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A young girl works amid the toys and other goods for sale at the market.

have the money to start.” Pitri’s dreams are harder to achieve. While she is now learning to read and write at the twice weekly market school, her dream of becoming a doctor seems a dream too far for this market porter. Most of these girls hail from small, impoverished villages in Karangasem in Bali’s dry northeastern region. They have created their own family structures, watching out for each other while getting competitive when it comes to customers. Nyoman’s family is still in her village, waiting each month for the few rupiah she can send home. “I live in a boarding house in Ubung with Sari, she is from my village, so I am not alone,” said this tiny 12year-old whose basket is almost larger than she is. Her boarding house friend, 15-year-old Sari, has been working at the market for several years. Being born into a family of six girls left her little option but to head to the city when she should have been going to school. “Nyoman stays with me so she is safe. We take the bus each morning at 5am and we work here until the evening. I didn’t ever go to school, because my family couldn’t pay. My March 9-22, 2012

older sister is married, so she has gone away. “I have one sister at school in our village, so there is only me to earn money for our family. Dad is in the village and Mum finds glass and wood to sell. We have one cow and I go home once a month. I take money for Nyoman’s family with me,” said Sari. She added that she loves her work, and the market school offers her an education she would otherwise have no access to.

 Feeding a family

“It’s better I work here than being back in my village. I like the work and I can now read. I came here when I was 10 and lived with friends from Karangasem—I wasn’t scared leaving home because I had friends here to help,” said Sari, who at 15 has already been financially supporting her family for five years. Pitri is blunt in her reasons for portering the 12-hour days at the market. “If we don’t work our families are hungry. It’s busy here now with Galungan and Kuningan so we can make good money, US$5 a day is possible if the customers aren’t stingy. Most of the time I earn less than that each day, but it’s really good now,” said Pitri,

who, like all the young female porters, sends money home to support her family. It is not only youngsters scratching a living as porters at the Badung Market; for the past 25 years Ibu Yuli has been making ends meet for her family, starting when she was still a child and continuing now as a mother of four. “I feel sorry for the kids working here, but they are hungry so they need to work. I want to see all these kids able to read and write so they have more choices in their lives, so they can build better futures for themselves. I’ve worked here as a porter for 25 years and I have managed to put all my kids through high school. One is a nurse, the other works in a villa and one is still in school. My work as a porter paid for their education, so I am proud of this. So when I see these kids at the market wanting to learn at the school here it makes me happy and hopeful,” said Ibu Yuli of these market children treading in her footsteps. “I never want my kids to work here. My dream would be for them to go to school and get good jobs,” said 15-year-old Pitri, determined in her long-term plans for a better future for the next generation. • 25

AsiaNews  

March 9-22, 2012