been
compounded by years of official neglect. In a way, the province was unknown until 1978
when working within the broad guidelines of the government's five-year plans, Governor BEN
MBOI began applying his therapy to the beleaguered patient.
He recognized that the true impediments to progress in NTT were not physical but
culturalhabits and ideas imbedded deeply among extraordinarily diverse ethnic groups
splintered by religion, language, and custom, as well as by a geography of islands and
mountains. Moreover, he recognized that civil servants did not leave their prejudices
behind when they accepted government employment. He felt that it was his task to change
attitudes within the government as well as in the province at large.
The most needed change was in the lower rungs of the bureaucracy, where suspicious,
foot-dragging and lazy officials could prevent even the best of programs from taking root.
To combat these tendencies in the early years BEN and NAFSIAH traveled the province,
encouraging, chiding, teaching, praising and rebuking officials high and low and setting
an example of curiosity about the problems of' everyday life and of closeness to the
people. The work of local officials was made complicated, BEN learned, by their own
competing loyalties to family, clan, community and the formal government. This problem was
aggravated by conflicts between clans over land and other matters; by the weak impact of
national laws, especially agrarian laws; and by unclear local boundaries. Moreover, local
officials often did not know enough about agriculture or population or social welfare
issues to be effective instruments for change.
To improve and rationalize local administration, Governor BEN introduced the Village
Strengthening Program (Benah Desa). The first program of its kind in Indonesia (and
eventually much praised and copied), it sought to strengthen democratic institutions in
the villages and to clarify the often confusing procedures for allocating and managing the
province's sparse farm lands.
Later in his term (1985) BEN instituted a program of "community leadership
consultants." As their first assignment these graduates from the provincial civil
service academy worked with village heads and local officials. This he hoped would help
inculcate attitudes that comport with the needs and the machinery of development and
underscore the primary importance of the village. In the longer term, NTT awaits the
maturation of a new, more Indonesia-minded generation of citizens now being educated in
the vastly expanded school system of the province.
Food was his next priority. To begin with, most of NTT's farmers wrested their sustenance
from porous, rocky land too infrequently rained upon. What fertile land there was they had
already cultivated to excess, weakening it. They depended upon a limited range of crops
which experience had shown to be dependable, though not abundant, and whose consumption
was ordained by tradition. Maize and rice predominated. Averse to risk, they clung to
their customary crops as well as to traditional ways of farmingfor many this meant
slash and burn and lived precariously from season to season, much of the time in
Among Governor MBOI's first initiatives, therefore, was to encourage diversification and
intensification among NTT's farmershoping to improve food production and nutrition
and to provide alternatives to vulnerable staples. Mobilizing the entire provincial
government to support his efforts and wheedling extra assistance from Jakarta, he
introduced new plant varieties, fertilizers and pesticides, tools and techniques. He
badgered reluctant villagers to try the new crops and to work harder, and on occasion used
the army to rouse sleeping farmers to till their fields in the early morning. The result:
fields under intensive cultivation (on which fertilizer and pesticides were used) expanded
rapidly from 5,000 to 150,000 hectares, and year by year NTT achieved an ever larger
capacity for feeding itself. Food imports dropped dramatically.
Among the successful innovations was the introduction of the Leucaena leucocephala,
or ipil-ipil. This tree was eminently suited to the environment and to the needs
of the province, providing erosion control, cattle fodder, and firewood. It has been so
extensively plantedover 500,000 hectaresthat NTT accounts for 40 per cent of
all ipil-ipil trees in Indonesia. The success of ipil-ipil served a
secondary purpose. Seeing the miracle of ipil-ipil people were more willing to
trust suggestions from government officials and try other new crops. Governor MBOI
therefore proceeded to address the problem of income generation and vigorously encouraged
the expansion of commercial crops for export, including cloves, cacao, coffee and vanilla.
One reason Nusa Tenggara Timur had not prospered was that the scattered islands, poor
roads and remote farms made transportation onerous and expensive. It was cheaper to import
food and other products from outside the province than to transport them internally; this
is why Paga's famine was relieved by foodstuffs from Java. In the entire province there
were but a few hundred kilometers of paved roads, most of them in Kupang District and most
of them in wretched repair. A slightly greater mileage of primitive earth roads existed,
but for the most part people traveled by horseback or foot along ancient pathways. The
province contained only one harbor with a modern wharf, and only one ship's fueling
station. Boats plying between the islands adhered to no schedule. Air traffic was sparse
and erratic. Little wonder that NTT's farmers and the Governor himself now discovered that
surplus staples and potentially valuable commercial crops were so expensive to move to
market that profits were marginal at best. At worst, local stockpiles of high yielding but
vulnerable grainsthe bounty of intensified farmingwere ruined by pests before
they could be moved, and farmers, having borrowed money to buy the new inputs and to
develop crops on a commercial scale, fell swiftly into debt.
