Bubble Chat - Gemilang Sehat
Bubble Chat - Gemilang Sehat
Bubble Chat - Gemilang Sehat

The Struggle of Adolescent:
From Facing Various Changes
to the Search for a Safe Space

Teenager - SETARA Rutgers Indonesia
Seat - Gemilang Sehat
Plant - Gemilang Sehat

Entering her teenage years, Donna (15) experienced a lot of changes in her life; starting from physical, hormonal, and emotional changes, as well as finding herself amidst various problems. This girl from Lampung then gradually learned to make sense of the changes happening to her, including how to adapt to these changes.

Shadow Dark - Gemilang Sehat
Quote Organ - Gemilang Sehat
Quote Menstruasi - Gemilang Sehat
Quote Mood - Gemilang Sehat
Teen Story - Fadiyah

Conversations about these changes were started by her mother after she experienced her first period. Back then, Dona was still a first-year student at an intermediate school (Sekolah Menengah Pertama or SMP). The information she had at that time wasn’t sufficient to quench her thirst for knowledge, especially regarding the complex changes happening to her.

“Yes (there are various changes), for sure the body shape changes; and then, what else, the emotional [change] is really important, if you are asking me. Back then [I] wasn’t able to control it,” as Donna told us while reminiscing about her early days of puberty.

At the same time, Donna’s school was chosen as one of the school that would implement the SETARA program; a program involving the use of a module – SETARA module – which contains explanation and learning about puberty, including matters related to reproductive health (kespro) for youth. With the aid of this program, Donna was no longer moving aimlessly in her attempt to understand her development. Just like a compass, the knowledge from the SETARA program guided her in finding her own path.

Donna - Cerita SETARA

“The thing that I remember is [the learning] about emotion, about puberty. The SETARA module teaches us how to control our emotions. I think this is a very important topic. You see, no one will teach us about that, and trying to find knowledge about it on the internet is too tiresome. But since it was taught at school, it entered my brain, […] and then we utilized some games too, it makes the whole process exciting,” according to Donna.

“Back then I couldn’t control it [my emotion]. Now I’m a senior high school student, and I’m not as grumpy as I used to be,” she explained.

Cerita SETARA Rahman - Gemilang Sehat
CM - Gemilang Sehat

Similar change was also felt by Rahman (16), a youth from Lampung. Rahman, who is also actively involved in the boy scout, explained that there have been several physical changes occuring, which makes him and his friends curious. However, learning about reproductive health made him realize that what he is experiencing is normal, including the wet dreams.

Cermin - Gemilang Sehat
Rama - SETARA Stories
Even so, according to Rahman, knowledge related to reproductive health should ideally be provided at an earlier age. The reason is, there are several changes or signs of puberty that start to show up even when the child is still at elementary school-age. “My hope is that SETARA [program] will be given to those younger than intermediate school-age,” Rahman stated. Curiosity reaches its peak when entering puberty. At least that’s what was experienced by Rama (15), a youth from Semarang. An example of a question that was once asked by Rama and his friends is, “you can get pregnant and give birth when dating someone, why? How (to get pregnant)?”.

“Women’s reproductive (system) is confusing, so is with menstruation, and then when it comes to boys, why do we experience breakouts (acnes)? Why? Why is Adam’s apple growing? How?” Rama continued.

For Rama, step-by-step and thorough learning are important elements in the effort to educate both himself and his friends. Now, some of his questions have been gradually answered one-by-one. Even so, the learning process continues.

“I’m happy that my unanswered questions are now starting to get answered. […] We need to let others know. We need to perceive these (topics) as positive, instead of negative,” he stated.

Heart Light Pink - Gemilang Sehat
Heart Light Pink - Gemilang Sehat
Heart Light Pink - Gemilang Sehat
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Donna Story

Peers’ Roles

Aside from the learning obtained at school, peers have an integral role in shaping adolescents’ life choices. This was mentioned by Donna, as she learned a lot from her peers. Donna has a small circle of friends when she was enrolled in the intermediate school, she also has a circle of friends during her high school years (SMA). One of the topics that was oftentimes discussed within her circle is romantic relationships; as they are growing up together and started to fall in love with others.
Donna Setara - Gemilang Sehat

“We are teenagers, of course we talk about boys,” Donna told us.

