A little while ago, my NGO, SAPDA, created an inclusion youth camp (Youth Camp Inklusi) for youth with and without disabilities in Jember, East Java. SAPDA – Sentra Advokasi Perempuan, Difabel, dan Anak – is an advocacy center for people with disabilites with a focus on women and children. Throughout the youth camp, participants learned about sexual and reproductive health (kespro), different types of disabilities, self-identity, and strategies for creating advocacy media that is accessible for anyone to view. The participants left the weekend better equipped to act as an agents for change to fight stigmas against kespro and disabilities in their own communities.
Workshops were conducted with hands-on and engaging lessons, usually involving creating a poster and presentation so that each group could share their brainstorming and ideas. This taught participants not only about the actual material topics – kespro and disabilities – but also included important skills like teamwork, public speaking, and techniques for effective inclusion, as everyone had to play a part in creating the demonstration. Lesson topics included reproductive organs, healthy relationships, types of disabilities, defining self-identity, and many more.
For me, one of the most successful aspects of SAPDA’s youth camp was the way in which it began to break down the stigmas and taboos surrounding the sensitive topics participants were discussing. After two days of intensive workshops, participants were much more comfortable talking about reproduction, safe relationships, and consent. Generally in Indonesia, these topics are extremely taboo and this can lead to youth becoming victims of sexual assault and abuse in relationships. According to one SAPDA survey of youth with disabilities, only 14.7% of respondents were knowledgeable about sexually transmitted diseases, and only 26.3% understood safe sex. The disabled community is at even greater risks of sexual exploitation and assault because of the lack of knowledge they are provided about their own bodies and kespro. They are just as sexually diverse and interested in love as the rest of the population, and it is dangerous and unjust to not educate this community about how to stay healthy and safe while navigating relationships and sexual encounters.
Another success was in mainstreaming disability. Participants, both with and without disabilities, were working together throughout all the workshops in creating impressive final products. A challenge given to the participants was that everyone had to participate in creating said presentations, so participants had the opportunity to practice other methods of communication aside from just speech in order to achieve a common goal. For example, hearing participants learned basic sign language in order to communicate with youth who were deaf; participants who were low-vision or blind helped with shading a poster by being shown where to color and having the pictures described to them. Participants ended SAPDA’s Youth Camp with new friends with and without disabilities, which is a large success in itself. Participants with disabilities were welcomed into the community and were able to participate in all workshops and lessons. The participants’ enthusiasm for learning about these important topics was inspiring, especially as youth are and can be extremely impactful agents of change.
SAPDA’s Youth Camp Inklusi was educational, meaningful, and also a lot of fun. From lessons on creating accessible media to Saturday night sing-alongs and a talent show, everyone finished the event more informed on the importance of disability rights and kespro, as well as were inspired to make in impact in fighting stigmas around these topics in the greater Indonesia community. Teaching about inclusivity and personal rights is an effective way to create a more tolerant and accepting society, country, and world.