Based on an interview with Diah, 14-year-old student in North Jakarta, with Yayasan Sayangi Tunas Cilik, Save the Children’s partner in Indonesia, in conjunction with International Day of Girls which falls on Oct. 11. On Friday, Arsenal and England soccer player Leah Williamson launches the pioneering Coaching for Life program in Jakarta.
I am 14 years old and live in a small, two-room house with eight of my family members, my two sisters, mother, brother and aunts and uncles and a nephew in North Jakarta.
Every day I wake up at 6 a.m. Every day I am busy trying to earn some money to support my family as my father left a few years ago.
My father left us when my oldest brother was in junior high school. I wish my dad cared about me, my mum and younger sister. That’s why I no longer think about my dad.
People said we should not regard him as our father because he never provided support for us.
I work because we need the money I earn to feed my siblings and myself.
I go straight to the market to pick up supplies to sell for the day before I make my way to school not only for my classes, but also to sell snacks to other children.
I started selling things and making money in primary school since I was in third grade. Soon after I set up a kiosk to earn as much as I could to ensure my mother and siblings were happy and safe. I run the kiosk after school and sell things until 9 p.m. I want to give a better life for my family.
I have met so many child laborers. There are so many abandoned children in my neighborhood. Because they are so poor many parents have left home to find work, and the children also have to work to survive.
Sometimes I find it very stressful having to work before and after school and look after my siblings too.
Arsenal soccer player Leah Williamson with Diah, 14, at her home in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Save the Children/Jiro Ose)
I started playing football on the pitches provided by Save the Children and Arsenal Foundation six months ago. I started going so I could have some relief from the stress at home. Not just working but also my siblings’ squabbles!
To start with I wasn’t really good at soccer, but after I joined the Coaching for Life soccer program run by Save the Children and the Arsenal Foundation, my mum said that I am getting better and she can see how much I have improved. Playing soccer makes me really happy. It has given me lots more confidence and made me a stronger girl. So many boys told me I couldn’t play football.
You know, some boys will underestimate girls. They will say, “What are these girls doing by playing football?” I have tried to ask my friends to join me so that the boys will not undervalue us. But no one is willing. That’s why I have to join and play with the boys.
I have made many friends, both boys and girls and it has given me a chance to spend more time with friends my own age and not just at school. It feels like a very safe place too and that is nice. It has also shown me how to deal with some problems I have at home, and how to tackle them straight on. Other girls in the Coaching for Life program have found this too and this makes me very happy!
One of my friends also said that I am being a show-off by playing soccer with the boys. I don’t take them seriously. I feel determined to play even better, because the boys are usually good players and this will be good for us girls, so that even when we grow up men will not underestimate us.
Playing soccer has also given me the confidence and courage to try and change life in Jakarta for other girls in my community. I offered to talk to the government about the issues affecting girls living on the streets and having to work at a young age, and I have asked the deputy of housing in the National Development Planning Ministry to provide houses for them.
In the future, I hope to make my family proud and create a better life not just for them, but for all girls living here.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.