Preventing sexual abuse after an earthquake in Indonesia’s Lombok

A series of earthquakes on Indonesia’s Lombok Island in August left more than 500 dead, 1,535 injured, and more than 350,000 displaced. More than 680,000 people are affected, which means an estimated 204,000 children.

Lely Djuhari
Children play together at the child protection post in Senaru Village, North Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.
Wilander/UNICEF/2018

28 January 2019

Ten-year-old Puspita Sari is learning a children’s song. It’s a catchy tune with a serious message: which parts of the body that only she is allowed to touch herself, how to deal with difficult situations if another person violates her body including how to talk to her parents or a trusted adult.

All her friends ages 5-12 were sitting on a carpet at a child-friendly space and joined her in the sing-along after playing a card game to match pictures of “good touch” and “bad touch” as well as “good situation” and “bad situation”. Older girls and boys ages 13-17 sat in another circle nearby and discussed how to recognize and address sexual abuse.

“It’s a very important topic and I am glad that I can be a part of raising awareness of child rights and how to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation after a disaster,” said Dyta Hamid from Yekkum Emergency Unit, a local group as part of Plan International Indonesia, who has been working every day since an earthquake struck Tandjung District on Indonesia’s island of Lombok.

A series of earthquakes on Indonesia’s Lombok Island in August left more than 500 dead, 1,535 injured, and more than 350,000 displaced. More than 680,000 people are affected, which means an estimated 204,000 children.

The Indonesian Government has declared that aid for Lombok should be channelled through the Indonesian Red Cross Society, national non-governmental organizations and civil society organisations. National non-government organizations organized three to six-month activities until March 2019, including on supporting child friendly spaces for psychosocial and child protection support.

“It’s a very important topic and I am glad that I can be a part of raising awareness of child rights and how to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation after a disaster,”

Puspita Sari, 10, showed a picture of the relationship between mother and child while playing in a child protection tent in Senaru Village, North Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.
Wilander/UNICEF/2018
Puspita Sari, 10, showed a picture of the relationship between mother and child while playing in a child protection tent in Senaru Village, North Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.

UNICEF is supporting the capacity of provincial, district, as well as national government key partners in coordinating the response, monitoring and evaluation of the situation related to child protection and psychosocial support. Additionally, this will help to ensure the response meets standards, specifically the minimum standards for child protection in humanitarian action. This includes ensuring that all front-line workers are trained in prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation, including how to report to the right authorities if colleagues engage in sexual abuse themselves,

UNICEF are working with local partners and the government how gender-based violence programming or prevention of sexual abuse is mainstreamed throughout the response. This is visible in the daily activities held at the child-friendly spaces. Among the fun and games; drawing and singing are lessons to instill greater child rights understanding.

Puspita said, “I like the song. I will tell my Mum if anything happens to me. I shouldn’t feel ashamed.”

During the days after the emergency, she said her mother was often leaves home to find out what happened to other members of the family. Puspita played mostly by herself until a child-friendly space was set up and she could play with her other friends.

Children play together at the child protection post in Senaru Village, North Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.
Wilander/UNICEF/2018
Children play together at the child protection post in Senaru Village, North Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. UNICEF will continue to support the integrated child protection secretariat at district level and strengthening of the child protection working group including information management system to ensure identification and response to vulnerability.

Besides developing programmes at child-friendly spaces, UNICEF additional roles are to ensure quality control over a child protection assessment which took place for several weeks in November. Local NGO workers, trained by UNICEF, combed the villages to seek to information protection issues related to gender and disability. The assessment will inform long term reconstruction and planning, including how to address gender-based violence.

The assessment will identify children at most risk of rights violations, including children with disabilities, separated and unaccompanied children and undocumented children. Addressing gender issues particularly child marriage and gender-based violence are specifically addressed in planning and service delivery.

Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara Province is among the top four of Indonesia’s provinces with high prevalence of child marriage among girls aged 15-19 at 16.3 per cent (or an estimated 32,000 girls). While poverty makes girls much more vulnerable to child marriage, social and cultural acceptance permeates all economic levels.  Education for girls helps make a lasting chance as it gives girls and women confidence to break the tradition It shows men that there is an alternative for girls that they can have a productive and independent lives outside an early marriage.

However, girls and families experience natural disasters are more vulnerable as educational opportunities are hampered with many schools destroyed on the island.  The child-friendly spaces offer a respite, as well as informal education opportunities which helps children get a sense of normal lives while Lombok gets back on its feet.