Thursday, January 26, 2017

Youth Movers Taking Action to End Violence Against Children

Youth leaders gather for a photo following the Youth Discussion for Child Protection Forum ©Unicef/Ryan Febrianto/2017 

by Ryan Febrianto, Child Protection Officer, UNICEF Indonesia
JAKARTA - Ghivo Pratama, a young man from Padang, West Sumatra, gestures excitedly while he talks about visiting junior high schools in Bandung and Jakarta as part of ACTION, a youth anti-violence community. They were there to talk about tolerance: “Every child has to be protected from all types of violence,” he said at the Youth Discussion for Child Protection forum.

Faye Simanjuntak, 14, another attendee at the forum and the founder of Rumah Faye, was equally enthused discussing her group’s violence-prevention work, and the counselling services she’s procured for child trafficking victims. “Listening to their experiences, and engaging them in our actions -- these the keys to creating a safe climate for us to thrive,” she said.

In all, seven activists spoke at the forum held last November to celebrate Universal Children’s Day. Alongside officials from the Ministry of Planning (Bappenas), the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection and the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Culture, the youth champions spoke in front of 150 adolescents and young activists about what had drawn them to the field of child protection. They spoke confidently and passionately about what protecting children meant to them. Not far from the stage, Government representatives could be seen  aking down notes, clearly impressed with what they were hearing. It was the youth inspiring policymakers rather than the other way around!

In addition to sparking dialogue among youth leaders, the event aimed to raise awareness on Indonesia’s new child protection policies, namely the 2015-2019 National Plan of Action (NPA) on Child Protection, the 2015-2019 NPA on the Elimination of Human Trafficking and the 2016-2020 National Strategy on the Elimination of Violence against Children.

By the end of the day, the youth activists had come up with several recommendations for Government, including the creation of a digital communication platform, and expanded opportunities for adolescents to design, implement and monitor government-run child protection initiatives.

Government representatives responded positively to the recommendations, promising to set up a collaboration mechanism they hope to see replicated at the subnational level. Given the Government’s promise to make child protection a priority over the next few years, in part by building a National Movement, the action is timely – even in advance of the forum, powerful youth partnerships have started joining forces to increase their reach.

In 2015, a group of youth groups formed the Youth Network on Violence against Children (YNVAC) coalition. Members include Aliansi Remaja Independen (ARI), which mobilizes hundreds of young people to advocate for the elimination of child marriage; KOMPAK Jakarta which conducts outreach in schools to reach victims of sexual and commercial exploitation; Komunitas Sudah Dong , which runs anti-bullying campaigns; and  Sinergi Muda, which empowers youth to design online and offline solutions to stop violence against children. The YNVAC also conducts urban ‘child protector’ courses in several cities.

Across the public and private sector, there is a growing consensus that children should play an important role in the design, implementation and monitoring of child protection initiatives. The forum was thus an excellent opportunity for youth to build rapport with government counterparts, providing a powerful reminder that many are already stepping up to the plate to drive change. The time is now to build synergy between young leaders and Government, and ensure that youth perspectives are incorporated into the creation of policies that affect them directly.

“This [event] is just the beginning of something big,” said Ravio Patra, coordinator of YNVAC and co-initiator of the event, to the Government officials. “…we are ready to work with you to make a bigger impact.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Designing Solutions for Indonesia’s Children in the Age of Haze

©Center for International Forestry Research/2016
By Cory Rogers, Communications Officer

Jakarta: When Indonesia’s yearly agricultural fires start up each fall, belching acrid haze through Borneo, Sumatra and over borders, the air one breathes becomes a health hazard unto itself: Schools shut down, thousands fall ill, and some will die from respiratory ailments.

Few dispute that haze is deadly, but solutions have been slow in coming, leaving millions of (mostly) rural Indonesians exposed to harm. Indeed, despite land and forest burning laws passed following the 2015 El Niño-powered haze (an event that one study
says may have caused 100,000 premature deaths), haze returned in 2016. There is a clear need for new ideas.

