Hira Juwita Prabukusumo, the youngest daughter of Sultan Hamengkubuwono X’s younger brother Haryo Prabukusumo, is part of the royal family but she isn’t content just living a privileged life filled luxury. She has chosen to work and make her own way in the world.
Hira recently graduated from University of Gadjah Mada’s School of Architecture, and is working in Jakarta at Sampoerna Microfinance’s Business Development Division, where she finds fulfillment by helping people realize their dreams of owning a business and making a better future for themselves.
Why did you choose to get into microfinance?
I really love my job because although I am working in banking, there is an emphasis on society, especially the less fortunate people in Indonesia.
My job is not about helping the rich become richer but helping the less fortunate get out of from poverty in a creative yet independent way.
As soon as I graduated from university and I saw this job opportunity, I applied for it. Now people understand that microfinance is actually an excellent way to help people to get out of poverty in a creative community-based way using local commodities. And also, microbusinesses don’t feel the impact of the global financial crisis.
However, in order to keep helping people, we can’t just give them money because they might not be using it properly. We offer them a soft loan, which they have to eventually pay back. This way it encourages the owners to work hard to develop their business.
In addition to all of that, microfinance largely helps women and children, who tend to be the victim of domestic violence when a poor family is facing a financial problem.
Coming from Yogyakarta, how do you like Jakarta?
Jakarta is the capital city, the center of activity and business, it is a place where most decisions and policies are made. If I have an idea and I want it to be implemented on the regional level, I think I have to work in Jakarta because if my idea is accepted, it can be spread throughout the nation from here. If I were working in the regional level and I had an idea, it would likely stay in one place.
As a member of the royal family, why didn’t you take it easy or use your family connections?
I have been asked this question and similar ones over and over again. Even worse, is when people say things such as ‘Of course, you can study in UGM because you are part of the royal family.’ Many people only look at my background, not at me as an individual. Therefore, I want to show people that I can stand on my own two feet. I want to show people that I have developed my own skills and abilities.
So I left Yogyakarta and looked for a job at a place where none of my family members were also working.
Surprisingly, my boss told me that I was doing a good job and I was promoted after just three months at Sampoerna. I was really glad.
How important is it to you to be part of the royal family?
Even though I want people to see and know me as an individual, I would say that royal family member status is still important to me because it is part of my culture and I do not want to dismiss it.
What do you think about Jakarta?
Jakarta is such an unorganized city especially in terms of transportation infrastructure and also security.
Last August, I saw a gunman in the middle of a traffic jam one afternoon near the Senopati area. The gunman was mad at a driver and he was firing his gun into the sky as a form of intimidation. Can you believe it happened in the late afternoon when the sun was still out and in the middle of traffic? It was so shocking.
Other than safety concerns, I think people’s skills are not really appreciated here and they don’t get a fair salary even the living cost in Jakarta is so high.
However, there is always two sides of a coin. Although Jakarta is such an unorganized city, it is also a great place for people to build their careers and increase their knowledge because everyone is here. You can meet all kinds of people with different kinds of knowledge, backgrounds and opportunities to offer.
Are you interested in politics like many of the other members of the royal family?
No! Not at all! Politics is cruel. It is full of intrigue and you will never know who your friends are or who your enemies are. I have seen it and I am not interested. It would be better for me to create something real which has a positive impact for people, especially the less fortunate ones, such as establishing a business and hiring people so that they can earn a living. I see that politics is only about money. I do not want to be so selfish and work to only benefit myself.
Hira Juwita Prabukusumo was talking to Elisabeth Oktofani.