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Indonesian youth put a spotlight on dating violence

“I was a dropout by my second year of high school. I didn’t like the school, the other students and the teachers. They said I was naughty, and I was bullied too,” says Chandra, a 16-year-old girl from Semarang in Central Java.

“Paulus, the director of KOMPASS, ChildFund’s local partner organisation in Semarang, invited me to join the Child Forum and to get back into school. Now I am catching up my education through the informal school and actively involved at the Child Forum. If I hadn’t joined the Child Forum, I would only be a dropout and a motorcycle club hotshot.”

As a member of the Child Forum, Chandra participated in a recent workshop on gender-based violence, part of ChildFund’s Shine a Light project. In an effort to prevent and respond to gender-based violence against children, ChildFund is working through local partners to educate youth on the issue of violence between intimate partners – a growing problem in Indonesia. The participants in turn serve as peer educators in their communities.

“At the gender-based violence training, we learned about gender and violence, focusing on children and young girls,” says Irma, 18, one of the youth facilitators. “After the training, we held group discussions to get to know what the issues are among us.”

More and more, young people are experiencing violence in dating relationships, not just marriages. These programs are showing Indonesian youth how to manage these relationships in safe and healthy ways, preventing violence before it starts.

The youth facilitators led group discussions with 80 children and youth from several schools. The groups were divided by age: 10-12, 13-17 and 18-24.

Not everyone is comfortable talking about these sensitive issues, Chandra explains. “We played some games to lighten the atmosphere, so they could feel more relaxed.”

“I was the facilitator for the 18-to-24 group,” says Irma. “The physical and emotional abuses are considered normal for them. They didn’t realise that when they tease or make fun of someone, it could hurt the other person. In the training, I learned that we may also be the person who did the violence toward others without even realising it.”

 

18-year-old Irma is helping ChildFund Indonesia raise awareness of violence among youth in her community.

Helping children and youth learn about safe and healthy dating practices involves establishing good communication between partners, understanding gender equality and stereotypes, creating boundaries, expressing feelings and perceiving signs of possible dating violence, among other lessons.

Stefanie facilitated the 13-to-17 group. “I found some of them have experienced violence in dating because they were afraid to say no,” she says. “They are afraid of losing their boyfriends. They don`t know to whom to share. They need someone they can trust.”

She remembers a girl who was raped and became pregnant, which caused her to drop out of school. “The Community Development Agency of Semarang contacted the Child Forum to ask our opinions on this case. Through the discussion, we found out that students were sharing sexual content on mobile phones at school. We then held a sharing session with the students at the school on violence against children and on reproductive health.”

The facilitators have learned that peer involvement makes students listen more closely than to adults dictating rules.

“When the information is delivered by their own friends, it is more easily accepted and understood,” Irma says. “When it is delivered by older people, the kids tend to be quiet.”

Through the Child Forum, ChildFund also provides leadership training for youth to encourage and support them to be the leaders and role models among their peers. With youth facilitators in the students` communities, more young people will hopefully feel more comfortable seeking the help they deserve.

“If I hadn’t joined the Child Forum, I would still be the quiet and shy girl, and only be focused on academic lessons,” Irma says. “I wouldn’t have any broad ideas about the issues that affect children. Now, since I have joined many activities at the Child Forum, I know more!”

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