A design team sifts through primary source material on living with haze ©UNICEF/Cory Rogers/2016
Last month, a group of 30 designers, tech creatives, developmentalists and marketing experts convened in Jakarta to take a fresh look at the problem. Organised by PulseLab Jakarta in partnership with UNICEF and Reality Check Approach (RCA), the co-design workshop looked at ways to protect children. As the first step in a months-long journey, it forms part of UNICEF Indonesia’s commitment to risk reduction in an age of accelerating natural and human-induced disasters.
“From an innovations standpoint, the value of all of these people from different sectors coming together in one room is that there are different approaches to the same issue,” said UNICEF Innovations Programme Specialist Valerie Crab who participated in the workshop. “It forces us from the United Nations to break out of our set mind-set and consider other angles.”
A philosophy of ‘human-centred design’, which places the experiences of those being designed for at the heart of the design process, animated each phase of the workshop -- from research to brainstorming to prototyping.

News clippings like this were one of many types of primary source evidence included in the information packets ©UNICEF/Cory Rogers/2016 
Achieving such proximity from Jakarta, however, required some creative approaches: first, digital stories developed by young people and parents in Riau and West Kalimantan (traditionally two of the hardest-hit provinces) were screened by RCA. A trove of maps, first-hand anecdotes, photographs and other material functioned as additional stimuli, while carefully prepped actors were hired to pose as experts and victims to be interviewed. Though their true identities were hidden from participants, their testimonies were based on real recordings and interviews.
It all added up to a relatively unfiltered glimpse of life in the age of haze.
“These methods served to jump-start the brainstorming process by triggering empathy, thus making it more connected to the experiences of real individuals,” said Richard Wecker, UNICEF Indonesia’s Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist. “The idea was to spark creativity with a clearer vision of what might work most effectively and efficiently.”
Participants found that haze’s harms go beyond respiratory illness and early death and include things like impaired cognitive development and loss of education; counterintuitively, when schools are forced to close due to haze, children are often more at risk of exposure, as they end up spending extra time outdoors. Many of the teams explored this paradox in depth in the brainstorming.

UNICEF’s Richard Wecker shares an idea about how to keep kids learning during times of haze ©UNICEF/Cory Rogers/2016
In keeping with a ‘human-centred design’ approach, however, participants were asked to go a step further and anticipate the ecosystem within which their project would function. In other words, to think hard about the socio-environmental factors that might limit its efficacy, and to plan for them.

“For instance, while an open-sourced online information platform for youth might be an ideal solution to answer the gap in data provision for haze-affected residents,” PulseLab Jakarta notes, "a few factors might inhibit the effective implementation of such a platform -- think access to technology, data literacy, and lack of validation process." Complimentary initiatives like strategically-located offline information thus become essential to the overall project.

©UNICEF/Cory Rogers/2016
Eventually, each of the six teams settled on a single prototype, later modelled in miniature using materials like cardboard and Styrofoam – “simple materials so that the participants would focus more on the idea than the aesthetics,” PulseLab Jakarta design lead Kautsar Anggakara explained.
Several design teams seized upon new learning systems/spaces as a means of protecting children from haze and keeping them in school.
“We’ve put together a ‘backup system’ we’re calling community-based, collective distance learning,” said Saras, a designer, whose idea calls for a digital library of mobile-accessible lessons students can use at home during haze. “But to make it optimal, we would need to find ways to ensure homes are haze-free, too,” she said.

