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Rinja, 17, became paralysed 3 years ago and was forced to drop out of school. With support from Plan International she is now back at school and campaigns for the rights of children with disabilities in Indonesia.

Rinja meeting the Indonesian Minister of Manpower
Rinja and her peers took over the Ministry of Manpower on the International Day of the Girl 2016.

Three years ago, Rinja from East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, contracted a fever that left her paralysed.

As a result she dropped out of school and was confined to her bed for a year. “I wanted to give up and did not want to return to school,” says Rinja. “But I felt embarrassed knowing that if I left school altogether, I would be seen as being just the dumb and disabled girl.”

However, she returned to school after joining a youth group supported by Plan International which encourages disabled children to continue studying and follow their aspirations.

Taking over the Ministry of Manpower

Through her hard work and involvement in community activism, Rinja was selected as part of a group of children that took over the Indonesian Ministry of Manpower to mark the International Day of the Girl on 11 October 2016.

people’s awareness and understanding of the value of education is low

During the day, Rinja was presented with a new wheelchair by the Minister of Manpower. Previously, she had to rely on her family to help her move around at home and get to school. “This is wonderful. I am speechless. Having the Minister’s support means so much to me,” she said.

Community activism

Rinja is determined that her disability will not stand in the way of continuing her community advocacy work. In particular, she wants disabled children to have the same opportunities and access to schools despite the challenges faced by her community.

“In this province, people’s awareness and understanding of the value of education is low. Many families come from poor backgrounds, making it harder to afford and justify schooling,” says Rinja.

She hopes to live an independent life and is determined to earn money so she can keep studying. “I will look for scholarships. I do not want to bother my mother financially, so I’ll start my own business,” she says.

Learn more about our work on inclusive education for children with disabilities