Governor MBOI attacked the problem on all fronts. He repaired and extended roads and built
modern quays and bunkering stations throughout the islands. Trucks can now go far into the
hinterland to pick up farm products for market. Ships tie up in fifteen harbors, and take
on fuel in eight, this with the telling result that the price of fuel is now the same in
NTT as it is in Java. To protect farmers from falling into debt as a consequence of taking
new risks, the governor introduced credit and marketing cooperatives and, using his clout,
protects them from being taken advantage of by middlemen and regional commodity dealers.
"We see to it," he says, "that there is a vertical cooperation
between the farmers as the primary economic unit, the village cooperatives, the local
entrepreneurs, and . . . the exporters."
Concentrating fundamentally upon basic human needs and upon improving the livelihood of
NTT's ordinary citizens, Governor BEN has not neglected to court investment from the
outside and to encourage domestic capitalization. His province now boasts a 25,000 hectare
livestock ranch, new commercial fisheries, and a mother-of-pearl venture with both
Indonesian and Japanese principals. A new plant in Timor provides cement for the province,
and a new hotel invites tourists to Kupang, "gateway to Eastern Indonesia."
BEN MBOI is a "hands on" Governor. His face and voice, and his gregarious,
forceful personality have become widely familiar to the citizens of his far-flung province
as a consequence of incessant tours, on which he is often accompanied by NAFSIAH. On tour
he inspects critically the progress of his various projects, praising and blaming his
subordinates without inhibition; indeed his temper is famous.
He works just as hard among the relevant agencies of the national government, willingly
using his connections in military and Golkar circleshe is known to be close to the
presidentto direct national resources toward NTT. By virtue of having a "first
couple" who are articulate and attractive, stories about the province now appear
regularly in the national media. President Soeharto has visited four times; so has the
Vice President. This attention helps. More meaningful, however, has been the increase in
the provincial budget. It is now 30 times larger than when BEN assumed office. Both in the
province and in the capital the zeal with which he and NAFSIAH promote the interests of
their province is infectious.
Governor MBOI's impact upon NTT has already been profound. It is an invigorated, growing
regional society he now leads. But what is extraordinary about his tenure as Governor has
been the equal vigor and critical participation of his wife. For in the past several years
NAFSIAH MBOI-WALINONO has wholly transcended the role of an official wife, and has placed
her own special stamp upon the transformation of Nusa Tenggara Timur.
More than BEN, NAFSIAH had been upset by the prospect of a governorship, distressed that
they would have to leave their children at school in Jakarta, and intimidated by her
duties as an official wife. True, she would assume an official post of her own as a
government health officer, and in this respect her work would be independent of her
husband's. But in Indonesia wives of public officials are expected to perform a wide array
of ceremonial and quasi-official roles and, in proportion to the rank of their husbands,
to exercise leadership within the highly organized and hierarchical official family. (As a
professional woman she tended, she acknowledges frankly, to view the organizations she
would be expected to chair as clubs "for women who had nothing to do but compare
clothes.") She really had three jobs at once: civil servant; Official wife; and
leader of women's activities. For eighteen months she took stock, touring the province
with BEN and learning how to make her activities support his drive for change in NTT.
Rural women in NTT pay a disproportionate price for the region's backwardness. Within the
village economy it is they who toil hardest to secure the family's survival, often walking
great distances to secure adequate supplies of firewood and water, as well as cooking and
childrearing and working in the fields alongside their husbands. Fewer women can read and
write than men; little girls drop out of school, or are withdrawn, earlier than their
brothers. And because of the physical demands of their work combined with the stress on
their bodies of frequent child bearing, women are often in poor health; these factors
compounded by dietary restrictions for pregnant women imposed by custom, mean that too
frequently their babies are born underweight and sickly. NAFSIAH understood that these
women needed attention desperately, yet little assistance was available to them. By
exploiting creatively her role as leader of various women's organizations she harnessed
the power of NTT's women.
Dharma Wanita, the national organization of officials' wives, of which she was perforce
Chair, became one of NAFSIAH's first organizational vehicles. Established to provide
support for families of officials moved from district to district or province to province,
it was inward looking. NAFSIAH found it had no clear identity in NTT, nor did it have a
staff, office space or records. In building up NTT's Dharma Wanita NAFSIAH worked to turn
its attention outward to the community at large. She used it to train its 37,000 members
to be effective leaders in church and social work, and in village development. She
harnessed them to help poor women utilize government services such as family planning,
credit and health and nutrition counseling, and to provide literacy training as well as
lessons in child care and household budgeting and improvements.