Participants build their prototype for a haze-free learning space ©UNICEF/Cory Rogers/2016
According to JP, an innovations specialist with a Hong Kong-based environmental solutions firm, “there are no silver bullets” when it comes to protecting children from haze. His prototype, ‘Keliling Fantasi’ -- a roving learning classroom during haze and a resource centre during the fire-free wet season -- would foreground environmental education, not the national curriculum. Funding would thus most likely have to come from the private sector, he said.
In the months ahead, UNICEF is looking forward to seeing the prototypes refined through a series of workshops with a broad range of stakeholders, “to ensure that the ideas and insights evolve from creative concepts to real action for change,” said Richard. "Some of the prototypes show promise to attract interest, we aim to support stakeholders to fund, pilot and scale-up in one or two affected areas.”

‘Haze-free playhouse’ ©UNICEF/Cory Rogers/2016
"Earning buy-in from community leaders and enlisting youth participation– these will be key challenges to a successful pilot, added  Valerie. The co-design concept might itself be tested in affected areas. “We are looking forward to launching a similar youth-led process like this in Central Kalimantan, or maybe Riau,” she said. “A co-design workshop could be really effective at encouraging youth to become the agents of change.”
“When youth become an active part of the solution -- that’s when you get big potential for change,” she added.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Girl-Centered Movement for Change

By Felice Bakker, JPO, Child Protection

An illustration of workshop proceedings depicting the characteristics of the Indonesian Adolescent Girls Network ©UNICEF/Niken Larasati/2016
Jakarta: “The creation of a strong generation will not be achieved if the mother, who is the first source of education for a child, is a girl who is not yet ready to become a mother,” remarked women’s rights advocate and former First Lady (1999-2001) Ibu Sinta Nuriyah during the launch of the Indonesian Adolescent Girls Network in Jakarta.

The two-day workshop, held by UNICEF in partnership with Flamingo Social Purpose and Rumah KitaB, brought together advocates from 28 Indonesia-based organizations that focus on girls’ issues like child marriage, reproductive health and gender equality. The Network has been established to enable members to coordinate and implement interventions, scale them up, and develop synergies to achieve the best outcomes for adolescent girls. 

Chernor Bah, a youth and girl’s rights advocate and founder of the Sierra Leone Adolescent Girls Network, introduced participants to principles of what he calls ‘girl-centered programming’, a philosophy that starts with the belief that “the game is rigged against girls; they're set to lose—and when girls lose, everyone loses,” he said.

Globally, girls are generally less healthy, less educated and enjoy fewer rights than their male counterparts, facing systematic disadvantages because of discriminatory norms. As puberty begins, girls are more at risk of abuse, are required to take on a large share of domestic work and may drop out of school, becoming socially isolated. Even the locations girls are able to access, such as the market, health centre and library, shrink at puberty, while for boys they expand, according to a study in South Africa by the Population Council, a development think tank based in New York. Investing in girls not only promises significant economic returns, but promises to have far-reaching impacts on almost every development indicator, ranging from girls’ labour market participation, which will fuel economic growth, to improved health and education outcomes for future generations.[1]
Ibu Sinta Nuriyah, former First Lady (1999-2001) and women’s rights activist, encouraging participants to listen to the voices of Indonesia girls and to eliminate child marriage ©UNICEF/Sinta F Vermonte/2016

Girl-centred programming makes girls the focus of each and every programme decision; this includes determining which girls to target, when to target them, and how to monitor their progress. Such progamming can delay marriage, increase reproductive health knowledge, boost self-confidence and improve financial literacy.

During the workshop, network members agreed that empowering girls through building financial literacy, expanding social support networks, and improving their knowledge about health, would be the unifying mission. Combined, this work will reduce girls’ vulnerability, creating a bulwark against child marriage, teen pregnancy and school dropouts.

By putting girls at the centre, Indonesian Adolescent Girls Network members are now equipped to strengthen their important work. Members will meet monthly to share information on activities, to coordinate research and joint interventions, and to submit shared proposals for funding. One such joint initiative for an online platform for girls to connect with peers and mentors is already in the planning stages.

Participants from 28 organizations across Indonesia attending the two-day workshop. ©UNICEF/Sinta F Vermonte/2016


[1] Girls Count: A Global Investment and Action Agenda- ICRW-

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Let's High Five a Facer!

