Survivors welcome a violence-free future
A community shelter builds a safer environment for vulnerable children and women
As Kasma, age 42, steps onto the veranda of the Pattingalloang Community Shelter in the outskirts of Makassar City, she is greeted by the sounds of children playing traditional games – an exuberant symphony that brings a joyful start to her mornings.
Kasma sells donuts for a living. Every day she strolls around alleys in Pattingalloang from dawn until dusk, earning around five to ten dollars on sales. She uses some of the money for her daily needs, and she saves the rest. Since her husband died in early 2023, Kasma has been taking care of her family on her own.
Kasma was abused by her husband – violently and frequently. The couple lived in a shared three-bedroom house with their three children, among a crowded total of 20 relatives with bedrooms separated only by thin walls. When Kasma was assaulted, the whole household knew, including their children.
“Sometimes he beat me for no reason. I just took it all and kept the pain inside,” recalls Kasma while showing a long scar on her forehead. “But when he beat me up in front of our children, that broke me.”
Kasma was deeply relieved to discover the Pattingalloang Community Shelter, which provides refuge and support for residents – especially women and children – who are involved in disputes or subjected to any form of violence.
The Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Service Office established the shelter with support from the Family Welfare Movement (PKK), Family Learning Center (Puspaga), Children's Forum and village-level government.
“At first, I was scared and embarrassed to report,” admits Kasma. “But I decided to go to the community shelter for help because I don’t want my daughter to stay silent if she faces the same situation, and I don’t want my son to treat his future wife and children the same way.”
After receiving Kasma’s report, the shelter advised her to gather proof while they worked with relevant parties. With thanks to the shelter's swift response and support from other parties, Kasma’s husband was imprisoned.
Pattingalloang is among 20 villages in South Sulawesi that each operate a similar shelter. In 2023, staff at all the shelters – who are community members – were trained by UNICEF on interventions to help prevent online child sexual exploitation and abuse, child marriage and gender-based violence. Each staff member is tasked with sharing this knowledge with at least 300 persons in their village, by hosting sessions with parents/caregivers, teachers, children and others.
Chadijah, 52, is another widow who sought support from the Maccini Sombala shelter in Makassar City. Despite constant verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her husband, she upheld the Siri’, a philosophy about keeping shame to yourself, like other Bugis – a local tribe in South Sulawesi.
“I had no guts to report him. Maybe because of Siri’ or maybe because I loved him a bit too much. But when he hit me for his own troubles, I lost my patience,” recalls Chadijah, who sells fried stuffed tofu in front of her house.
Soon after she filed a report in early 2023, the shelter personnel provided mediation services with support from local authorities, including the neighborhood and village heads, the police and military. Her husband did not abuse her again before his death.
Both the Pattingalloang and the Maccini Sombala shelters have been providing support for women like Kasma and Chadijah since 2016. Both women believe that the interventions by the shelters and the accessible reporting avenues they provide are making a significant difference for victims of violence.
As Kasma starts a new life with her three children, she dreams of making the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca one day, made possible by her savings and her newfound freedom from violence.
“As my family’s situation improves and our neighborhood becomes safer due to the community shelter, I hope I will be able to perform Hajj peacefully when God allows,” Kasma says with a hopeful grin.
UNICEF Indonesia is grateful for the support received from the Government of the United States of America through USAID Indonesia.