Friday, 14 August 2015

Child Marriage Takes Centre Stage at 2015 AJI-UNICEF Media Awards

UNICEF Indonesia Representative Gunilla Olsson salutes journalists at the 2015 AJI-UNICEF Media Awards ©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Nick Baker

By Nick Baker, Communication and Knowledge Management Officer

JAKARTA, Indonesia, 13 August 2015 – The high prevalence and negative consequences of child marriage in Indonesia came into sharp focus at the announcement of the 2015 Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) and UNICEF Media Awards in Jakarta.

The award ceremony has been held since 2006 to acknowledge and encourage excellence in reporting on child rights issues. For this year’s competition, a total of 318 journalists submitted stories, photos, TV and radio pieces.

Child marriage was selected as the focus of the 2015 event. This was particularly relevant after a recent Constitutional Court decision which upheld the current Indonesian marriage law – allowing girls to be married at 16 while boys can only marry at age 19. The case has begun to spur a national dialogue around child marriage.

“One out of six Indonesian girls are married before they turn 18 – that’s 340,000 every year. A staggering 50,000 are even married before age 15. Each of these girls face an abrupt end to their childhood,” UNICEF Indonesia Representative Gunilla Olsson said at the opening of the award ceremony.

“A child bride is more likely to drop out of school before graduating; to fall pregnant early with severe health risks for both mother and child; and to become trapped in poverty which is then passed on from one generation to the next. This shows: child marriage continues to do harm in Indonesia,” Ibu Gunilla said.

Minister of Women Empowerment and Child Protection Yohana Yembise highlighted the link between child marriage and violence in her remarks: “Many girls who get married at a young age experience abuse.” As such, addressing child marriage was a vital development issue, she said: “Our country cannot be competitive over the coming decades unless our children get the best start in life.”

The 2015 AJI-UNICEF Media Awards panel discussion ©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Rafael Klavert

UNICEF and AJI used the event to organize a high-level panel discussion on child marriage. Key government and civil society partners discussed the causes, effects and possible solutions to the issue.

General Secretary of PP Muhammadiyah Abdul Mu’thi challenged the conception that child marriage is promoted by Islam. “Some in our religion think girls can get married once they are able to reproduce, but marriage is not just about physical maturity. It’s also about intellectual and spiritual maturity,” Pak Abdul said.

He also highlighted that child marriage too often means a girl ends her schooling early – with severe consequences. “We can only have a strong generation of Indonesians if all mothers are educated. Every girl must have the opportunity to complete her education,” he said.

Anggara Suwahju of Koalisi 18+ said child marriage will continue as long as there remains a discrepancy in Indonesian marriage law. “And Indonesia’s high rate of child marriage is holding our country back on the global stage,” he said.

Senior AJI member and Chairperson of the South-East Asia Press Alliance Eko Maryadi challenged journalists in attendance to further commit to uncovering child rights issues and communicating them to the public. “Child marriage is too often hidden behind other issues,” he said, “but hopefully – not for much longer.”

A new UNICEF animated video about child marriage in Indonesia ©UNICEF Indonesia/2015/Nick Baker

A new UNICEF animated video that explores child marriage was also premiered at the event. The animation details how the decision of whether or not to marry at an early age is a critical juncture for Indonesian girls – a marriage may see them confined to a life of educational, financial and health-related challenges while delaying marriage can result in a more fulfilled life and a stronger Indonesia. 

The video, panel discussion and many award entries that examined child marriage represent  important steps in bringing this critical issue further out in the open.

Winners of the 2015 AJI-UNICEF Media Awards were:

Print/online: Bayu Maitra, Majalah Reader’s Digest Indonesia – “Perspektif Thomas”.
Photography: Wendra Ajistyatama, The Jakarta Post – “Commute”.
Radio: Purwoto, Radio Suara Pacitan – “Mereka Korban Nikah Dini”.
Television: Karya Budi Santoso and Rebecca Henschke, Tempo TV – “Child Jockey”.