Breaking The Taboo: Women’s Health In Indonesia

The Main Issue: The Lack of Resources & Education

An issue that women in rural areas of Indonesia face is the fact that they have very little to almost no access to sexual health and education as well as physical resources (pads, tampons, contraception, recovery). Women in Indonesia alone, have very little rights/choice over their own body because of the culture here, but even in that case, it’s still necessary that even in a Third World Country where people are struggling to get food, water, housing, etc. Women still need to have access to contraceptive methods, and feminine hygiene products, as a necessity to being a female.

Lack Of Resources

  • As a result of many women in Indonesia’s lack of access to the necessities and resources needed for menstrual hygiene, women are often found being unaware and using unsafe methods of contraception, or not using it at all. As well as being faced with the uncomfortable situation of getting their period every month and either not knowing what to do or using unsafe methods to help, it’s said in some rural areas women and girls make do with old rags, dry grass, paper, corn husks, whatever they can find, causing infections and not proper treatment. Sometimes they use nothing at all. This lack of resources leads to the next issue, because of not having proper resources, a lot of young women don’t go to school when they get their period. They miss school, fall behind, then drop out because they can’t keep up.  
  • Your period can last for up to 10 days, and for some girls even more and to leave school for 10 days every month, is a lot. Because women drop out of school, they marry young, losing their chance to break out of the poverty cycle.
  • In 2016 alone, 14% got married under the age of 18 but this is the only research from places we have access to, its estimated with even more rural areas in Indonesia harder to get to it could be up to 35% of girls in Indonesia married under the age of 18.

Lack Of Education

  • Many places around the world have realized this, but the key to having things work correctly and people be safe is education. Without education, you don’t know what you’re facing or how you should approach or deal with these situations.
  • Indonesia has very little to no sexual education in schools, because of the taboo around sex and puberty. Often times, it is ignored, and in more extreme cases, like the case that around 60 million women, or half of the women in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority, found themselves in, undergoing Female Genital Mutilation or “FGM”. Of course, this is in extreme cases, but it still does happen. The Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI), has been advocating in Indonesia for sexual education for children in Indonesian schools since 1999.
  • The reason for the need for education being parents either neglecting “the talk” or not giving correct information on the topic. It’s a very pressing issue, and no long can be treated as taboo, especially when this lack of education is causing girls to drop out, or face extreme medical issues from infections and improper treatment. Another critical issue in Indonesia many women face is sexual abuse, In 2015, 44 gang rape cases were reported; nine victims died. Last year the number was almost double, with 82 incidents recorded. Now coming into 2017, as of March, Indonesia has already seen 26 gang rapes, in which three victims succumbed to their injuries. 16% of all rape cases are age 14 and under. Obviously, nobody can stop sexual assault and rape altogether, it’s a disturbing tragedy that so many women around the world face, but with proper education on how to escape these situations, who to call for help, and girls having access to self-defence units in schools either in health classes or PE or an extracurricular, or even free classes, many horrible situations could be avoided.


The Survey  Results: 

I sent out a survey to some of my female classmates at Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS) about how fortunate they are compared to women in rural areas, how much sexual health education benefited them and even asked them about what we, as women in Jakarta could do to help. Here are the responses & data:

I then asked the question, “What can we as women in Indonesia do to help women in rural areas who need to learn & have easier access to these necessities?” & Here are some of the responses:


From these replies, we can draw conclusions that:

  1. We at JIS are very fortunate to have health classes that care for us and give us information that WILL help us
  2. We’re all very fortunate girls
  3. To change, we all understand that we need money and education.

Now that you’ve seen what people at my school have said, give your opinion and share with me what your school has provided for students:



The Formation Of A Club: 

I realized while creating this project, that a great way to catalyze change at my school, could be starting a club. As explained in the video below, a couple friends and I got in contact with our service advisor, and of course, in contact with places that we will be helping. Here is a video with an introduction to our club:

So, as explained in the video these are the 3 amazing girls starting the club with me.

(In the picture above) Catalina Penenory, Caroline Becker, Emily Hellam and Ella Hopp (Myself)

The girls we will be working with are in an all girls orphanage in Indonesia that face issues with funding for women’s products. Most the issues they face with buying so many feminine products is often presented during Indonesia’s Wet season/Monsoon Season, wherein this season there are constant floods in less developed parts of Indonesia, these floods cause school to take days off, families to loose homes, products, and destroy Kampungs (small Indonesian villages). This flooding season lasts from May to September and with our club, we plan to help a lot with this season providing feminine care packages to make up for anything lost, as well as year round just providing for the orphanages (as stated in the video) pads and any other necessary feminine needs.


