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Capturing Stories from The Unforgotten

by M I Rani Adityasari


"Indramayu is known for the term ‘young widows from Indramayu’. I want to change it to ‘young scholars from Indramayu’."


Anggita Helieosinova, the Youth Reproductive Health Program Coordinator from the Yayasan Kusuma Bongas, stated firmly. She was one of the participants in the training for facilitators organized by Photovoices International (PVI) in collaboration with the Yayasan Kusuma Buana (YKB), held from May 7-11, 2024, in Subang, West Java.

Bongas is a sub-district in Indramayu Regency, West Java, known as a region where many residents work as sex workers. Anggit continued that in Indramayu, the rates of child marriage, divorce, unwanted pregnancies, and human trafficking are quite high. And all of this is exacerbated by and interconnected  to the lack of information about reproductive health.


Yayasan Kusuma Bongas (YK Bongas) is a partner of YKB (Yayasan Kusuma Buana). YKB, established in 1981, initially focused on family planning programs and then expanded to reproductive health issues. Since 1993, YKB has been supporting the Bongas community. " We found that many young sex workers came from Bongas as a result of teenage marriage and divorce, and the lack of educational opportunities,," explained Shita Mumpuningdyah, Program Director of the Yayasan Kusuma Buana.


In 1993, YKB developed a program that addressed human trafficking issues and established open schools. "At this time, professions like sex workers in Bongas are considered a tradition. Breaking this chain is quite difficult because this profession is not viewed negatively. Even the parents themselves take their daughters to the agents," explained Nono Taryono, an administrative staff member of the Kusuma Bongas Foundation who also assists victims of human trafficking.


During the five-day training with PVI, the participants, who were field facilitators from YKB and YK Bongas, shared stories and experiences of their work, including support for commercial sex workers, people with HIV/AIDS, school youth, and marginalized communities such as motorcycle gangs.



Sharing knowledge. Participants from Yayasan Kusuma Buana and Yayasan Kusuma Bongas take group pictures with PVI’s facilitators. The five-day training was considered enlightening for both the participants and the facilitators.(©Rani Adityasari/PVI)


Trial. Participants from Yayasan Kusuma Buana and Yayasan Kusuma Bongas are practicing photography techniques using mobile phone camera features. A mobile phone can also be a tool to produce powerful images and amplify the voices of the community. (©Rani Adityasari/PVI)




Issues mapping. During the training, facilitators from Yayasan Kusuma Buana and Yayasan Kusuma Bongas identify issues and conduct risk analysis to apply in their work. The participants identified four main issues: reproductive health, unwanted pregnancies, human trafficking, and the role of parents.


The support provided by YKB together with its partner, YK Bongas, has gradually yielded results. The trend is starting to change. This is also supported by improved road infrastructure, and increased job opportunities in the surrounding area. These changes allow the grip of poverty to loosen with the availability of formal job opportunities around the village. Educational facilities are now widely available, whereas previously schools were only found in the city.


"The reproductive health program has been running for eight years and contributed to decrease the  number of people with HIV and unwanted pregnancies. And the Photovoices method will complement our work and how we conduct advocacy. We are currently in the phasing out stage, and hopefully, through this method, stakeholders and policymakers can hear our aspirations as well as the aspirations of the people we work with. At the very least, they can take over from what we have done. Our hope is that the needs of people with HIV/AIDS, or reproductive health education for teenagers can be facilitated," explained Shita.


Discussions about reproductive health in Indonesia are often still a taboo topic that can only be discussed in certain settings and with specific groups. However, the lack of knowledge about this hinders children and teenagers, as well as marginalized groups such as sex workers and people with HIV, from being able to protect their health for their future.

"Marginalized groups, like people with HIV/AIDS or motorcycle communities, are just like us. They are not as dangerous as we think. The stigmas that exist in society about them are not all true. When they are ostracized and discriminated against, I think it's inhumane. If we interact with them, we can absorb their aspirations. Because basically, they are just like us," explained Ade Nur Kapsah, Youth Reproductive Health Field Coordinator at Yayasan Kusuma Bongas.


The training participants also hope that the stigma of young widows from Indramayu can change. "Bongas has the opportunity and capability to solve the problems in Bongas. The issues occurring in Bongas can only be solved by the people of Bongas. With the Photovoices method, there is a great opportunity for Bongas to accept  and be able to implement this program and address the problems in Bongas. Photography is something magical that we can use for various things. What we see and hear, we can change it through photos," concluded Anggit.


 

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