Child’s play: Students in Bongas, Indramayu perform a play on sex trafficking on Dec. 12, at the Bongas Pentil village office in Bongas, Indramayu. NGOs teach children about the perils of the sex industry and their right to education. JP/Prodita Sabarini
In Bongas, one of the main recruiting areas for child sex workers from Indramayu, students are participating in the fight against child trafficking through campaigns on child rights. Kusuma Buana Foundation, an NGO that is working for the elimination of child exploitation, is attempting to stop child trafficking via increased access to education.
Kusuma Buana activist Wisnu Prasadja said that they were trying to use education as an entry point to prevent trafficking.
“Children now have high levels of motivation to continue their studies. They would prefer to stay at school than work,” he said.
The foundation set up an open Junior High School in Bongas in 2003.
The school has about 80 students and three classes have graduated. Through this school, Kusuma Buana is slowly promoting behavioral changes in the community.
Wisnu said that they inform the children of their rights to life, to education, to grow and to participate.
He said Kusuma Buana and it’s local arm Kusuma Bongas Foundation have asked local traffickers to leave the students alone.
They also recently asked the guardians of the students to sign a contract that they would not sell their children to traffickers.
He said they now require the guardian to sign this contract after two of the school’s graduates were trafficked to Jakarta.
“We went to Jakarta and found the girls. But what can we do, the parents already accepted Rp 10 million each. Now, the child are in debt,” he said. The children would have to work to repay the Rp 10 million the parents received.
Asked whether they reported the cases to the police using the 2007 Anti-Human Trafficking Law.
Wisnu said that it was a difficult situation as one of the child’s parents were paralyzed and could not work. “It’s a difficult situation,” he said.
Wisnu said there should be more schools so that students continue their studies after junior high school.
According to Kusuma Buana, drop out students and children who do not continue their studies are prone to trafficking.
This includes children who do not have a birth certificate; are bored with village life; who experience abuse in the household; who have been exposed to consumerism; or think city life is better. All these children are prone to trafficking.
In Bongas district, to prevent fraud in identification of child workers, the local administration added school diploma, besides birth certificate and family card, as a requirement to process an ID card. The officers could then trace whether the person was still a minor or not.
Wisnu said that as of 2008, they had returned 127 people to Indramayu, of which 41 were children. Of the 41 children, 6 have died of AIDS, one child has HIV and another has AIDS. Two of the 86 adults died of AIDS and 6 are now living with HIV.
To prevent students being trafficked, in Bongas, the NGOs work with teachers to monitor students attendance. When a student failed to show up in class after two to three days in a row the school counselor can make home visits to assess the problem.
A Junior high school teacher Heni said that a lot of her students did not show up because of lack of motivation to study. But there were also girls who didn’t show because their parents were going to send them to work.
Despite her attempting to talk the parents out of it, she sometimes failed. “The parents would challenge us and say: ‘Would you take the financial burden of my family then?’” she said.