Yayasan PUPA Bengkulu: Children talk about Preventing Child Marriage

26 August 2020
Author: Amron Hamdi

On 22 June, Yayasan PUPA Bengkulu — member of the Service Providers Forum (FPL) which is supported by MAMPU— held a virtual talk show on Zoom titled ‘Children talk Child Marriage’. The talk show focused on the role of the young generation in preventing child marriage which is continuing to occur during the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of young speakers representing the Indonesian Child’s Forum, Bengkulu Province, the Teenagers’ Information and Counselling Center (PIK-R) and high school students from Bengkulu took part in the event along with panelists from various other backgrounds.

In the discussion that went for approximately two hours, the speakers stressed the importance of teenagers educating their peers about preventing child marriage. “Child marriage violates children’s rights,” said Bennedicta Vania Tandiono, General Secretary of the Bengkulu Province’s Children’s Forum. According to Bennedicta, teenagers should fight for their rights to finish education and reach their dreams.  “We fully support the government’s program and hope to maximise the existing regulations. At school, lessons about reproductive heath are in the curriculum,” she said.

“It is also important to pay attention to the factors that increase the likelihood of child marriage, such as families who are unable to provide the needed support to their children, the lack of sexual and reproductive health education in schools, unplanned marriages, and the cultural acceptance of marrying at a young age as well as social-economic pressures which often occur in South Bengkulu,” said Olga Jeni Setiowati, member of PIK-R SMAN 02. Olga continued to explain that child marriage in Bengkulu was a multifaceted issue that stemmed from larger social issues such as poverty and low education in the community. According to data from the PUPA Foundation and Cahaya Perempuan Women Crisis Center Bengkulu on separate occasions, the prevalence of child marriage in Bengkulu Province in 2018 reached 16.17%. Meanwhile, the data showed that the 94 court granted dispensations provided for child marriage in South Bengkulu in 2018 was the highest compared to other districts in Bengkulu.

Riva Suwandari, committee member of Bengkulu City Middle Highschool 13’s PIK-R added that child marriage must be prevented because it had a prolonged impact on children. “From the very beginning, child marriage will sever children’s rights to go to school and play. Furthermore, it is very possible for domestic violence to occur because children are not ready to take responsibility for taking care of households,” she explained.

So, what can young people do as the main subjects of this problem? Bennedicta outlined several things that children can do to prevent child marriage from becoming a transgenerational problem:

  1. build good communications with parents and make the most of the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) to spend more time with family;
  2. have discussions with peers who have a good understanding about youth issues, including through the Bengkulu Children’s Forum; and
  3. take part in positive and productive activities that support the self-development of young people.

Prevention of child marriage should involve support from local governments, schools and institutions that have close relations to children. These institutions should:

  • provide a safe space as a learning forum and valid source of information;
  • provide comprehensive educational material about reproductive and sexual health at school; and
  • strengthen the role of the family to support the safe development of children.

These efforts are in line wit the Governor of Bengkulu Regulation No.33/2018 regarding Preventing Child Marriage. The issuance of this regulation in July 2018 was the result of joint advocacy of MAMPU Partners including Cahaya Perempuan, KPI Bengkulu and PUPA Bengkulu along with PKBI Bengkulu and the Bengkulu Regional Gonverment who saw the issue of child marriage as a strategic issue related to women’s sexual and reproductive health rights which contribute to maternal mortality, stunting, and violence against women.   

“I invite all my peers to have the courage to campaign for the prevention of child marriage; nothing is in vein if we become agents of change for our collective future,” closed Bennedicta Vania Tandiono.