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By Trisha Sertori The Jakarta Post

No Time For Play Bali’s child porters dream of another life as they work to feed their families

❖❖ Bali

Photos by The Jakarta P ost


A child hefts a load of items larger than herself.

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o r t h e pa s t few ye a rs , Wa y a n N i l a h a s b e e n hefting a heavily loaded basket onto her head and ferrying vegetables, fruits and meat to customers’ waiting cars. This diminutive porter is tough and wiry, much like her friends Pitri Pitasari and Nyoman as they weave the aisles of Denpasar’s Badung Market in Bali searching for customers to make enough rupiah to eat and hopefully send some money home. These are the child workers of Badung Market; the youngest working there recently was 12-yearold Nyoman, who does not yet know how to spell her own name. The legal age to work in Bali is 17 according to the Social Welfare Agency. “I started working here about a year ago. I like this work because I can help my parents. I have no boss and no one tries to take my money,” said Nyoman. Acting as protector and friend to the 12-year-old is an old hand at the porter game, 17-year-old Nengah, who started working as a market porter when she was just 10 years of

Some of the porters at Badung Market rest together with friends. There is a school on Fridays and Saturdays at the market for the hardworking young porters in Bali.

age. She explains only girls and women are porters at the market. “Only girls carry the baskets, boys are not allowed to do this,” said the striking looking Nengah, adding that it was through working at the market that she learned to read. “I started here when I was 10 because there was no other work available—I come from Karangasem, like most of the girls here. At the market we have a school on Fridays and Saturdays so I learned to read here at the market. We’ve had this school for a long time,” said Nengah, who has dreams of one day opening her own stall at the market. She added that heading to work at the market as a child was her best shot at getting any education at all. “My family could not afford to send me to school in my village—we have no money.”

 Dreaming of a life

These market porters said they have dreams of working in other fields, but the manifestation of these dreams seems unlikely. “My dream is to one day have a shop so I can sell things,” said Nengah, while little Nyoman dreams of cooking food to sell. “I can cook, my Mum taught me to cook so I could sell food. I don’t yet March 9-22, 2012


March 9-22, 2012