Children take over the COVID-19 Task Force on National Children’s Day

In celebration of National Children’s Day on 23 July, children met with decision makers at the Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency to voice their concerns and expectations during the COVID-19 pandemic

Children with COVID-19 Task Force members on stage
30 July 2020

JAKARTA, INDONESIA – When schools closed in early March to prevent the spread of COVID-19, 8th grader Janish struggled to adapt to the realities of learning remotely. Living in a rural village in East Nusa Tenggara province, her household is one of thousands across Indonesia that have limited or no internet access, making it difficult for her to connect with teachers. 

Frustrated but resolute, Janish decided to write a letter to the President detailing the challenges that she and many other children face during the pandemic. She ended the letter by making several requests for support, including internet access to learn at home, improvements to the quality of education and support for child protection services. 

On 23 July at the offices of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) in Jakarta, her letter was read aloud by I. Gusti Atu Bintang Darmawati, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, during the celebration for National Children’s Day.

A session during the event with children participating via Zoom
Arista, a high school student from SMA Muhammadiyah 11 Rawamangun, and dr Reisa Broto Asmoro moderate a session in which child representatives from around Indonesia shared tips for staying safe, healthy and positive while at home.

As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the daily lives of young people around the country, many have been left stressed and anxious about their futures. To mark National Children's Day 2020, UNICEF, the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection, and the BNPB held an event which saw children and adolescents take over the COVID-19 Task Force and voice their concerns and expectations directly to decision makers.

In line with large-scale social distancing requirements, the event was held virtually and broadcast live on television, radio and the internet via YouTube. About 750 children from all 34 provinces participated via Zoom.

“This year, National Children’s Day is special because children across the country will celebrate it at home alongside their parents and caregivers, siblings and friends while maintaining social distancing,” said Derry Ulum, UNICEF Indonesia Child Protection Officer. “UNICEF, the government and partners wanted to continue with this event to demonstrate our motivation and commitment to the children of Indonesia, and to provide spaces for them to raise their voices. While there is much work left to be done for children, there are also many reasons to celebrate the progress that has been made.” 

Over the course of the day, children discussed the challenges they encountered while staying at home and the hopes they have for the future. A line-up of speakers, including child representatives, dr Reisa Broto Asmoro and members of the COVID-19 Task Force, spoke about the impacts of the pandemic on children, especially in regard to their health, education, protection and care. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting Indonesia today has had a very wide impact. One issue is the need to protect all children with disabilities between the ages of 5 and 17,” said Adrian, a child with a disability. “Many schools are closed, but my hope is that as we adapt to this new situation, the rights of all children can still be fulfilled and protected from various threats so that we can enjoy our lives.” 

A child speaks with a microphone
Quincy, 6, participates in a press conference on children's health during the pandemic as part of the National Children's Day celebration.
A girl translates a conversation into sign language
Nabila (left), 12, translates a discussion into sign language during a session on health knowledge in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

With many children struggling to navigate the pandemic, the participants also shared tips and ways to stay safe, comfortable and positive at home.

“To stay positive, I dance, and I always move,” said 12-year-old Devara from South Sulawesi through online video. “I believe that a stronger immune system comes from being active and exercising.”

As part of the event, 663 U-Reporters sent in questions that were answered during two separate sessions on children’s voices and on protecting children during the pandemic. Government officials including Minister Bintang and Lilik Kurniawan, the Prevention Deputy of the BNPB, responded to questions such as what the rights of children are and why they could not attend school.

Janish, who submitted her letter to the event, woke up before the sun rose and walked three hours from her village starting at 4 A.M. to the city of Sumba so that she could participate in the event via Zoom. After reading her letter, Minister Bintang expressed her sympathy for the challenges that children like Janish face and pledged to do better to support them. After speaking with Minister Bintang, Janish expressed optimism that her concerns were being heard.

“I am very happy,” said Janish. “It is a hope of mine, my family and my community that our Minister and President care about us and are willing to do something for children amidst the pandemic.”