In the middle of three continental plates lies the island nation Indonesia. The geographical location makes the country vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and extreme weather.
The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) has risen in recent years and today Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia. At the same time, inequality between rich and poor is increasing and 110.8 million people live on less than two dollars, or about 16 Swedish kronor, a day.
The authorities’ ability to protect children’s rights varies. Children in the eastern parts of the country in particular face challenges such as high child mortality, lack of education and clean water. The past year has been marked by demonstrations and uprisings triggered by a chaotic local election in the capital Jakarta. A new governor was finally elected and now bureaucratic changes are expected that may make it more difficult for civil society to work in the area.
Some results from the past year
In 2017, Plan International ensured, among other things, that more homeless children receive birth certificates. We have also succeeded in getting the problems with birth registration recognized by the authorities and extended that work to more areas. Strengthening disaster preparedness in schools has been another priority area. By including students in preparation for future natural disasters, safety has been improved at several schools.
Protection and assistance in the event of disasters
Safer when students are allowed to participate
I love participating in Plan activities at school. I am part of a group that prepares the school for responding to a disaster. Now I know how to protect myself and my friends if the catastrophe occurs.
Augustine, 12 years
Including students in disaster prevention work has been shown to increase safety. In addition to ensuring that the school buildings themselves are safe, Plan International has taken the initiative to also involve the children in the preparatory work and learn how they can prepare and protect themselves in the event of a disaster. The students often have the best knowledge and awareness of the school’s condition and are therefore, for example, involved when the evacuation plan is determined. The teachers act as companions for the students and pass on the knowledge to teachers who do not participate in the courses.
Healthy start in life
Parent groups contribute to children’s safety and development
Mom takes my sister to the health center once a month. There, my little sister gets vaccinated. She also gets a special diet so that she can grow properly. Now mom understands better why it’s important to be observant of my sister’s weight. I’m so happy I know my sister’s growing up healthy.
Widyasari, 12 years
Children develop cognitive, language, emotional and social skills during the first years of life. Therefore, it is important to ensure that they have a good and healthy upbringing, not least during these critical years. Plan International has set up parent groups where parents are made aware of how children need to be cared for and that it is the parent who must do so. Here, the parents receive, among other things, education in diet, nutrition and children’s rights.
She put an end to her own child marriage
Sanita’s journey began with her almost getting divorced. Since then, she has taken control of her own life and at the same time worked to protect others from child marriage.
When Sanita was 13, she prevented her own marriage. She was too young to get married and wanted to continue going to school, but at the same time she understood her parents’ problems: her marriage was meant to remedy the family’s financial problems. But Sanita managed to convince them by promising to pay back all the money they invested in her upbringing. An education would benefit the opportunities and give her a chance to do something meaningful in life, she explained. It has been ten years since then and Sanita is now 22 years old and works for girls’ rights. She is a role model and has decided to help more girls live out their full potential.
– I almost fell victim to child marriage, I saw other girls forced into them and I felt: life should not be like this for young people, I have to do something, says Sanita.
Now she has, among other things, represented Indonesia at the Asian Development Bank’s annual youth forum in May last year. There, she worked to get experts and leaders to engage young people in their attempts to tackle problems that concern young people in particular. Before she left, she explained to her parents the importance of education for her.
– I do not think they have realized before that I myself have paid for my university studies and that I have to go to Japan to meet representatives of the Asian Development Bank to raise girls’ rights. But now I think they understand and really think they made the right decision, says Sanita.
Right now, Sanita’s focus is mainly on changing laws together with representatives from 20 youth organizations around Indonesia. Plan International has been part of the initiative and Sanita has long been active in the organization.
– The government must care about young people, we make up more than 30 percent of the population. Now we have a strategy where we use both facts and activism. As a result, the Ministry of Youth Affairs has involved us in the work to promote and protect children’s rights.
Facts about Indonesia
Population: 261 million
Life expectancy: 69 years
Infant mortality rate: 22 per 1000 births
Proportion of children starting school: 92.2%
Proportion of women in parliament: 19.8%