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. 

These Girls are Coding with Confidence

The world is changing. Over recent decades, we’ve seen it progress at a previously unimaginable pace – most noticeably, in technology.

Not too long ago, computers filled whole rooms; today, they fit in our pockets. To communicate with someone in a different country meant writing letters and waiting weeks for a response, or spending large amounts of money to talk on the phone. Today, people all over the world are just a few clicks away. Technology has advanced so much already, and it won’t stop anytime soon.

Computer programming has become the language of the future, and as our world becomes more and more digitized, it will transform from a language to a superpower, enabling us to control computers and create new things.

It seems, however, that this superpower belongs exclusively to men. 20% of Google’s tech jobs, 19% of Facebook’s and a dismal 15% of Twitter’s are held by women. After being told for years that coding ‘just isn’t for them’, in a world where there are over 3 men in the tech industry for every woman, it’s no surprise that many girls and women find themselves hesitant to learn code and become a part of the tech industry.

Sixteen-year-old Japnit Kaur Ahuja realized this when she saw that she had been the only girl among twenty boys in her school’s computer club for three years – something not uncommon even in prominent schools in Delhi, where only 4% of their computer club members are female. In 2017, she founded The Girl Code with her friend Samriddhi Agnihotri in order to change this norm.

Today, The Girl Code is based in New Delhi and Singapore and is comprised solely of students – teenagers looking to make a difference in the world. These students run and manage the project, which aims to encourage girls to code and instils confidence in them that they can code, thus eradicating an essential problem of a lack of confidence.

By teaching them Python through interactive media and fun methods, and by exposing them to a community of like-minded girls, The Girl Code contributes to the effort to give rise to female programmers set to take the IT world by storm.

Through their web platform, which was designed by the students in the organization, they have opened a world of programming up to young girls. It includes a 10-chapter, online, comprehensive course in Python and programming. Along with easy access to tutorials, it also comes with a forum where students can interact with Mentors (female volunteers who are seventeen and eighteen years of age) and like-minded individuals, forming a community which acts as a safe haven for them to reach out to for help.

Credit: The Girl Code

Having established ties with several schools, The Girl Code holds workshops to encourage female students to take up coding. The organization held its first workshop at The Mother’s International School, one of the top 10 schools in India, on January 2 2018. Over 50 girls, ranging from 7 to 16 years of age attended. The girls began the workshop with absolutely no prior knowledge on programming, but by the end, had all constructed a game using Scratch and were proficient in Python.

There was a stark contrast in them – through the workshop, they transformed from shy, diffident girls to girls who were confident in themselves and their abilities. A few weeks after the workshop, two new participants had joined the school’s computing club, MINET, and another had cleared a cyber Olympiad. Their second workshop took place in May at Gyan Bharati School and was equally successful.

Credit: The Girl Code

The Girl Code now plans to host summer workshops at several schools in Delhi and Singapore to further their goal of reducing the gender gap in the tech industry. The organisation also launched a video campaign, ‘Code with Confidence’, where female programmers from around the world share their programming origins and journey in order to inspire young girls.

Today, women make up only a fraction of the tech industry. But there’s change in the air. Initiatives such as this one are not only changing the lives of individuals, but are also changing the very structure of society.

The Girl Code is a testament to the female youth of our world. Before long, these women will be the leaders of the industry – and they want you to be among them.

Young People Living with HIV/AIDS: the Y+ Summit

“People who work hard to fight HIV stigma inspire me, so I also want to join the fight. Stigma and discrimination are real but I’m able to cope because of peer support, counselors and doctors. I take my medication without thinking about it and I have undergone many trainings. I feel empowered.” – Robinah Babirye (22, 3rd year student at Kyambogo University)

HIV is a boogie man we have been taught to hate and fear. This is the reason that young people who are infected with this virus can feel like they have been handed a death sentence. It raises many difficult questions for them, like who will love them and how they will find happiness post HIV infection?

There is a cyclical relationship between stigma and HIV: people who experience stigma and discrimination are marginalised and made more vulnerable to HIV, while those living with HIV are more vulnerable to stigma and discrimination.

One of the ways we engage young people is through summits at which we can hold deep discussions about what these young people are facing. The HIV epidemic is one of the biggest challenges young people face today – over 500 girls are infected every week in Uganda.

