Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Young voices inspiring solutions in Ende

By Kate Rose, Communications Specialist, UNICEF Indonesia

“Come on, come up and show us your idea” says Sulastri with a beaming smile. The rain is beating down heavily outside the blue tarpaulin, but the 40 or so young people gathered together beneath it weren’t put off. Neither were the many other community members surrounding the excited group, watching the events unfold. Up came Sindi to tell her peers and parents about the water tank plan, her group’s suggestion to help their village.

Sindi presents the water tank design.
© UNICEF Indonesia / 2016
Sindi and her friends have been a part of the Adolescent Circle in their village for the past few months. It’s a group run by volunteer facilitator Sulastri and is an opportunity for all children to get together, have fun, learn new things and be involved in a whole variety of ways. One of the activities is a collaboration with UNICEF through local partner Child Fund, which seeks to involve children in finding solutions for issues that affect their communities.

Indonesia is a diverse country, where natural disasters happen frequently, and range from local flooding to devastating earthquakes. In many areas, natural disasters are fairly small scale, and it is often hard to predict what will happen and when. UNICEF is working with Adolescent Circles, often housed in Village or Town Child Forums, such as Sulastri’s group to find out more about how these issues affect children and to develop new ideas for what might be done about them.

There are a number of child forums running in Ende, on Flores Island, all run by young volunteers like Sulastri, and all have been invited today to share the ideas they’ve been developing.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Palm Oil and Children in Indonesia – The Children’s Rights and Business Principles in Action

By Michael Klaus, Chief of Communication and Public Advocacy, Indonesia

A child holds a leaf to cover from the rainfall. ©UNICEF Indonesia / Purnomo 

Jakarta, Indonesia, 20 November 2016
– Palm oil is used in approximately half of all consumer goods, from soap and body lotion to processed foods and biofuels. And because it’s easy to cultivate and cheaper to process than other vegetable oils, global demand continues to rise. That’s good news for Indonesia and Malaysia, who together account for 85% of global production. The palm oil boom, however, comes at a significant cost to the environment. The impacts of clearing land for the planting of oil palm plantations – including deforestation, damaged peatlands and greenhouse gas emissions due to slash-and-burn practices -- has been widely assessed. Little attention has been paid,  however, to the impact of the industry on children, despite the fact that in Indonesia alone 5 million children are affected.

Wanting to know more, UNICEF conducted an assessment – the first of its kind - on how children are impacted by the cultivation of oil palm in Indonesia and Malaysia. The research provides insights into the living conditions of children in production centres like Sumatra and Kalimantan, which due to their relative remoteness, rarely receive much attention. Based on a comprehensive desk research, interviews with workers (many of them women) children, teachers, health personnel and NGO representatives, as well as consultations with plantation mangers and government representatives, the study identifies seven main impact areas and a number of root causes.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Investing in children’s cognitive capital: Growing brains can grow economies in South and East Asia

By Lauren Rumble, UNICEF Indonesia Deputy Representative

A billion brains depend on the actions governments and partners take now.

The world’s best scientists have recently confirmed that greater investments are needed to promote children’s ‘cognitive capital’. Cognitive capital refers to the economic benefits resulting from investing in the evolving brains of children. Nobel Laureate James Heckman says that early investments yield the greatest returns: a dollar spent during prenatal and early childhood yields 7% to 10% more than investments at older ages. During the first years of life, one thousand brain cells connect every second. These connections define a child’s capacity to learn and regulate impulses and emotions. They influence the ability to solve problems and relate to others. To capitalize on these investments we need to secure nutrition, healthcare as well as safe and loving families for all children. This requires ensuring universal access to education, healthcare, sanitation and nutrition as well as freedom from poverty and fear for every child.

The reverse is also true. Adverse conditions are harmful to brain development and cognitive performance. Chronic neglect - such as that experienced by children in institutional care - has been shown to be highly disruptive to the brain architecture. This places lifelong limits on the development of skills that are necessary to succeed in school and adulthood.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Once a Child Bride, Now Longing to Go Back to School

By: Dinda Veska

In Mamuju, West Sulawesi, there are 687 girls who are not going to school because they are married and are expected instead to take care of their new household. Most of these are arranged marriages, and one of these child brides is Ani*, 17.

Ani was married at age 15 and gave birth to a daughter shortly afterwards. In these past two years, she has fought many times with her husband and finally decided to get a divorce. Bringing up a baby girl, she has thought a lot about her own life and the impact that education could have on her child in the future. So Ani is eager to go back to school and pursue a higher education to reach her dream as a teacher.

Her motivation is simple but noble: She wants to be her child’s first source for knowledge and education. “If it doesn’t come from me, I’m afraid my daughter would not grow up as a good person,” she said.

At the moment, Ani and her parents are busy filling out the forms and going through the admissions process to enroll in a high school. Meanwhile Ani is working as a shopkeeper in a traditional market while waiting for school to start.

Improving access to quality education for children is one of UNICEF’s programmatic areas. UNICEF works with Phillips Lighting Indonesia and the Government in the Back to School programe, to help children such as Ani to get the quality education that she deserves. UNICEF Indonesia also works with UNICEF’s Dutch National Committee on child marriage.

Ani is keen to share her story and inspire many children in Indonesia to strive for their rights to education. “Going back to school is my vehicle to success!” Ani said.

*Photo, names of girls and villages have been changed

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

A Billion (Brilliant) Brains - The Asia Pacific Youth Innovation Challenge

By: Vania Santoso – Innovations Adolescent and Youth Engagement Officer

Sherley Sandiori pitched her idea “1,000 for 1,000”, a youth volunteer corps to help Indonesia reach universal health coverage. ©UNICEF Indonesia/2016/Vania Santoso.

“The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals are unrealistic!” exclaimed Sherley Sandiori, a 22-year-old student at the University of Indonesia, in her project pitch to leaders from 28 Asia-Pacific nations at the Third High Level Meeting (HLM3) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

It’s safe to say the remark got their attention.

By the night’s end, Sherley’s project -- a youth volunteer programme, enlisting 1,000 volunteers to help outlying islands in Greater Jakarta, also known as Pulau Seribu, or 1,000 Islands, realize universal health care coverage – had proven persuasive.

Entitled “1,000 for 1,000”, the project was selected as one of three winners of the HLM3 Asia Pacific Youth Innovation Challenge.  She received USD 5,000 in seed funding to develop her idea. It was pitched as a means of helping Indonesia realize SDG Goal 3 on universal health coverage.