By: Dinda Veska


A facer telling the UNICEF Programme in the mall.
©UNICEF Indonesia/2016/Surabaya.

‘They’re just like credit card salesmen, stopping us rudely!” the thinking goes. ‘If I could just avoid them, I would!’ At best people consider fundraising boring; at worst, it’s an act of pestering.

The fundraisers - we call them ‘Facers’ in Indonesia - are these young people wearing a UNICEF t-shirt we often see on the street or in the mall. In fact, they do an incredibly important job, informing people about the challenges faced by Indonesia’s most vulnerable and marginalized children.

Last week, I had an opportunity to join four UNICEF-Facers on a trip to Mamuju District, West Sulawesi, where they learned about the implementation of UNICEF-supported programmes. My first impression was that they were super-talkative. A useful trait, I thought, for people soliciting donations.              

On their trip to the Mamuju, the four Facers asked all kinds of questions to the local organizations that are implementing the government-run, UNICEF-supported programmes.  The questions were deep and informed, for instance concerning how data and facts were uncovered in the field.  

Later, armed with this newly gathered knowledge, the Facers will be better equipped to answer questions from potential donors. Indeed, that is the idea; to give Facers a better sense of the true impacts of interventions for children by sending them to the programme sites.

The motivation to learn and the spirit of service displayed by the four Facers in Mamuju was truly inspirational. Take Mey, a young woman who decided to become a Facer after her little sister died at a young age. “Maybe this is my chance to do something for my sister,” she told me. “Even though it’s not directly for her, at least I can say I am doing good things for children. Seeing the UNICEF banner at the job fair made me remember how my little sister died and I wasn’t by her side,” Mey said.

Understanding before judging, perhaps that’s the best thing to do. It may be irritating to have to sidestep Facers on the street when we are in a rush. But now I know I won’t always try to avoid them: They truly work hard to learn about the problems facing children in Indonesia and to raise money for a worthy cause. That deserves our appreciation.

So, the next time you see a Facer on the street, instead of running away, give them a high five and say good luck!

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things, with great love.” Mother Teresa

UNICEF  facers meet children in the field.
©UNICEF Indonesia/2016/Dinda.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Back to School in Pidie Jaya

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

Second grade students study in an education tent set up days after the 6.5m earthquake tore through three regencies, killing hundreds and displacing thousands in north western Aceh Province © UNICEF Indonesia / 2017/ Cory Rogers

Pidie Jaya, Aceh: The crack starts near the door and cuts to the back wall through dusty tiles, a distance of some six or seven metres.

Considering the wreckage just a stone’s throw away – where homes lie in ruins, schools in piles of debris – the crack, which teachers at MIN Pangwa Islamic elementary school describe as the worst of the earthquake damage, might seem almost trivial.

But to Rajwa, 10, a fifth grade student, it is a kind of trigger -- a frightening reminder of an event that killed two of his classmates and forced his family from their home for weeks.

Rajwa outside MIN Pangwa © UNICEF Indonesia / 2017/ Cory Rogers

“I don’t want the earthquake to come back,” Rajwa says. “I don’t want to see the crack, I don’t want to go in there.”

Now, thanks to a tent supplied by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNBP) on 27 December, Rajwa doesn’t have to.

Like students at some 200 schools across the three affected regencies, Rajwa will use the tent as a learning space as he awaits repairs to his classroom. It is a recovery initiative grounded in the belief that in times of disasters, education rises in importance.

A schoolteacher assists a child in one of two BNBP-supplied tents that allow students to keep learning as their damaged classrooms are repaired. © UNICEF Indonesia / 2017/ Cory Rogers

“Children don’t need education even in emergencies; they need education especially in emergencies,’’ UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake has said.  Indeed, research shows that in times of crisis, schools provide structure and routine that helps kids cope with fear, loss and stress.