The Y+ Summit, organised by the Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA), took place from 18-20 March 2018. The Y+ Summit is an innovative, youth-centered approach that aims to put young people at the forefront of fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It provides young people living with HIV/AIDS with information on how to empower themselves economically, as well on how to live life post HIV/AIDS infection to the fullest.

Young people are a key population, which means that the social, political and economic trends of communities are directly attached to them. If young people are healthy, informed and empowered, their communities stand to benefit and develop. Poor health makes young people, and therefore wider society, less productive. Uganda is also a particularly young nation, with young people making up more than 70% of the total population.

Last month’s Y+ Summit was all-inclusive, keeping over 200 participants engaged over three days. From bold and fearless panel talks to extensive focus group discussions, positive living was made understandable to all. Many topics were discussed, including taking medication consistently, new trends in treatment, curbing new infections and discordance. There were even explanations of HIV and the law in Uganda, which the reigning Miss Y+ Gloria Nawanyaga explained in terms of the 90-90-90 strategy:

“Any intentional infection of another with HIV is criminal and punishable by law. This is in no way meant to marginalise anyone living with HIV, but it is a way for us to live positively and a guide for deterring any new infections,” she said.

Participants at the Y+ Summit. Photo credit: Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV

The Summit attracted speakers from religious, cultural, legal and entertainment sectors, who each talked about positive living in their spheres. For us, the most memorable was Canon Gideon Mugisha, a clergy who has lived positively for 17 years. He was keen to remind the attendees of the coexistence between religion and medication: “We all know that God helps those that help themselves. If you find that you are positive, you need to pray for God’s protection but you also need to take your medication. Personally, I pray to God like there is no medicine, and I take my medication like there is no God.” 

Another panelist was Wilson Bugembe, a musician and pastor who shared his story of living with HIV positive siblings even when he himself was negative. Other speakers included Dr Karusa Kiragu, the UNAIDS Uganda Country Director and Hon Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi, the Ugandan Minister for Youth and Children’s Affairs.

Rio Babirye, a Communications Officer with UNYPA, told us that she was happy that the summit had promised more creativity to redefine the lives of those living positively in Uganda:

“This year’s turn up was greater than last year’s and it was a more productive summit. It is our dream to end stigma and discrimination against HIV, and we shall keep refreshing our young minds to come up with ideas to do so,” she said.

Girl Up Teen Advisors on the World in 2030

When we think about young people in relation to the Agenda 2030, what often comes to mind is that they will be beneficiaries of the development goals. However, young people are proving time and time again that they are not just recipients of change but are driving change in their own right. They are active decision makers in the development process and are making huge contributions to co-create the world they want and need.

Girls’ Globe bloggers had the opportunity to meet with and speak to Girl Up Teen Advisors from who are committed to girls’ and women’s empowerment and working to support the empowerment of girls BY girls.

Some of the questions we explored with them include:

  1. How old they would be in 2030? How they hope the world would change by then?
  2. What do they think girls really need?
  3. Which of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) do they feel mostly strongly about?
  4. What will they be doing to advance the particular goal they feel strongly about?

We hope they will not only inspire you but give you hope in the implementers and successors of the development agenda.

 

 

Cover photo: Zayira Ray / Girls’ Globe

A Letter to the 15-Year-Old Me

As we celebrate women’s month in South Africa, I took a moment to reflect on of all the mistakes I made and the right things I did to prepare myself for womanhood.

I am a 26-year-old young woman, who doesn’t have it all together. But, I am glad I am working towards a goal. Looking back to when I was young, there are certain things I wish someone could have told me, lessons that I should have learned a lot earlier. Although I am happy with the life I am leading, I have made my own fair share of mistakes. I made enemies that could have become valuable friends, spent money that I should have saved and wasted time that could have been better used.

On the note, I decided to write a letter with advice to my 15-year-old self, with the hope that it will be useful to someone who is in their journey to womanhood:

