Ochi finds her voice and dares to dream big

In West Papua, the Supporting Girls to Thrive programme helps students build self-confidence and fulfil their potential

Dhiana Anggraeni, Child Protection Officer
Ochi in her house
26 August 2021

Fourteen-year-old Ochi wants to be a judge one day. She believes that she can use her voice to help promote justice and fairness for others. 

But despite her big smile and energetic spirit, Ochi was often quiet among her family and friends at home and in school. Like many students in West Papua Province, she struggled with language and lacked the confidence to ask questions and participate in class.  

"I used to be a timid person. I was always nervous and clumsy," she said. "But I wanted to be different and confident enough to speak my mind." 

Ochi with her classmates at school.
Ochi with her classmates at school.

In 2019, UNICEF launched the Supporting Girls to Thrive programme in West Papua to increase retention, improve learning outcomes and protect girls and boys from violence in schools. The programme includes life skills education in junior high schools to equip adolescent girls and boys with the skills to make informed decisions about their lives, to be empowered and to navigate risks such as violence, child marriage and HIV infections. 

Ochi was one of 4,378 junior high school students in West Papua to receive life skills education. Over the course of the programme, her peers began to notice that she was more engaging and vocal at school. During one class, Ochi was surprised to learn that her teacher and classmates nominated her to join Roots, an extracurricular programme that invites students to take the lead in addressing bullying in their school. Roots was also introduced at her school as part of the Supporting Girls to Thrive programme. 

Although Ochi was not personally affected by bullying, she knew that verbal and physical harassment was common at her school. Most students chose to ignore bullying if they saw or heard about it because they did not know how to respond and were afraid of being targeted themselves. But during the life skills education, Ochi began to understand the emotional toll that bullying can take on mental health and felt compelled to take action. 

While attending Roots after school, she learned how she could become an agent of change to help end bullying. One of her favourite topics was on empathy, which she says helped her to better understand others by sharing and understanding their feelings. She used the lessons she learned to stand up to a bully and persuade her to stop harassing others. Eventually, she says, they even became friends. 

Ochi participates in a class at school.
Ochi participates in a class at school.

When her school closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ochi and her classmates continued to share messages of kindness on social media as part of their anti-bullying campaign at school. Mrs Rabida, one of Ochi’s counsellor teachers, noticed how she became a leader at school. 

“Ochi now has more courage to express herself and encourage her classmates to stop bullying,” she said. “I am so proud that she has the motivation to be a better person and create changes at school.” 

As Ochi gathered with her family outside their home one evening to enjoy the sunset by the sea, her family reflected on how much she has grown over the past year. Ana, her cousin and classmate, says that Ochi is more supportive since they now discuss different issues or worries more openly. 

Ochi and her family gather outside their house.
Ochi and her family gather outside their house.

Ochi’s mother Angel also sees the profound change in her daughter. “Ochi is more confident, mature and responsible. I know that she will be able to achieve her dreams and be a kind person," she said as they watched the sun slowly set beyond the horizon. 

After graduating from junior high school, Ochi says she is now ready to face the challenges of high school. She heard from friends that there will likely be more bullying, but she is unfazed and wants to bring big changes to her new school. 


Ochi reads with her cousin Ana at home.
Ochi reads with her cousin Ana at home.

“I will tell my friends that if we want change to happen, we can start by changing ourselves first. By realizing that bullying is wrong, we can then make friends with everyone at school," she said. "Roots can help us to face the problems now and in the future. We can change to be better and stronger.” 

With support from 7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund, UNICEF Indonesia launched the “Supporting Girls to Thrive” programme in November 2019 to increase retention, improve learning outcomes and protect girls and boys from violence in schools. One of the objectives of the programme is to increase opportunities for adolescents, especially girls, to actively learn, discuss and express their views on key issues affecting their lives. Through school-based interventions and online platforms, students will have the opportunity to exchange information with other young people around the country, engage in dialogue with policymakers and create positive social change in their communities.