A dream, rejections inspire winning essays in Young Indonesian Writers’ Award
By Devi Asmarani
Recipients of this year’s Young Indonesian Writers Award, Gabriella Tatia, 15, and Sri Andiani, 14, recalled the stories behind their works at the awards’ ceremony recently.
Tatia, who received the award in the high school category, said she had almost given up on writing a story for the competition, until her dream gave sparked an idea to write about a politician who went on an eye-opening trip to his constituent village.
“It was three days before the deadline of the writing submission, I’d been toying with several story ideas before, but nothing really struck me until that dream,” said Tatia, who attends Santa Maria 1 High School in Cirebon, during a discussion at the ceremony.
For Sri Andiani, who received the award in the junior high school category, it was her life experience that inspired her to write an essay on the difficulty of finding the right school for children with special needs.
Going to a school for special-need children was out of the question as it would make her rely more on sign language and visual cues, thus affecting the hearing and speaking abilities that she had gained from therapies and from using the hearing aid.
“One regular school told me my mom that if they accepted me, it might look bad on them,” she said.
The competition was held by UNICEF and YKAI with the support of the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection. It was sponsored by Bank CIMB Niaga, Space Toon TV, TV Edukasi and Le Meridien Hotel. A total of 1,538 children submitted their entries, and, for the first time since its inception, the participants came from all provinces in the archipelago.
The winners received a certificate signed by the Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, UNICEF and YKAI and other prizes. The winning entries along with those of 18 other finalists will be published in a special book.
In her opening speech, the President of YKAI Prof. Lily Rilantoro congratulated the two winners and called on other children and teenagers to keep on writing.
As this is the year Indonesians elected their President and parliamentarian, the contestants had to write on the theme of Children and the Nation’s Leaders.
UNICEF Indonesia Representative Angela Kearney said decisions that leaders make affect children and young people’s lives today and shape their world for tomorrow.
“These young writers’ original ideas inspire us in many positive ways. We should listen to their voices among our families, in schools and communities,” she said.
Tatia described her short story titled Silhouette as a “reflection”. The main character in the story, Panji Anggara, decides to stay on in a village while on a campaign stump, and was moved by poverty in the village as well as the resilience of the villagers. This trip forms the foundation of his work when he gets elected to office later.
“He cannot deny that often there are many temptations to cheat while in office, but he is aware that what he does determines the fates of his people,” she writes in her short story.
In Sri’s essay, she argues that some children with special needs such as hearing impairment can attend a normal school, so they could better integrate with their peers.
“There is a gap between children with special needs and those without,” she said.
“If we’re given a chance and are facilitated we can accomplished as much as our friends with no special needs,” she added.
Proving all her doubters wrong, Sri, who attends Alam Insan Mulia Junior High School in Surabaya, has shown extraordinary accomplishment academically and in her extra curricular activities since she was in elementary school.
Present at the ceremony were legislator Nurul Arifin, Assistant deputy of the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Sri Pardina Pudiastuti.
During the discussion, Nurul answered some questions posed by the winners and the moderator, last year’s Young Writer’s Award Winner Alfinda Agyputri. The questions ranged from how Parliament can improve the welfare of children, what a legislator’s average day like, to whether or not it is important for a politician to have a writing skill.
To the last question, Nurul said: “A parliamentarian is expected to have a good public speaking skill because their battle often takes place in a hearing where they propose their ideas.”
“But if they have the skill to write, then they can document their ideas and experience for others to see, so it’s a plus,” she added.
The event ended with a lively musical performance by a group of musicians under YKAI’s half house, and poetry reading by members of Kreatif, the Creative Youth Writers Community, an organization and blogspot founded by previous year’s finalists of the award.