The Many Lives of Erna Witoelar, APRIL Stakeholder Advisory Committee Member

APRIL’s Stakeholder Advisory Committee, she is clear that it is another departure for her. “It’s an unusual move for me,” she says. “I have never worked in a business position before, and perhaps it is risky too. But my understanding of sustainable development tells me society cannot achieve its objectives alone. It needs partnerships. The private sector has to be a large part of the solution. And the bigger a business’ legacy of damaging activity, and the bigger its footprint, the more it needs to be willing to contribute commensurately to improvement and restoration. Individuals can do their bit – recycle, consume sustainably – and governments can set frameworks. But it is in the gift of big business to make the biggest difference. And it has to think about empowering and building, and not just about charity. I am passionate about helping people work together so I thought I might be able to make a difference by plunging into an unfamiliar environment. Yes, it’s a challenge, and I hope I can make a difference.”

Never shy of a challenge, Erna continues to sit on several NGO boards, including chairing KEHATI and co-chairing Filantropi Indonesia. And she sees no reason to stop. “I do see hope for the future,” she remarks. “My whole life has been devoted to encouraging women and young people to take the lead. I was never happier than when my efforts to nurture this came to fruition. Now there are so many more of them taking up the challenges of the future, I believe there is good reason for hope. Our children are so much better than us. Their thinking is so completely different to previous generations. And our children’s children will carry this on. They care, they are passionate, they are articulate, they communicate, and they are increasingly influential.  Yes, I have hope.”

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