With this in mind, the Government -- partnering with an array of organizations, including UNICEF -- has launched “Ayo Kembali Ke Sekolah”, a back-to-school campaign that seeks to achieve full attendance at schools by early January. At MIN Pangwa, teachers say attendance has reached about 70 per cent.

Down the road at SDN Peulandok Tunong, however, and teachers say students have been showing up for weeks.

“All but two of our 93 students are back today,” says Ibu Wardiah, deputy principal of the elementary school. A crop of second-graders practice reading clocks behind her, their last lesson of the day.

The school, which sits three kilometres down a narrow, paddy-fringed road, collapsed in the earthquake, making it one of the first to receive a tent on 11 December by the Ministry of Education. A second tent has since been set up by the BNBP to house more learning activities.   

 Ibu Wardiah, (far left) and fellow SDN Peulandok Tunong teachers gather outside a tent supplied by UNICEF to the Ministry of Education. Theirs was one of the first schools to reconvene in the early days after the earthquake. © UNICEF Indonesia / 2017/ Cory Rogers

The school’s close-knit crew of teachers saw the tents were key to helping children recover, so they went about organising fun and games with the help of local NGOs. On one memorable afternoon, volunteers came to teach kids a song about surviving earthquakes, a song students now know by heart.

“This is my village, these are my children,” said Ibu Wardiah, who has been teaching at the school for over 30 years. “We don’t know if other schools are like this, but we know ours is,” she said proudly.

Only on 2 January did teachers begin using the formal curriculum, “because in the end, reading, counting and writing -- these are the crucial things we have to teach our children,” Ibu Wardiah explained.

In locations where schools were damaged beyond repair, semi-permanent structures like this one at SDN Peulandok Tunong are being built by government contractors to replace tents. These temporary classrooms will allow children to study in a safer, more comfortable setting as they await the construction of their permanent facilities © UNICEF Indonesia / 2017/ Cory Rogers.

According to head of the Pidie Jaya Department of Education Pak Saiful, other schools have struggled to replicate SDN Peulandok Tunong’s attendance success, partly because parents are still worried about safety; it was not lost on them, he said, that schools experienced some of the worst damage.

“We must ensure new schools are quake-resistant,” he said, blaming poor design and construction. “This cannot happen again.”

Poor construction lead to damage like this at SDN Peulandok Tunong, seen here just days after the quake. © UNICEF Indonesia / 2017/ Yusra Tebe

According to UNICEF Indonesia Programme Assistant Said Ikram,“in Aceh it’s been lucky that the big earthquakes happened either before children arrived at school or after they went home. This earthquake has opened the eyes of people in Pidie Jaya about building safer schools."

With UNICEF’s assistance, authorities are still determining how many schools will need to be rebuilt. In the meantime, getting tents up and semi-permanent classrooms built will continue to be Pak Saiful’s top priority.

“We still have a need for 37 tents [as of 3 January], “he said. “My focus this month is to get as many students [as possible] back in school so they don’t fall behind for the national exam,” he said. The exams, scheduled for the spring, determine whether students are able to advance to the next grade.

Despite the test's importance, teachers at MIN Pangwa say it will be crucial to ease students back to normalcy at their own pace.

“For example, we usually let the students go at 12pm, but today let’s see how it goes,” said one schoolteacher who preferred not to be named. “Many [children] are still dealing with trauma, so it is important we don’t push, that we remain flexible,” he added.

For his part, Rajwa says he is excited to start learning again, scary cracks notwithstanding. He dreams of becoming an Army soldier, and says school will help him get there.

“We’ve been out of school so long,” he said, eyes darting to the ground in front of him. “I’m still scared sometimes, but coming here makes me happy.” 

Students at MIN Pangwa line up to buy cheap sticks of a lunchtime beef sausage known as sosis © UNICEF Indonesia / 2017/ Cory Rogers