Global Reach: Grantee Partners

ROLE Foundation


While the explosion of tourism in Bali since the 1990’s generated great economic growth, there are few opportunities for the illiterate and unskilled, many of whom are young women. Unskilled workers are often exploited through under-payment and working in poor conditions. A 2015 ILO study revealed that unemployment is much higher for young women 15-24 years old: the labor force participation rate for men in 2013 was 85% against only 53% for women. Furthermore, 19% of young Indonesians are not in education and not in employment, with young women three times more likely than men to be inactive, presumably for domestic responsibilities. Poor families often prioritize formal education for male children, partly because of the perceived low returns to girls’ education. Bali’s strong traditional beliefs present further obstacles for girls and (young) women, who are prevented from full participation as equal citizens, excluded from decision-making at the local village level and from inheritance rights.


ROLE Foundation (Rivers, Oceans, Land and Ecology) aims to improve the education, well-being and self-reliance of people living in challenging circumstances. ROLE provides free education, skills training programs and grassroots community assistance to alleviate poverty and work towards environmental sustainability. ROLE was founded by Mike O’Leary, an Australian who came to Bali in the 1980’s and started a local business, which he sold in 2006 to found ROLE. The NGO started in 2007 as an environmental learning and conservation project, working with local communities to create eco-friendly jobs and to revitalise coastal and rural environments. Recognizing significant numbers of people in Bali which were excluded from the prosperous, tourism-driven economy and living in poverty, the BaliWISE program was initiated in 2011. It supports impoverished, marginalised and at-risk young women through vocational training in tourism and hospitality as well as life skills training. ROLE Foundation is the only institution in Bali that provides training at no cost to the trainees.

Current Grant:

EMpower’s 4th grant to ROLE BaliWISE will enable 220 young women from different regencies in Indonesia to have increased vocational, life and job readiness skills, creating a pathway to skilled and decent employment in the hospitality and retail sector in Bali, or to improved self-employment. Improved curricula in women’s empowerment and small business management will enrich the training experience. Moreover, ROLE will invest more in staff development to strengthen its capacity to deliver the program in high quality.

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