Youth in cities continue to raise their voices despite the pandemic
Members of UNICEF’s Mitra Muda youth network strengthen their initiatives to reach more young people in need in urban areas.
Bayu and Cristina live in cities over 2000 kilometres away from each other, but they have a lot in common. As youth leaders, they both work to empower their peers in Banda Aceh and Semarang.
Their motivations are unique to their own personal experiences. In Banda Aceh, Bayu saw that young people had limited understanding of sexual health and reproductive rights. Some of his friends were married before the age of 18, while others faced serious issues, such as unwanted pregnancy and child marriage.
“They do not understand they have authority over their bodies,” Bayu explains. He emphasizes that education on sexual and reproductive rights is essential, especially since the topic is still considered taboo by the local Acehnese community.
Cristina, or Itin, on the other hand, is restless about the issue of child labour in Semarang, which has worsened amid the economic hardships and school closures caused by the pandemic. While she has fond childhood memories of riding her bicycle around her neighbourhood, it’s something that she realizes is a luxury for children who work long hours on the street to support their families.
“I see them [children] all the time on the streets selling newspapers, working as street performers, or begging while their parents watch them from afar,” she says.
“I am worried about their futures.”
For children and young people in Indonesia, cities are filled with excitement and opportunities, but they also present their own twists and challenges. To better capture this complexity, UNICEF, the Indonesian Ministry of National Development Planning (BAPPENAS), and the Center on Child Protection and Wellbeing at the University of Indonesia (PUSKAPA UI) recently launched the Situation Analysis of Children and Young People in Indonesian Cities.
The analysis reveals that even in major cities with good health coverage and access to services, there remain pockets of communities, families, and children that lack access to basic services, including health, education, and social assistance.
UNICEF is supporting young people like Bayu and Itin to address these issues through the Mitra Muda youth engagement network. Mitra Muda enables Indonesian adolescents and young people from diverse backgrounds and interests to actively engage with their communities and UNICEF programmes.
“Working with young leaders is key to ensuring meaningful participation of young people who are searching for ways to stand out and make a difference in the world,” says Yoshimi Nishino, UNICEF Indonesia Chief of Social Policy. “This is why UNICEF partners with adolescents and young people – to nurture their confidence and leadership so they can encourage their peers and become strong advocates in policymaking processes at both the national and subnational levels.”
In 2018, Bayu and his friends formed the Millennials Empowerment movement under YouthID, a collaborative meeting space for young people in Aceh. The movement aims to create safe spaces for discussions on important youth issues and provides interactive education and tools to help adolescents understand their sexual health and reproductive rights.
Through his work with Millennials Empowerment and Aceh Youth Action, Bayu and his peers have reached around 1,250 people through organizing 81 online gatherings and publishing more than 350 social media posts.
Like Bayu, Itin is also committed to providing greater access to children’s participation and civic engagement, especially for children in detention facilities and orphanages, and those with non-formal education. She leads outreach sessions to teach working children in Semarang about the importance of education and their rights through storytelling and interactive activities.
Itin shared how through UNICEF’s support, such as guidance on youth engagement and recommending speakers to attend events, she and her friends were able to hold activities for 15 children from non-formal education backgrounds.
With more people living in Indonesian cities than ever before, Itin and Bayu both believe that empowering youth can be the answer to the issues facing children and young people in urban environments.
How You Can Help
Thanks to generous contributions from individual donors, UNICEF and partners have been able to work with youth leaders, critical stakeholders, and members of local communities across Indonesia to support young people in need in urban areas.
But the challenge is far from over. There are still many opportunities for our youth leaders to help their peers across the country and expand the reach of their movements. For this, we need your support.
If you want to help address the challenges facing children and young people during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, please consider donating to UNICEF. We very much appreciate your contribution.
This article was developed to support the launch of the Situation Analysis of Children and Young People in Indonesian Cities, in partnership with the Indonesian Ministry of National Development Planning (Bappenas) and the Center on Child Protection and Wellbeing at the University of Indonesia (PUSKAPA UI).