Siska Nurfitryani, EBPP Youth Facilitator
There was excitement among EBPP students and staff on Thursday 9th March as we welcomed Ms Kristen Woolf, Vice President, Programs EMpower Foundation and Ms Kundhavi Balachandran, Program Office for South and Southeast Asia, who were eager to hear directly from our EMpower participants about their experiences in EMpower program as we prepare to start our 8th year of EMpower sponsored youth empowerment programs.
After brief discussions in our Ban office, when David used EBPP GIS maps to familiarise them with Ban village geography, access routes, infrastructure, EBPP schools’ locations, etc., we took Kristen and Kundhavi to Pengalusan and Bunga Schools to meet our EMpower students and adult participants of the Photovoices Expansion program
In the schools, all students confidently introduced themselves, their hobbies and dream job to Kristen and Kundhavi and shared what they learned in EMpower classes. In Pengalusan, Tiara, 10th Grade, said “I am happy that my friend and I made a short film about CEFM (child marriage) in EMpower creative projects since there are still a few CEFM cases in our village and we want to raise people’s awareness through the video. While in Bunga, one of our high school students shared her experience when she refused her boyfriend’s proposal to marry him and her neighbour gossiped about her due to her rejection, but she persists to continue her study - and luckily, her parents continue supporting her goals, despite the neighbours’ gossip.
On 10th March, we went to Manikaji and Darmaji schools, where in Darmaji School, Kristen and Kundhavi were amazed when hearing that students and customary village members actively collaborated to ratify the customary law (pararem), to stop CEFM. Kristen emphasised the importance of having role models for the students, and intergenerational collaboration, to gradually initiate change within the communities. Kundhavi added that EBPP students can be a role model to influence another customary village in Ban. •