After Disaster Struck Indonesia, I Volunteered to Help

When an earthquake struck Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on 28 September 2018 at around six in the afternoon, I was in a shop around the area of Tondo, East Palu, buying snacks with two of my friends.

I heard a roar, and seconds later the ground swayed. There were people riding motorbikes falling on the streets. I rushed home to the hilly area of town.

Along the way I saw many people already on the side of the road crying. Fear enveloped my heart. I wanted to get home soon.

Once I arrived, I saw a cracked building with its contents scattered. That night there was another earthquake. I was forced to sleep on the road in front of my house.

Previously, I had ventured into the house to pick up a sleeping bag and change of clothes. Four more earthquakes came after that. I tried to call father and my brother many times but I couldn’t contact either of them.

People started to come up from the coastal area. Men were carrying gallons of mineral water and many were wounded and drenched.

We heard that there had been a massive tsunami on the coastal area. Hearing the news, I cried hysterically. I was now even more afraid, because my father lived on the coast.

I almost ventured down to find my father. However, my neighbors and friends tried to calm me down and convinced me not to go right away.

At five o’clock the next morning, I rushed to look for my father. When I arrived, I saw there was no house standing. The cars were all badly damaged by buildings.

I saw a lot of dead bodies. This made me cry and keep looking for my father until I met a teenager, who said he was on the mountain. I ran up to about five kilometers from the location of the tsunami. Then, finally, I found my father.

A month after the disaster, I was invited to join Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (IPPA) in Central Sulawesi as a youth volunteer, to provide counseling on reproductive health as well as HIV.

I thought to myself, this activity is noble and I can help others this way. I have knowledge about HIV from my Intra-Campus Organization at university. Now, I can share this knowledge with my peers so that they can protect themselves for the sake of their future.

I told myself: I’m still able to undergo activities, I have complete organs, why don’t I use this to help people in need?

Who else will help them, if not people who care about the lives of friends affected by this disaster?

In addition to providing reproductive health and HIV counseling with other IPPA youth volunteers, I advocate for the rights of young people. After they have had counseling, we ask what obstacles the youth experience. We also listen to the complaints they have, such as lack of clean water or being harassed.

After listening to the young people, I – along with other volunteers – follow up on the issue to the concerned institute. This provides security and comfort for youth, and means that their sexual and reproductive health and rights are being fulfilled.

Written by Indri Walean, Youth Volunteer at IPPA Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. 

Midwives of the World: Part 3

In order to reach a completely equal society, all basic human rights need to be secured. One of these is maternal health. The success of a country can often be traced back to successful maternal health programming. Therefore, my project partner Anna and I decided to create a documentary series about midwives around the world.

This is the final part of the documentary series, which also marks the end of Project Let’s Talk Equality. (You can still catch up with Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them!)

To create this documentary and to get a fair picture of the situation for mothers and midwives around the world, we have collaborated with the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA). The WRA is an incredible organization for maternal health, and a network for volunteers from all over the world. We decided to focus on White Ribbon Alliance Indonesia, or Aliansi Pita Putih Indonesia  (APPI), and visited their team in Jakarta earlier this year.

With the three parts of our documentary, we hope to do two things. One is to present a fair picture and comparison of the maternal health situation in Sweden and Indonesia. The other is to inspire people to make a change in their local communities, just like the volunteers of the White Ribbon Alliance do, or like midwives do in their daily work.

It has been an inspiring adventure, and we hope that our documentary series has captured some of the remarkable energy volunteers and midwives from both Indonesia and Sweden put into their work every day to help others. From when we first brainstormed our ideas for the project in September 2016, throughout our site visit half a year later, to completing our documentary series, we have been continuously overwhelmed by the wonderful people we’ve encountered and the great response we’ve received from sponsors, mentors and our audience.

Although the project has come to a close, we hope that it has sparked discussion that will continue for years ahead, and that it will encourage more people to contribute to work for women’s rights in their communities.

Feel free to share, comment and spread the word. Thank you for watching, and remember – let’s get together for moms, and let’s talk equality!

Do you want Girls’ Globe to be able to support young women to create inspiring material like this in the future? We are crowdfunding for 2018!

Midwives of the World: Part 2

In order to reach a completely equal society, all basic human rights need to be secured. One of these is maternal health. The success of a country can often be traced back to successful maternal health programming. Therefore, my project partner Anna and I decided to create a documentary series about midwives around the world.

To create this documentary and to get a fair picture of the situation for mothers and midwives around the world, we have collaborated with the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA). The WRA is an incredible organization for maternal health, and a network for volunteers from all over the world. We decided to focus on White Ribbon Alliance Indonesia, or Aliansi Pita Putih Indonesia (APPI), and visited their team in Jakarta earlier this year.

