I’m Fabrianna Natasha, a Child Protection Officer with the CWS Protecting Urban Refugees through Empowerment (PURE) project. I work in Jakarta, Indonesia. Recently I had the opportunity to join a virtual gathering about A Decade of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children. The event was organized by the ASEAN Studies Center. The Netherlands Embassy in Jakarta and the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development were co-organizers. Several CWS colleagues who work with me in the PURE+ project and I joined the YouTube live-streamed event.
Right at the start of the meeting, one speaker got my attention when she said, “gender inequality will continue in our lifetime and that of our children”. One reason she cited was the language the media uses to portray gender-based inequality. She said it shows that reporters still lack correct information and knowledge regarding issues of gender bias, discrimination and harm. She noted that media, in fact, helps perpetuate harmful stereotypes.
Another speaker mentioned the need to enhance public awareness about the rights of women and children. Many people in Asian civil society groups, some government entities and UN agencies among others have been saying this for decades. And, in many cases, they have acted. Still new public campaigns are needed to reach more people.
As the webinar continued, and while I found it interesting, I also felt an urgent need for practical action. So, I multi-tasked a bit. I started planning a virtual awareness raising campaign about the rights of women and children for refugees living in Jakarta.
Refugee parents are often reluctant to try to enroll their children in Jakarta’s public schools because the children face significant hurdles. A key issue is their lack of Indonesian language skills. In response, with support from one longtime CWS partner, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, this is something my colleagues and are addressing.
Another reason some parents don’t prioritize school for their children is that think that they will be in Indonesia only temporarily. So, they think that enrolling their children in Indonesian schools has no practical value. In reality most refugees must wait years to be resettled. And many will never be resettled ever. In a recent CWS report, it was noted that only 4.5% of nearly 1.5 million refugees and asylum seekers worldwide are resettled permanently in a new country. Since my colleagues and I know this well, our campaign will focus on the importance of formal early grades education for both boys and girls. We will work with refugee community leaders to encourage and support refugee parents to enroll their children in local schools while we also work with education ministry and local school leaders to make Jakarta schools welcoming.