The Plan For Our Club

Starting the club with just us four this year, we plan to visit the orphanage at least a couple times before the school year ends. Once we’ve gone in and got an understanding of the girls, by doing some simple games and getting to know them a bit. We plan to then talk to the caretakers of the girls in the orphanage, and make sure they understand what we are doing and ask what they prefer and/or need. Once we’ve gone enough times and know exactly what we’re doing we’ll begin slowly taking in members and starting to fundraise. With fundraising, we all agree to start small with bake sales and eventually work our way up to making shirts with our club name to help with the issue we’re facing of taking away the ‘taboo’ around feminine hygiene.



The Future of the Club

Furthermore, in the coming year our service advisor even talked to us about making a trip out to Kalimantan to help with girls living in the Kampungs there are Yayasan Usaha Mulia (YUM). Yayasan Usaha Mulia (YUM) is a non-profit organization that works to improve the quality of life of the poor in Indonesia. Yayasan Usaha Mulia (YUM) has worked for a while with families in poverty in Indonesia helping provide in hopes to stop the cycle of poverty. We eventually, plan to work with them on some of their health check-ups and health projects. Helping with mainly feminine hygiene. This could be working with women who are soon having babies, or even had babies and are recovering. As well as giving talks and care packages to teenage girls and younger women.


What Are These “Feminine Care Packages”? 

What we plan to make are “Feminine Care Packages” for the girls in the orphanages, our idea was originally taken from a SexEd Rescue’s website about making a care package for your daughters first period, of course, we’ll be slightly editing this idea because these girls are not our daughters, but the basic idea is still there, we want to create something practical and beneficial to the girls. Heres basically what it will consist of:

What Else We Plan On Bringing: Self Defense Lessons 

Another thing we plan to do with our club is cover consent and self-defense. Eventually, once comfortable with the children we want to go over self-defense. In the Indonesian, May 2016 Crime & Saftey report In Indonesia alone, of 56 rapes, and in Indonesia 16% of all rape cases are age 14 and under. Because of this unfortunate reality that young women face in Indonesia, we think it would be a smart idea to introduce self-defense. In one of our PE units at our school, we did self-defense and My friends/fellow club members and I think it would be highly beneficial to talk to our health teachers and form a lesson we can perform for these girls to help them in an unsafe situation if they ever find themselves in one.



In conclusion, I really do think that my friends and I can make somewhat of a difference in our school and in these Indonesian orphanages and possibly in the future, kampungs outside Jakarta. With our feminine care packages, orphanage visits, health check-ups, fundraising, and eventually self-defense lessons. I’m excited to start the club and actually go out to these places. I’m also so glad to have realized how passionate I am about this topic and how amazing it is to share that passion with my friends.



Works Cited:

“Indonesia.” Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch, 06 Jan. 2017. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.

Brides, Girls Not. “Indonesia – Child Marriage Around The World. Girls Not Brides.” Girls Not Brides. UNICEF Girls Not Brides, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.

Indonesia, UNICEF. “Wins4Girls: Voices from the Field – Improving Menstrual Hygiene Management in Schools.” UNICEF Indonesia. N.p., 3 Nov. 2015. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.

Sommer, Marni. “Menstrual Hygiene Management in Humanitarian Emergencies: Gaps and Recommendations.” Waterlines 31.1 (2012): 83-104. Burnet Institute, Feb. 2015. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.

Yosephine, Liza. “Sex Education Must Be Taught in Schools: Child Protection Commission.”The Jakarta Post. The Jakarta Post, 26 May 2016. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.

Meiwita Budiharsana Lecturer at the Department of Public Health , University of Indonesia. “Female Genital Cutting Common in Indonesia, Offered as Part of Child Delivery by Birth Clinics.” The Conversation. N.p., 30 Mar. 2017. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.

“Yayasan Usaha Mulia – Empowering Indonesian Lives and Communities for over 40 Years.”Yayasan Usaha Mulia. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

“Indonesia 2016 Crime & Safety Report: Jakarta.” OSAC. N.p., 2 May 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

“SexEd Library- Lesson Plans for Every Topic and Everyone.” SexEd Library – Lesson Plans for Every Topic and Everyone. SIECUS, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.


Images Cited:

SOCIAL GIVING. Digital image. VizCam. VizCam, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

PENCIL CASE CANVAS POLKA DOT BLACK. Digital image. Miss Lulu. Miss Lulu, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

Krantz, Linda. BEST BABY WIPES. Digital image. Throughly Reviewed. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

Bath and Body Works Island Breeze Antibacterial Sanitizer. Digital image. Makeup Alley. MUA Inc., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

TOM Oxygen Releasing Pads Preview with Photos. Digital image. The Period Blog. Girl Brite Learning Company, 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.






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