With the three parts of our documentary, we hope to do two things. One is to present a fair picture and comparison of the maternal health situation in Sweden and Indonesia. The other is to inspire people to make a change in their local communities, just like the volunteers of the White Ribbon Alliance do, or like midwives do in their daily work.

In this second episode you get to follow our very first days in Indonesia, featuring visits to health centers, a women’s empowerment group, and a class for pregnant and elderly. If you feel inspired- leave a comment and share, so that we can help make a change for mothers all around the globe!

If you missed our first episode, make sure to catch up here

Activism in Indonesia: a movement for change

It has been a couple of weeks since I got back home from an intense week in Indonesia. With our project Let’s Talk Equality, my project partner Anna and I visited several organizations and doctors in the suburbs of Jakarta and Bali. The objective of the trip was to gather footage for our documentary on maternal health in Sweden and Indonesia.

I was completely blown away by the positive energy present in every office I visited. Despite facing a lot of resistance, people were determined and confident that it was worth all the work. Having tried to understand the slow and difficult process for change in Indonesia, I will try to share some of my observations here, before the launch of our documentary later this spring.

Having grown up in Sweden, I was raised under the impression that certain privileges were certainties. Like legal abortions. Low maternal mortality rates. Free contraception. Paid paternity leave. The right to love regardless of gender. In Indonesia, none of these “certainties” exist. In fact, abortion is illegal. As is homosexuality. Parental leave is exclusive for mothers and limited to 3 months only. Not everyone have access to contraceptives. The lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 210.  Also, child marriage is still legal; the legal age of marriage for girls is 16 but 18 for boys. To me, these facts seemed surreal. How can it be legal for a man to marry a child, but not another man?

On a happier note, there are plenty of organizations working to change these facts and we had the privilege of visiting some of them. One was the White Ribbon Alliance (or Aliansi Pita Putih Indonesia), who welcomed us to busy Jakarta. Their mission is to improve the situation for mothers and families all over the country by working and educating communities in what they call “Alert Villages”.

One of these villages is called Mekarsari. Mekarsari is a densely populated and poor village a couple of hours outside of Jakarta. The village has over 60 000 citizens and was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The streets were narrow, fitting only some street vendors and motorcycles. The climate was incredibly humid, and despite the large population the pace was slow and sleepy. The mayor is a woman, which I was told was a rarity. Although she did not speak English, she showed us her office and the demographics of the city. One of the main programs for improved health in Indonesia is free healthcare for the poorer citizens – an important step for a country with big economic inequalities.

We participated in a local class for elderly and pregnant women, held every second week. In the class, a midwife explained some common signs of pregnancy. Although we did not understand her words, it was clear that the audience enjoyed the light-hearted way she delivered the information. Women of all ages, including kids, were sitting on the floor and watching patiently in the small and hot room.

IMG_4995Afterwards, we were asked questions about Sweden, and everyone found it amusing that there are 10 million people in such a big country – a number equivalent to the population in city of Jakarta. We were told that after Indonesia gained independence, the president installed a policy banning family planning and contraception, since “a big country should have a big population”. Now, Indonesia works in many ways to promote family planning in their overpopulated country. People were also amazed by the fact that we had access to free contraception, and that us Swedes could get abortions as many time as we wanted without even having to give a reason for it. We finished up by taking some pictures, and left the clinic with a lot to think about.

Entering into a different society like that is a very special thing. Seeing the dirty streets of the town made me value the clean and spacious environment I live in, and even though I had read of the differences, it was completely different to see them for myself. Never have I met so many inspiring people and learned so much in so few days. My experiences are too many to fit into one single blog post, so I will continue my story in a short series. Until the next post, you can be inspired by White Ribbon Alliance’s important work here.

Photo credits: Tilde Holme

A Maternal Health Hero: Robin Lim

In line with the spirit of optimism and hope, and as this is the month we are highlighting Maternal Health, Girls’ Globe wants to share a story of a woman who has dedicated her life to saving mothers and children.

Robin Lim, also known as Ibu Robin or Mother Robin started a maternal health clinic in Bali, Indonesia for poor women and children, in 1994. The mission of the center is

“to reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality and to support the health and wise development of communities. Toward this goal, we provide general health services, emergency care, prenatal, postpartum, birth services and breastfeeding support, in addition to education and environmental programs.  Yayasan Bumi Sehat is devoted to working in partnership with people to improve quality of life and to improve peace.”

Robin Lim has recently been named the 2011 CNN Hero of the year. Watch her story here:

 
Read more about Robin Lim and her work here:

Do you know another champion of maternal health? We would love to hear from you!