Friday, 10 March 2017

A City Belongs to Children: How Surakarta Establishes Its Trademark as a Child-Friendly City

By: Kinanti Pinta Karana, UNICEF Indonesia Communication Specialist

From left to right: UNICEF Indonesia Representative Gunilla Olsson, the Mayor of Surakarta Hadi ‘Rudy’ Rudyatmo and the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General Marta Santos Pais Photo ©UNICEF Indonesia/Kinanti Pinta Karana

Surakarta in central Java, earns a lot of praise for its commitment to put children at the centre of its policies. The city has been in a partnership with UNICEF since 2002 to improve child protection, with birth registration as a priority. In 2015, Surakarta received the Child Friendly City Award from President Joko Widodo, the city’s former mayor. In the last days of February, the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General (SRSG) for Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais paid the city a visit along with several UNICEF staff including Representative Gunilla Olsson, to see how things are being done.

Surakarta’s journey to become a child-friendly city began in 2006. The local government started by providing the basics such as building lactation rooms in public places, establishing cigarette-free zones and installing children’s playgrounds at public health centres (Puskesmas). Nowadays, Surakarta can also boast its integrated child welfare service which includes online birth registration and access to various public services by using the newly introduced children’s identity card (KIA). Surakarta administration has also partnered with local businesses to enable card holders to get discounts at bookshops or restaurants.

 “I am very impressed with the extraordinary work Surakarta has done since the days of Joko Widodo,” Santos Pais told Hadi ‘Rudy’ Rudyatmo, the current Mayor of Surakarta. “Thank you, Pak Rudy, for making prevention of violence against children a priority programme in Surakarta! I have a dream Surakarta will have a stronger budget allocation for child protection,” she added.

From left to right: Deputy for Women and Child Protection of the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Culture Sujatmiko, UNICEF Indonesia’s Chief of Child Protection Amanda Bissex, UNICEF Indonesia Representative Gunilla Olsson, UNICEF Indonesia Child Protection Specialist Ali Aulia Ramly and SRSG Marta Santos Pais during a visit to Taman Cerdas
Photo ©UNICEF Indonesia/Kinanti Pinta Karana

 “The Government, especially the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Culture, is encouraging all cities to be child-friendly cities with service developments such as child-friendly schools, child-friendly hospitals and other models.” Said Sujatmiko, the Deputy for Women and Child Protection at the Ministry who joined the SRSG on the visit.  

After meeting with the mayor, the delegation visited the Office of Civil Registration, located within the same compound as the mayor’s office. “Birth registration is a passport for children to access the necessary services for their wellbeing, so thank you for providing a comprehensive service,” Santos Pais said. “The integrated service is a good example and every child has to be registered. What you do today will make a huge difference for the tomorrow of your world,” she added. The Surakarta Administration also provides mobile service for birth registration during Car Free Day every Sunday. 

The city is indeed doing some very positive work in protecting children from all sorts of issues, but there are still challenges faced. For example one local civil society organization (CSO), Yayasan Lentera is looking after 11 children who are living with HIV/AIDs and the CSO finds it quite a struggle at times. The delegation met with the organization’s staff, including Puger Mulyono, the original founder, who explained they often had to relocate from place to place because locals rejected their presence. The SRSG praised them for their “extraordinary hearts for affection and home to the extraordinary children”, and expressed her hopes that the children could live a healthy life and reach their dreams.
Group photo with the officers at the Integrated Children Welfare Service Centre.
Photo ©UNICEF Indonesia/Kinanti Pinta Karana

While in the city, Santos Pais and colleagues also had the opportunity to see how Surakarta also works with children in conflict with the law. The SRSG met the Head of Surakarta Detention Centre and the Director for Community Supervision of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights. They discussed the challenges in the implementation of juvenile justice law, including facilities, community acceptance of children who come into contact with the law, cases of children arrested as drug traffickers and also child drug users. The SRSG met with two teenage boys living in the detention centre, but who are focusing on arts and crafts activities as part of their rehabilitation, supported by CSO Sahabat KAPAS. One boy drew photos of his favourite football player and made comics. When asked about their plans in the future, both of them said all they ever wanted was to go back to school.
A group of youth from Surakarta’s Children Forum greeted Santos Pais and colleagues when they arrived at the iconic Taman Cerdas (Smart Park), a playground where children can have fun and learn new skills, from playing musical instruments to doing radio broadcasts. She listened as the children asked her questions about the challenges they face growing up. “Talk to a teacher, talk to parents because pain is best when it is shared,” she said in response to a question about how to help a friend who becomes a bullying victim.  Santos Pais restated her advice when she visited the Konata Radio Station and was interviewed by its young radio anchors. In her broadcast, she highlighted how young people can be involved in the prevention of violence against children.

At the end of her visit, SRSG Marta Santos Pais said Surakarta can gain international recognition for all its good work. It was a very moving compliment for the Mayor of Surakarta and his administration. “In Surakarta, we do not only protect children but we fulfil their rights. For me, a child-friendly city is simply a place where children feel they belong and where they can live happily with their family,” Rudy said.