Wednesday, 1 March 2017

From Youth to Youth: Creating Change-Makers to End Violence against Children

By Melania Niken Larasati, Child Protection Officer

Makassar workshop participants vow to end violence against children

Jakarta: “Physical violence is not a violation of human rights as long as it serves a higher purpose.”

At the statement, the audience began to shift uncomfortably, as did I: I wondered, if such a view could be so casually stated here in Makassar – at a workshop aimed at eliminating violence against children (VAC) -- how widespread was it among youth?

A few days later in Banda Aceh, at the last of three youth workshops organized by the Youth Network on Violence against Children (YNVAC), it became clear that many still view VAC as tolerable– despite ample evidence of its harmful impacts.
“By being pinched, I learned to be punctual, so I’m never late again,” one participant said. “My father used to hit me, but it made me tough…getting punched is part of school orientation, so it is a normal thing to do,” said another.
Since 2015, the five YNVAC members --Aliansi Remaja Independen (ARI), Sudah Dong, Action! Kompak Jakarta and Sinergi Muda – have been working hard to change these attitudes. With youth leading the way, big changes are possible.
Building on successes from their first workshop in 2015, YNVAC invited 60 youth to participate in the 2017 workshops. The goal was to continue to groom young leaders in the fight against VAC.
This year, however, the workshops focused on the specific challenges of each city. In Makassar, for example, YNVAC researchers found that corporal punishment was especially prevalent. In Surabaya and Banda Aceh, however, bullying is the more widespread problem.
In Surabaya, Yori and Duan, two YNVAC facilitators with Sudah Dong, talked about how to identify bullying in all its forms. Both had experienced what it was like to bully and to be bullied.
Moved by their honesty, participants started opening up. Some said they had taken concrete actions to change bullying culture.
“My friends and I disagreed with how orientations were conducted, so when we were in our senior year, we submitted a new module to the Dean. Despite being despised by other seniors who had been looking forward to avenging the suffering they experienced, we managed to build a new and more positive culture,” said one Makassar participant.
Jojo, an ARI member, showed Makassar workshop participants how careful mapping of a community’s economic, cultural, and religious layers could reveal intervention strategies before unseen.
To make these theories real, field visits were arranged that offered a first-hand glimpse into the missions led by child protection heroes.
In Banda Aceh, for example, we had the opportunity to meet Husnul, founder of the Public Educational Centre (Taman Pendidikan Masyarakat) in Lambirah village, a 40-minute bus ride south of the city.

Children at play in Lembirah village

Husnul discussed early opposition to her child protection centre, when village elders worried aloud she was trying to “westernize” youth. After they began to see the benefits – how children developed an interest in reading, for example, rather than playing video games -- they became more supportive of her work, however.
“Seeing how someone can make such a big impact here with minimal resources, I am motivated to start a project to help children in my own neighbourhood,” a participant stated.
All in all, with UNICEF support, YNVAC has trained 60 youth VAC leaders through this year’s trainings. Those 60 have pledged to recruit another 50, raising hopes that 3000 youth advocates are poised to start challenging, from the ground up, permissive attitudes toward VAC.
When asked to offer any final advice for these young leaders, Husnul said that the first step of the journey was the hardest.
“What is important in trying to make a change is getting started. But once you start, there’s no way to go but forward.”