By Anisa Nindiahayati, PATTIRO Semarang
After finding out that the school of her 9-year-old son was requesting for illegal levy to her and the parents of other children, Deviana Widyawati took matters in her own hand. She single-handedly reported the school to the Department of Education of Semarang City in Indonesia. Subsequently, the school stopped requesting the payments and the head of the school Parent Association had to step down from his position.
Deviana’s understanding of illegal levy grew after participating in a group discussion and training on gender-responsive planning and budgeting held by the organization PATTIRO Semarang. The organization, through the Strengthening Public services through the Empowerment of women-led Advocacy and social audit network (SPEAK) project supported by Hivos and European Union, aims to strengthen representation of economically marginalized groups in the planning and budgeting process in Semarang. Through community-based monitoring the organization looks to improve public procurement and public services accountability in Semarang.
In the discussion and training by PATTIRO Semarang, Devi learned about the total allocation for the education budget and how it’s spent. The city budget allocated to education has been growing steadily over the last few years. She started questioning if the extra request for funds from her son’s school was an illegal levy.
Deviana collected data and information concerning the payment requests the school was sending to all parents. She provided this to PATTIRO Semarang. When telling the organization about her suspicions that the payment requests were in fact illegal, they advised her to submit a complaint to the school together with the parents of other students.
“I told the parents of other students about my concerns, but I didn’t get their support. Some were afraid. Some of them thanked me, but there were others who underestimated my idea,” said Deviana. “So, I decided to report this issue to the Department of Education by myself.”
The Department of Education stated that the request for funds from the school was indeed an illegal levy. What followed was a warning to the school by the department to cancel the levy. Not only did the school do so, but the head of the Parent Association of the school involved in the illegal levy practice also decided to step down from his position.
Devi would like to see her success in stopping the illegal levies at her son’s school inspires other women to learn about planning and budgeting. “I hope more women become active in monitoring public service deliveries and are no longer are afraid to submit a complaint or report their findings to the authorities. It is important that we’re not marginalized anymore,” she said.
 The writer is a program assistant at PATTIRO Semarang that involved in the implementation of SPEAK project.