The first in a series of traditional wayang shadow puppet performances was held recently in Yogyakarta, loaded with messages to promote family planning among grass-roots people in Javanese-speaking regions.
The first of the performances was held on Saturday evening in Yogyakarta and two performances are scheduled to follow in Salatiga and Wonogiri, both in the neighboring province of Central Java.
"We have started discussing the programs for next year," said Todd Callahan, the country director of DKT Indonesia, a large producer of contraceptive devices, which organized the performance together with the association of Indonesian puppeteers (Pepadi).
Through the wayang shows, DKT Indonesia is aiming to promote the use of the intra-uterine contraceptive devices (IUD), described as the most effective yet economical contraception method in the world.
"It's cheap and safe to insert, and can last up to 10 years," Callahan said on Saturday evening, prior to the opening of the show.
Most family planning members in Indonesia prefer short-term contraceptives such as pills or condoms, while IUD users account for only about 4 percent, he said. Currently there are some 160 million IUD users worldwide.
A public awareness campaign is needed urgently to remind the public about the family planning program, especially since the number of acceptors had only increased slightly over the last few years, DKT Indonesia brand manager Aditya Anugrah Putra said.
Quoting a survey, he said among Indonesia's population of married women of reproductive ages (between 15 and 49 years), 56 percent were modern-contraception users in 2003. However, this figure had only increased to 57 percent in 2007.
"In fact, to make a family planning program effective in controlling population growth, the prevalence rate must be at least 80 percent," Aditya said. Senior puppeteer Ki Sugito Purbo Carito, of Purwokerto, Central Java, performed the night-long performance on Saturday, taking the story of Abiyoso Jumeneng Noto (Abiyoso crowned as king), which carries the moral message "you reap what you sow".
The show was full of messages on family planning, especially in the humorous Limbuk-Cangik and Goro-goro scenes, which also presented noted local comedian Yu Beruk as a guest performer for direct interactions with puppet characters.
"There was no family planning program in my time. That's why I have 13 children of my own," said the 69-year-old Sugito, who is also the father of pop singer Mayangsari, through the voice of Limbuk, a character in the show.
"So I can now say, don't follow my example," said Sugito, who really does have 13 children and 29 grandchildren.