Heart Pink - Gemilang Sehat
Heart Pink - Gemilang Sehat
Heart Pink - Gemilang Sehat
Donna and Friend
At the same time, Donna and her peers tried to learn and understand the characteristics that they are looking for from a partner; and also what constitutes a healthy relationship. In the SETARA module, one of the topics discussed is healthy, or nontoxic relationships. Donna stated that knowledge regarding healthy relationships is one of the most important knowledge and she and her friends should have acquired. The reason, according to Donna, is because when you want to talk about matters related to romantic relationships, you’ll go to your peers first. Thus, if your peers are able to identify signs of a toxic relationship from your story, they’ll be the first to remind you of that.
Shadow Dark - Gemilang Sehat
Even so, accompanying friends that are entangled in a toxic relationship is not an easy task, according to Donna. Thus, further learning on this topic of relationships needs to be carried out in detail.   “(If) one of my friends is suffering from a toxic relationship, and we give her our advice, in the evening she breaks up [with her boyfriend] but on the next day, they are back in a relationship. I’m confused about the kind of advice that we should give to her.” Donna explained.
Donna dan teman 2 - Gemilang Sehat
Plant - Gemilang Sehat
Seat - Gemilang Sehat
Aside from that, Donna mentioned that knowledge related to sexual relations needs to be studied by and disseminated further among teenagers; due to the high prevalence of unwanted pregnancy cases in her community. As shown in the data from The Indonesian National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN), the number of unwanted pregnancy cases is indeed, high (420.000) and is increasing by 17.5% during the pandemic. Around 16% of those cases happened to girls aged 15 to 19 years old. “Because a lot of people don’t know, it’s a gray area, it’s not that clear,” Donna said.


Unwanted Pregnancy


in the COVID-19 pandemic


15 - 19
Years Old

Eva Cerita SETARA - Gemilang Sehat
Similar tale was told by Eva (14) from Denpasar. In her social environment, romantic relationships have become one of the most discussed topics. Eva, who dreams to be a teacher, feels that it’s important for young people to understand the boundaries of a healthy relationship. The reason is because she has seen cases of toxic relationships happening in front of her eyes, from within her community. “The goal of dating is to support each other, to be happy, why do so if they end up being unhappy?,” Eva explained.
For Eva, a healthy relationship should be based on the principles of equality and open communication. When the relationship is tainted with violence and does no longer bring happiness, it can be said that the relationship is toxic. However, according to Eva, discussions regarding these characteristics of relationships need to be made concise and clear, so that it’s easier for the teenagers to understand it. Discussions about reproductive health, as well as the limits of romantic and sexual relationships that Eva learned from school became important resources for her. She is now more aware of the kind of boundaries that need to be kept in a relationship, to prevent a series of reproductive health problems that could happen to adolescents.
Eva 3 Cerita SETARA - Gemilang Sehat

“I’m glad I obtained positive knowledge, and I’m getting wiser [older]. I think I’m lucky that I learned about reproductive health at school because not all of us could take part in this SETARA initiative. This knowledge is important for our future, that helps guide us to the correct path in the future,” said Eva.

“So if we don’t learn about this now, we might make mistakes in the future. Then, to prevent us from doing something that we might regret in the future […] to obtain more knowledge in the future, to protect ourselves,” she continued.

Break the Taboo
on Sexuality Education

Hetty, a 14 years old girl from Semarang was facing a different situation instead. Hetty is one of the peer educators, a student tasked with teaching SETARA materials to fellow students at their respective schools.

Hetty mentioned that one of the most difficult challenges that comes with conveying information regarding reproductive health or sexual education for her friends is how her community sees her; starting from her parents to her peers, who think that discussing such matter is considered to be a taboo.

“Usually the challenge is that (the topic is) underestimated, dismissed as something that is not important, something that shouldn’t be learned, it’s saru (gray),” Hetty said.