  1. You are beautiful. The world may have its definition of beauty, but you are allowed to create your own. You are your greatest asset, and no one can love you or value you more than you. Tell yourself how beautiful you are every day. You know yourself best.
  2. The world owes you nothing. In fact you are the one who owes your government tax, if you’re religious you probably owe your church tithe, and maybe even your time towards community service. You have to consistently work hard to stay alive.
  3. Standout. It may seem cool to be part of the most popular group of friends where you study or live. But you need to strive for individuality, if you are blending in you may be giving up a lot of who you are just so you can fit it. Remember, you are so special – you cannot afford to be anyone else.
  4. Educate yourself. Get formal education, study society, your history, history of your country, continent and the world. Remember you are a product of your parents’ past. Don’t only depend on the education you get at school, it forms a small part of the life you will live in future. Learn something new every day. Read about financial reports, sports, politics and stay well informed. An educated mind is an empowered mind.
  5. Humility is key. Do not look down on other people just because they are not like you. They may not be of the same religion, race, class, speak the same language or gender. That does not give you the right to look down on them. Learn about your differences, learn about their religion and accept them as they are.
  6. Travel whenever you can. Never miss an opportunity to meet new people and learn about where they live, their beliefs and what they like. The best lessons are learned in a place of discomfort.
  7. Stay healthy. Having a healthy mind and body is essential. Exercise and eat right while feeding your mind with positive thoughts. Skinny is not always healthy. Exercise for health, not only weight–loss.
  8. Marriage is not everything. Women are mostly groomed to get married, so much that you start thinking of marriage at 15. Marriage is good, but remember that your success should not be tied to a man. Work on making yourself a masterpiece. Marriage can be an addition to the masterpiece. You can be happy without being married.
  9. Find your passion. Find out what makes you tick and what you are willing to do without remuneration. Your passion will be a place of mental refuge when days are dark, friends are few and finances are dry.
  10. Spend wisely. Teach yourself to manage finances as early as you can in life. The skills you acquire will come in handy when you earn your first salary. Know how to differentiate between needs, wants and luxuries. It’s not bad to spend your money on anything you want, but know when the right time is to spend on each of the three. Remember to save money wherever you can.
  11. Have fun. Try to have as much fun as possible in everything you do, including exam preparations and writing assignments. It’s the best way to excel. Allow yourself to make mistakes, laugh at yourself and do not walk away without learning from them.
  12. Life is a journey not a destination. You are a work in progress. You need to improve yourself to be a better person in all you do. There are so many talented people in the world that average will not be enough. Strive for excellence in your studies, career and extra-mural activities. An undergraduate degree is nice, but a master degree is more competitive.
  13. Run your own race. Never mind how fast or how far other people your age are progressing. What matters is that you have started and are determined to achieve your goals. However long it takes, you will get to where you want to be. Do not compete, it is bad for your confidence.

What would you tell yourself at age 15 if you could go back? Perhaps to be more gentle to yourself – and to recognize the uniqueness you possess. Maybe you should write this letter too – and remember that it’s never too late to listen to your own advice!

Featured image: Rebecca / Flickr (Creative Commons)

White Ribbon Alliance: Passionate Citizens Changing Communities

Girls’ Globe bloggers have had the opportunity to meet with and speak to Midwives and Citizen Journalists from Uganda, Malawi and Zimbabwe, who are working with White Ribbon Alliance to strengthen the rights and health of women and children, and to change communities so that they thrive.

Caroline Maposhere, Zimbabwe

Caroline Maposhere is a Registered Nurse, nurse midwife and a public health nurse with Bachelor of Theology and Master of Science in Counseling studies. She has extensive experience working in reproductive health including counseling young people, parents and religious leaders on sexual diversity and training health care providers on how to be sensitive to the needs of LGBTI people.

Caroline has vast training experience including being US Peace Corps Pre service Technical Trainer in more than 10 countries. She is well-known as “Aunty” on radio, TV and church programs for sexual and reproductive health in Zimbabwe and is a member of the Board of Trustees for White Ribbon Alliance Zimbabwe.

Elman Nsinda, Uganda

A journalist and advocate for women’s and children’s health and rights, Elman Nsinda has been involved in safe motherhood advocacy campaigns across the Uganda to ensure that needless deaths of mothers and newborns are prevented. Elman is a trained White Ribbon Alliance citizen journalist and volunteer.

George Nkhoma, Malawi

George Nkhoma is a passionate midwife and manager at Chitipa District Hospital in Malawi. His interest in midwifery grew from personal experience in that his mother lost her life giving birth to him.

Throughout his career, George has demonstrated strong leadership. In 2014, he was voted the best midwife manager for the district, and regional coordinator (north) for the Association of Malawian Midwives (AMAMI). In 2015, AMAMI nominated him to attend a reproductive health and rights advocacy meeting in Kampala, Uganda. Later that year, he was nominated by Commonwealth to attend the Heads of Governments meeting in Malta following recognition of his efforts in advocating against child, early and forced marriages.