To enhance the income of urban women in 1980 a Dharma Wanita task force in Kupang
introduced a women's credit cooperative based on models successful in Javathe KSUWC,
or Koperasi Serba Usaha Wanita Cendana. It was established independently in 1982 as part
of Governor BEN's program of overall development in NTT. KSUWC operated a cooperative
store carrying household and family necessities and provided loans to its members, who
numbered 250 as of 1985. In KSUWC the repayment of loans to individuals was guaranteed not
by individuals alone, but by small groups of fellow members; this reduced the likelihood
of default and encouraged group responsibility. In keeping with NAFSIAs plans to
train women for leadership through experience in women's organizations, the positions of
chairperson, secretary and treasurer in local KSUWC groupswhich also administered
KSUWC's activities for their memberswere rotated twice a year. The provincial Board
ran training seminars for each new set of officers. Building upon the lessons of KSUWC, in
1985 Dharma Wanita established a small loans program to help its members supplement meager
official salaries by setting up businesses. Members applied for these loans through their
local chapters, and could avail themselves of training in such fields as catering, raising
poultry and managing a store.
Another organization for which NAFSIAH was officially responsible was the Village Family
Welfare Movement, or PKK. This national movement of volunteers aimed to improve family
welfare at the level of the village and the urban neighborhood. Local PKK Action Teams are
automatically led by the wives of the presiding officials. When NAFSIAH began her life as
a governor's wife, however, few people thought of the PKK as a viable partner in planning
and decision making. By linking PKK volunteers to field staff from government technical
departments, she made it the lead agency in village developmentin introducing family
planning, for example, and appropriate technologies for sanitation, safe water and
roofing, and in encouraging new income enhancing activities for women in rural areas. The
PKK became one of NAFSIAH's vehicles for encouraging private activism among women who,
unlike many "official wives," will make their lives wholly in NTT. By 1986, of
32 members of the province level PKK Action Team, all but three were natives.
To coordinate the often overlapping activities of her women's groupsincluding the
military counterpart to Dharma Wanita, the Ikatan Kesejahteraan Keluarga ABRINAFSIAH
created the Coordinating Board of Provincial Women's Organizations.
In 1979 NAFSIAH asked Karen Houston Smitha North American who had been working in
Indonesia for many years with women's groupsto accompany her to talk to Johanna
Nasution about problems she faced in the province. Nasution, National Chairman of the
Coordinating body for Social Activities and 1981 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Public
Service for "leadership of the volunteer movement, institutionalizing social services
through cooperation by diverse civic and religious groups, schools and government
agencies," urged her to establish a province-wide coordinating body, and promised:
"just start, I will help you."
Following her advice NAFSIAH initiated the Badan Koordinasi Kegiatan Kesejahteraan Sosial
(BKKKS) which specializes in bringing together worthy social development
projectsresidential schools for disadvantaged girls, hare-lip clinics, care for
leperswith funds made available by a wide range of donors. The latter include the
provincial and national governments, Dharma Wanita, and Indonesian philanthropists and
charitable organizations. Foreign assistance has come from various embassies and foreign
government agencies (USAID), international foundations (Ford and Asia), and religious and
charitable organizations (Christian Children's Fund, Foster Parents Plan). NAFSIAH has,
like the governor, gone to considerable lengths to draw attention to the problems of NTT,
and to draw new sources of funding into the province. The results are dramatic. In 1985-86
seventeen donor organizations contributed to BKKKS-coordinated projects, and the budget
for welfare activities has swelled from Rp.250,000 to some Rp.76,000,000 (US$76,000).
Often called the "Women's Governor," NAFSIAH prefers to be addressed as
"Ibu Doktor"Ibu, literally "mother," expresses respect and
deference and this reflects her continuing commitment to her profession. Indeed,
interwoven with her other activities NAFSIAH has remained a senior member of the
provincial health department. In this capacity she utilizes her other positions to advance
public health goals, particularly for children. She has urged the people to "join the
war against the killers of children in NTT," and involved all her organizations in
diarrhea control, immunization, nutrition improvement and introducing better pre- and
post-natal maternal care. From the time of the 1980 census to 1986, infant mortality in
NTT dropped dramaticallyfrom 124 per thousand, to 87 per thousand. NAFSIAH keeps
abreast of the latest medical studies and has frequently participated in workshops and
seminars in Indonesia and abroad. In addition she has continued to head the Red Cross
Blood Transfusion Program in the province, as well as the Family Planning Program.
In all of her activities NAFSIAH MBOI emphasizes problem solving and institution building.
She encourages the open, consensus-forming style of decision making preferred among
Indonesians, and at the same time is building wholly new structures and employing new
forms of communication, which, she says, "I think will last." Like her husband,
she seeks not only amelioration, but substantive change. No woman in the history of the
area has had as high a profile as NAFSIAH MBOI, and, again like her husband, she is
A tireless worker who devotes 17 hours a day to her endeavors, NAFSIAH often hops up from
a family meal to attend to yet another task. (The governor, acknowledging her efforts in
his official report at the end of his first term of office, commented that she "goes
to bed later and gets up earlier than I do.") Her command center including seven
computers is located in a wing of the governor's residence, although some organizations
now have separate offices. It is here that her many colleagues and staff32 paid
staff memberskeep tabs on her multifarious projects and rapid comings and goings.
