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Indonesia’s Rivaldo scores for a violence-free future

28 February 2018
After a violent early childhood, Rivaldo Taime (13) helps his family become more functional and peaceful. Photo: Matthew Taylor / UNFPA

 

Like the international football star he’s named after, Rivaldo Taime (13) was born poor, with a rough childhood.

In Jayapura, West Papua, Rivaldo’s hometown in Indonesia’s most far-eastern province, jobs are scarce, infrastructure and services are weak, and many still live in poverty.

Across much of West Papua, traditional attitudes towards family and gender-roles rule, and in many families the oldest sons, like Rivaldo, are expected to play ‘man of the house’ when the father is away.  

Yet for Rivaldo, this took on a harsher meaning, as he was often forced to shield his brother when their dad returned home in one of his whiskey-fuelled rages.

“He used to drink all the time,” recalls Emma (42), Rivaldo’s mother. “He would get home, yell at my children and smash things up.”

“Of course, my husband and my boys weren’t close. They barely even talked,” she adds.

In West Papua, UN research indicates that over 40% of all women and children have suffered violence, and over 33 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 64 experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes.

 

A boy at home in Jayapura, West Papua. Around 40% of women and children experience violence in the lives. Photo: Matthew Taylor / UNFPA

 

Yet in spite of it all, like the Brazilian footballing legend, shy, quiet Rivaldo didn’t give up.

Frightened and forced to grow up fast, he reached out for help through friends, and eventually found a group that works to tackle violence in the community.

Run by the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association, with support from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and Partners for Prevention, an Asia-Pacific initiative, the support group looks deeply at the beliefs and norms that fuel violence against women, through participatory workshops that include lessons, games, discussion and role-plays.

Alongside adolescents, the group also works with caregivers and community and religious leaders to help spread the word and stop violence before it ever starts.

“We learnt about emotional violence, physical and sexual violence,” says Rivaldo. “I also learnt how to calm people down, not to goad them or take them on. This helps us prevent violence.”

 

 

Sharing secrets

 

“My daughter used to hide all sorts of things from me,” says Martina (41) at a group session for caregivers at a Jayapura community centre.

“But here we learn to talk to each other openly, equally as friends, and she shares far more now - about problems at school, about boys and growing up.”

 

Women tackle the roots of gender-based violence at a session for caregivers in Jayapura. Photo: Matthew Taylor / UNFPA

 

West Papua has some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Indonesia, with up to 37 per cent  of women becoming mothers before the age of 18 in some areas. The province also has some of the highest HIV prevalence rates in Indonesia.

“By helping young people and others in the community talk openly about relationships between the sexes, along with sexual and reproductive health and consent, we’re giving them the tools they need to build happy and rewarding relationships for the future,” explains Grace Temongmere, a UNFPA project officer in Jayapura. 

 

An adolescent girl stands in the doorway of her home, a converted shipping container, in Jayapura. Photo: Matthew Taylor / UNFPA

 

Transforming lives

 

Budi Astuti (41) became a group facilitator after solving a problem with violence in her own life.

"The impact [of the training I recieved] was easy to share, because through my own experiences, I understand how they feel," she says. 

“The programme looks at gender issues, including gender-based violence, and also how that links up with the risk of HIV. How all these are connected was interesting for me. But the most important thing was that, by working with other facilitators, by sharing our experiences and what we learnt, I saw my situation differently and changed my own life.”

 

Group facilitator Budi Astuti speaks with a participant in a group session for caregivers in Jayapura. Photo: Matthew Taylor / UNFPA 

 

“Over 14 months, the project has reached 131 adolescents and over 131 caregivers,” explains Michiyo Yamada, who heads the Partners for Prevention programme, which also works in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Papua New Guinea and Viet Nam. 

“By empowering girls, young people and families to communicate more effectively, we’re chipping away at the negative gender-related beliefs that fuel violence against women and girls, and so stopping violence before it even starts.”

According to Yamada, even though the project is winding down, local governments, community leaders and volunteers are determined to keep the groups going.

 

Better futures

 

Back in Jayapura, Rivaldo has finally convinced his dad to join the group sessions with him.

And while home life remains far from perfect, according to Emma, Rivaldo’s mother, it’s now getting far better for everyone.

“My husband still drinks sometimes,” she explains, “but at least now he comes in quietly.”

“After [my husband] joined the programme, [my husband and Rivaldo] share more. They’re much closer and they sit down together and talk things through.”

Susan Maria Ohee (14), who took part in the group with Rivaldo, has a simple message for girls everywhere:
 
"It's important to take care of yourselves. Don't think about marriage first, education comes first, because through an education we can find jobs and then life becomes far easier."

 

Twins play as their mother takes part in a session for care-givers in a church in Jayapura. Photo: Matthew Taylor / UNFPA