Edukasi Seksual
Hetty - SETARA Story
Dotted Quoted - Gemilang Sehat
Zoom Meeting 2 - Cerita SETARA
Zoom Meeting - SETARA Stories
However, with the help of the school and her teacher, Hetty and her friends are able to continue opening up discussion spaces at school to talk about these topics; as well as opening up online spaces, starting from WhatsApp groups, Zoom, Google Meet, to social media. One of the positive impacts that Hetty experienced after she and her friends were able to dismantle the wall of taboo regarding the discussion on reproductive health is the dissemination of information that has become easier. Moreover, the students who had been harboring problems for so long were able to open up and exchange important information, such as information on health and reproductive care. “There are those who thought that we shouldn’t talk about this, but now they are telling us their stories, for example their experiences during menstruation,” Hetty told us.

Helping to Reduce
the Prevalence of
Sexual Harassment

Hetty also observed another impact happening: an increase in understanding regarding sensitive body parts; including the boundaries of physical touch, which body parts that others are allowed to touch and which parts that others are not allowed to. When teenagers start to understand about this physical boundaries, they’ll naturally learn about sexual harassment and violence as well. Understanding of sexual harassment, according to Hetty, makes teenager more aware of cases of harassment happening towards them.

Cerita Hetty Rutgers Indonesia - Gemilang Sehat

“Now they know. For example, someone asks them to do something, now they can say ‘no’ because they know what it means. Then, for example, in public spaces, if someone touches their thighs, they can say ‘don’t do that, it’s harassment,’” Hetty explained.

Hetty hopes that this might help in reducing the number of sexual violence cases among teenagers, as well as encouraging them to make a report if they end up becoming a victim of sexual violence. “Because the number of sexual violence cases is still high. So this is really important, to avoid things that we don’t want to happen; such as harassment, including from teachers to students,” Hetty underlined.

This is also reflected in National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) Annual Note (2019) which shows that there were at least 2341 cases of violence agains girls, of which 571 were cases of sexual violence.

blue paper - Gemilang Sehat

Annual Notes
Komnas Perempuan
Year 2019

2341 Cases

Against Girls

571 Cases

Sexual Violence
Against Girls

The Importance
of Expanding >br> Safe Spaces

Rio (15), a non-binary individual from Denpasar, was one of the students who received the SETARA training. After learning and realizing how important the understanding of reproductive health is, especially when it comes to sexual violence, gender diversity and sexuality, Rio took part in disseminating the information. The medium that Rio chose is social media, specifically Instagram.

Safe Space - Rutgers Indonesia
Rio considers that the dissemination of accurate information regarding these issues is important for teenagers. This is due to the rampant spread of misinformation, both in Rio’s community and in the online setting. “One of which is, for example, the gender stereotype, that boys should do this and girls should do that instead. When I was in elementary school, I heard that really often,” Rio explained. But, in the process of publishing those contents, Rio stumbled upon several challenges. One of the challenges faced by Rio, a youth who loves to draw and make graphic designs, is the amount of mockery he received, and how he was excluded in the social media; especially through negative comments or making fun of the information that he provided.
Rio Story  - SETARA Stories

“When discussing sexual violence at school, I briefly mentioned about teenager’s understanding regarding the topic, regarding sexual violence, and what’s weird is that, I got a lot of comments, but they were making fun of the discussion,” Rio told us.

But, in the process of publishing those contents, Rio stumbled upon several challenges. One of the challenges faced by Rio, a youth who loves to draw and make graphic designs, is the amount of mockery he received, and how he was excluded in the social media; especially through negative comments or making fun of the information that he provided.

Safe Space 2 - Rutgers Indonesia

Rio hopes that the SETARA program will continuously be expanded and for the discussion to be enriched as well. Personally, Rio thinks that there are several topics that must be discussed in-depth, namely the topics on gender-based violence, sexuality, and gender identity.

Copyrights © Yayasan Gemilang Sehat Indonesia


30 June 2022
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