Her team is often augmented by short-term outside consultants who bring expertise in such
diverse fields as nutrition, accounting, development research and plastic surgery. The
longest serving of these is Karen Smith, who has been working with NAFSIAH since 1979 and
resident in Kupang since 1983. She speaks with particular appreciation of Smith's
contribution in the areas of organizational development, training and fund raising.
Although Governor BEN MBOI's second and final term of office ends in 1988, Nusa Tenggara
Timur is unlikely to be the same again. This, certainly, is his and NAFSIAH's dream. But
each of them quickly acknowledges that there have been failures and misfires, and that few
of the gains are as yet safely institutionalized. Symbolic of the ongoing struggle is the
tragedy of the ipil-ipil trees which are being decimated by a syllid (plant
louse), apparently introduced from the Caribbean. And, they hasten to say, their endeavors
must be seen as aspects of a long process in which all of Indonesia is engaged.
Governor MBOI believes in the ideals of the New Order as defined by President Soeharto,
and it is his aim to achieve its goals in NTT. Thus, although he is quick to criticize
poor performance of both high and low, he seeks fundamentally to make the system
workto jog it, needle it and inspire it to respond to the needs of his province, and
at the same time to make his people responsive. As a high ranking military man (he is now
Brigadier General), a Golkar leader and senior civil servant, and as a scion of a local
noble house, ALOYSIUS BENEDICTUS MBOI is ideally placed to move the system. NAFSIAH, on
her side, has tried to ensure that the government led by her husband will find
increasingly responsible partners among NTT's citizens, especially its women.
Fully aware that their term of leadership is running out, both the governor and NAFSIAH
are preparing younger leaders to carry on. Governor MBOI urges them to be missionaries for
progress, and pushes them to work with zeal and without let-up. He and NAFSIAH have set
"Anggaran Sektoral NTT 1986/87 Turun Rp. 29 Milyar" (Sectoral budget for NTT
1986/87 reduced by 29 billion rupiah). Merdeka, March 18, 1986.
Antara. March 14; July 23; August 26, 1985.
Apa dan Siapa (Who's Who). Jakarta: Tempo Magazine, 1984.
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"Executive Report Propinsi NTT 1985/86" Kupang, NTT: Kantor Wilayah Departemen
Kesehatan NTT, 1986.
Godho, Damyam. "Dr. Ny. Andi Nafsiah Mboi." Kompas, July 24, 1983.
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Ulang Tahun Ke40 Proklamasi Kemerdekaan Republik Indonesia" (Address on the occasion
of national festivities honoring the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of Indonesian
independence). Kupang, NTT: Kantor Gubernur Kepala Daerah Tingkat I, August 17, 1985.
______. "Amanat Pada Upacara Memperingati HUT Ke-XXV Propinsi Nusa Tenggara
Timur." (Address on the occasion of ceremonies marking the 25th birthday of NTT).
Kupang, NTT: Kantor Gubernur Kepala Daerah Tingkat I, December 20, 1983.
______, and Dr. Nafsiah Mboi-Walinono. "From Hopelessness to Progress."
Transcript of Group Discussion. Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, Manila. September 1,
Mboi-Walinono, Nafsiah. "BKKKS Propinsi NTT: The Provincial Board for Coordination,
Supervision, and Development of Social Welfare Activity in Nusa Tenggara Timur,
Indonesia." Kupang, NTT: BKKKS Propinsi NTT, June 1983.
______. "Immunization and the War Against the Child Killers of NTT, Indonesia."
Ankara, Turkey: November 1985. (Mimeographed.)
______. "A War Against the Killers of Our Children in Asia." Paper for the Third
Media Workshop on Child Survival and Development, Hong Kong. December 8-13, 1985.
______. "What is PKK? Some Basic Information on PKK in the Province of NTT,
Indonesia." August 1986. (Mimeographed paper issued by the Ramon Magsaysay Award
______. "Women, Water and Sanitation, an Action Study Programme by Tim Penggerak PKK
Prop. NTT." Dili, Timor Timur. March 5, 1986.
"NTT Daerah Terkering dan Termiskin di Indonesia" (NTT, Indonesia's driest and
poorest region). Suara Karya, March 20, 1985.
Nusa Tenggara Timur Dalam Pers. 2 vols. Kupang, NTT: Biro Humas, 1984, 1985.
Interviews with Govemor Aloysius Benedictus Mboi and Dr. Nafsiah Mboi-Walinono, as well as
interviews and correspondence with others familiar with their work. Assistance of Karen