Sukanto Tanoto’s Dedication To Early Childhood Development
Businessman Sukanto Tanoto is known across Indonesia and the world for his multi-national, multi-billion-dollar group of companies, a business that he has cultivated from the ground up for nearly half a century. Perhaps equally impressive is his active involvement in philanthropy through most of his career.
In 1981, Sukanto and his wife Tinah Bingei opened a kindergarten in Besitang, North Sumatra. That initiative would eventually go on to become the Tanoto Foundation, the family philanthropic organisation through which Tanoto contributes to the betterment of various local communities.
As evidenced by his earliest philanthropic activities, Sukanto Tanoto has always been concerned with supporting the next generation, particularly in areas like education and personal development. Every year, the Tanoto Foundation executes dozens of educational initiatives, including funding teacher training and providing over 700 scholarships annually.
But to fully encourage a better life for a new generation, one must start at the very beginning. Recognising this, the Tanoto Foundation recently backed two key initiatives that focus on improving early childhood development:
1. Enabling parents to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding
- The ‘Go Baby Go’ programme
Establishing and sustaining exclusive breastfeeding
While it is an undisputed fact that breastfeeding for the first six months (at least) of a baby’s life is critical to its early development, some countries are still well behind on this standard. Indonesia is one of them, a curious predicament given that breastfeeding here is a protected right under Article 128 of Health Act no.36 of 2009.
What’s more, breastfeeding is a crucial component in the pursuit of Goal 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing) of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and infants that are adequately breastfed have a mortality rate six times lower than infants who are not.
According to the Tanoto Foundation, a lack of breastfeeding is a persistent problem in Indonesia, thereby giving cause to other problems such as stunting, where children under two years of age have not grown to their standard height and are rendered more vulnerable to the condition throughout their adult lives.
Moreover, it is not just physical growth that suffers from a lack of breastfeeding. Infants who have not been breastfed have been observed to have lower IQs than infants who have. These differences increase from ages three to seven.
The bottom line is that breastfeeding an all important part of a child’s early development, not to mention a strong bonding activity between mother and child.
In order to help the state of breastfeeding in Indonesia, the Tanoto Foundation has stepped forward with the ‘Strengthening Indonesia’s early Generation by Accelerating Potential (SIGAP) programme—an initiative that focuses on ensuring optimal growth and development for children in Indonesia through the provision of quality care that prepares them for learning as they commence their formal education.
While the health benefits of breastfeeding are common knowledge in other parts of the world, the Tanoto Foundation has found that Indonesia is not as well informed on the subject as it should be. This poses a major challenge for mothers here, many of whom have opted to use formula milk in lieu of breastfeeding. This is partly because of active promotion of formula milk in the media as well as a lack of approval or encouragement from fathers on breastfeeding.
To alleviate this situation, the SIGAP programme works in tandem with activists from the Ayah ASI community to promote open discussions that are informative and helpful to new fathers. One of their more recent sessions, titled ‘Investments: let’s get to know the factory!’, invited fathers to ruminate on physical and psychological processes that support breastfeeding.
During the course of this event, activists from Ayah ASI were able to give presentations on key subjects that are still considered taboo, including physical changes that occur in breasts from pregnancy to postpartum and how to stimulate lactation.
The Tanoto Foundation went still further by establishing a dedicated breastfeeding room at their office in Jakarta, including comfortable chairs, a refrigerator for storing pumped breastmilk, and a relaxing environment overall.
Hence, the Tanoto Foundation firmly believes that breastfeeding is “an important foundation for a healthy and prosperous future generation”. Moreover, they have affirmed that, “Breastfeeding also promotes bonding between parents and babies, benefitting the baby’s sense of security, social-emotional and mental health. Let’s support breastfeeding mothers together!”
Go Baby Go
On December 14 2019, the Tanoto Foundation, together with Wahana Visi Indonesia, officially launched ‘Go Baby Go’, a pilot project which, according to the Tanoto Foundation, is designed to “create a model for nurturing while optimising children’s growth”.
This collaboration between the Tanoto Foundation and Wahana Visi Indonesia was launched under SIGAP, the Tanoto Foundation’s dedicated programme for preventing stunting among children in Indonesia and developing early childhood education.
‘Go Baby Go’ focuses on children from birth to three years of age, particularly those who come from families that have been identified as vulnerable, to provide them with a strong foundation early on in life.
As such the programme also considers a family’s capabilities and methods of upbringing as a means of supporting their child’s nutrition, education, and holistic development.
The ‘Go Baby Go’ programme is currently being carried out in eight Posyandu (Child Integrated Health Post) in the sub-districts of Kenjeran and Simokerto in Surabaya, East Java. During its time there, it hopes to reach a minimum of 320 children.
According to Global CEO of Tanoto Foundation J. Satrijo Tanudjojo, “Go Baby Go is a testament to Tanoto Foundation’s continuous support to early childhood education and development in Indonesia. We hope Indonesian children can enjoy optimal growth so they will be ready to attend their next phase of education.” He added that, “It is in line with Tanoto Foundation’s mission in which we believe that quality education accelerates equal opportunity creation.”
According to National Director of Wahana Visi Indonesia Doseba T. Sinay,“We expect this pilot project to produce a best practice guide which will be replicable throughout Indonesia. We appreciate Tanoto Foundation’s attention towards the advancement of Indonesian children’s health. This level of attention makes us optimistic that we can continue to work on improving Indonesian children’s overall wellbeing.”