|Youth leaders gather for a photo following the Youth Discussion for Child Protection Forum ©Unicef/Ryan Febrianto/2017|
by Ryan Febrianto, Child Protection Officer, UNICEF IndonesiaJAKARTA - Ghivo Pratama, a young man from Padang, West Sumatra, gestures excitedly while he talks about visiting junior high schools in Bandung and Jakarta as part of ACTION, a youth anti-violence community. They were there to talk about tolerance: “Every child has to be protected from all types of violence,” he said at the Youth Discussion for Child Protection forum.
Faye Simanjuntak, 14, another attendee at the forum and the founder of Rumah Faye, was equally enthused discussing her group’s violence-prevention work, and the counselling services she’s procured for child trafficking victims. “Listening to their experiences, and engaging them in our actions -- these the keys to creating a safe climate for us to thrive,” she said.
In all, seven activists spoke at the forum held last November to celebrate Universal Children’s Day. Alongside officials from the Ministry of Planning (Bappenas), the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection and the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Culture, the youth champions spoke in front of 150 adolescents and young activists about what had drawn them to the field of child protection. They spoke confidently and passionately about what protecting children meant to them. Not far from the stage, Government representatives could be seen aking down notes, clearly impressed with what they were hearing. It was the youth inspiring policymakers rather than the other way around!
In addition to sparking dialogue among youth leaders, the event aimed to raise awareness on Indonesia’s new child protection policies, namely the 2015-2019 National Plan of Action (NPA) on Child Protection, the 2015-2019 NPA on the Elimination of Human Trafficking and the 2016-2020 National Strategy on the Elimination of Violence against Children.
By the end of the day, the youth activists had come up with several recommendations for Government, including the creation of a digital communication platform, and expanded opportunities for adolescents to design, implement and monitor government-run child protection initiatives.
Government representatives responded positively to the recommendations, promising to set up a collaboration mechanism they hope to see replicated at the subnational level. Given the Government’s promise to make child protection a priority over the next few years, in part by building a National Movement, the action is timely – even in advance of the forum, powerful youth partnerships have started joining forces to increase their reach.
In 2015, a group of youth groups formed the Youth Network on Violence against Children (YNVAC) coalition. Members include Aliansi Remaja Independen (ARI), which mobilizes hundreds of young people to advocate for the elimination of child marriage; KOMPAK Jakarta which conducts outreach in schools to reach victims of sexual and commercial exploitation; Komunitas Sudah Dong , which runs anti-bullying campaigns; and Sinergi Muda, which empowers youth to design online and offline solutions to stop violence against children. The YNVAC also conducts urban ‘child protector’ courses in several cities.
Across the public and private sector, there is a growing consensus that children should play an important role in the design, implementation and monitoring of child protection initiatives. The forum was thus an excellent opportunity for youth to build rapport with government counterparts, providing a powerful reminder that many are already stepping up to the plate to drive change. The time is now to build synergy between young leaders and Government, and ensure that youth perspectives are incorporated into the creation of policies that affect them directly.
“This [event] is just the beginning of something big,” said Ravio Patra, coordinator of YNVAC and co-initiator of the event, to the Government officials. “…we are ready to work with you to make a bigger impact.”