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Getting Teens To Talk About Tricky Subjects
Wednesday, 18 October, 2017 | 15:36 WIB
Getting Teens To Talk About Tricky Subjects

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - A lack of access to information has exposed Indonesian youths to great risks, among them teen pregnancy, the smoking habit, and illegal substance abuse. The Tenggara Community in East Nusa Tenggara is raising awareness on reproductive health among youths, answering their questions on social media and a radio show. Meanwhile, the health office of the Dharmasraya Regency in West Sumatra has launched an integrated health services post (Posyandu) to deliver routine counseling and workshops, to help steer teens away from risky behavior. This month, Indonesia commemorates Youth Pledge Day to remind us of the important place occupied by youths in the country’s history. Tempo English reports.


Discussing sexuality on Social Media


Kupang’s Tenggara Community promotes awareness on reproductive health and responsible dating among teens. Social media and the radio has turned out to be effective.


Every day, Maria Yunita H. Opat listens to the stories and grievances of Kupang teens. "From annoying friends, bullying in school, violence in dating, to reproductive health issues," said the 25-year-old woman.


These stories are not shared face-to-face, but rather through the Tenggara Community’s Facebook account. Christina Aprilia Ningsih, a 17-year-old senior at the Kefamenanu I State High School, for example, has shared stories about her schoolmate who was physically abused in her relationship. Christina asked for Tenggara’s advice through Facebook Messenger.


Within hours, Tata-as Maria is usually called-responded to her story and asked Christina to explain her friend’s psychological state. Tata suggested Christina keep her advice casual, and avoid lecturing or making it seem like she was interfering too much. "Tenggara is quick to respond and makes me feel someone is listening, so I feel comfortable about sharing stories," said Christina. 


Although Tata is not a psychologist, she knows how to respond to teenagers. A veterinary graduate from the Nusa Cendana University in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), Tata loves to be attentive to stories and the questions raised by Tenggara Community’s hundreds of members on Facebook. Members range in age between 11 to 21-years old and most live in Kupang. "I try to act like a close friend who listens and gives suggestions," said Tata.


Being a youth counselor is only one of Tata’s many duties in Tenggara. Along with other Tenggara volunteers, Tata raises awareness on reproductive health, premarital sex, and how to handle bullying. They present the topics on social media platforms popular with young people. Besides Facebook and Instagram, Tata also has a radio show called For Youth Information (FYI) on the Suara Kupang FM radio.


Tenggara, short for Tempat Gabungnya Gerakan Remaja (the hangout space for young people), is not alone in its work. NTT’s AIDS Mitigation Commission (KPA) supports Tenggara’s drive, particularly because a number of studies suggest that risky sexual behavior is on the rise among Kupang youths. According to NTT KPA Chair Gusti Brewon, a study they conducted in 2003 revealed that 18 percent of Kupang youths had had premarital sex. The study also indicated that 3,000 out of 5,000 people infected with HIV/AIDS were within the 25 - 40 age group. 


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