Fri, 15 Dec 2000

Campaign launched to shine a light on the plight of children

JAKARTA (JP): The National Social Welfare Agency (BKSN) on Thursday launched a three-month public awareness campaign on the plight of some 50,000 street and abandoned children centered in the country's 12 major cities.

The Rp 2.1 billion drive, titled Ibu, Aku Ingin Pulang (Mother, I Wanna Go Home) will focus on bringing the street children home.

Among the 12 cities are Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya, Medan, Bandar Lampung, Makassar and Mataram.

"We know that it's difficult to change their way of life since many of them are used to obtaining 'easy money' on the street," Minister of Health and Social Welfare/chairman of BKSN Achmad Sujudi told media during the start of the campaign at Mangga Dua area, West Jakarta.

"Bringing those children home is in the sense that they should go back to their parents or existing shelters and receive proper treatment and basic education," Sujudi said.

The public, he said, only realize the problem of street or abandoned children on such days around festive seasons, he said.

"But still the public know so little about them."

The campaign, however, aims to lift public awareness so that people can participate in helping these children get back on the right track.

The program is part of the Social Safety Net scheme for education and social welfare with a loan coming from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Special TV dramas, public awareness advertisements and talk shows will be aired soon through the nation's seven television stations.

A package of six drama episodes of "Ibu, Aku Ingin Pulang", each with a duration of between 30 and 48 minutes, have the titles of Ibu, Aku Ingin Pulang, Bayiku (My Baby), Bagus, Arjuna, Harto and Putra Aji.

Two other upcoming titles are Titie and Sahabat Angin (Friend of Wind).

Most of the films depict the street children's daily activities, behavior, and things that actually happen to them as well as how they struggle to survive.

"There are two kinds of such children. The first are those who really are homeless and the second are children, who actually have homes and parents but they are too preoccupied with being on the street," minister Sujudi said.

The children ended up learning everything from the streets, mostly through violent ways, he said.

"They have not received a basic education and living on the streets has taught them about sex, how to make money, or how to commit crime," Sujudi said.

Most of the children go to shelters run by nongovernment organizations or social groups as the government does not have the resources to help these children.

"If we stick with the current approach imagine how they will turn out when they grow up. Who will be responsible if they grow up jobless, dumb and violent?" he said.

After the three-month campaign is up, the ministry will continue to monitor the situation.

"We will not resort to repressive measures by arresting or raiding them. It would be of little use," Sujudi asserted.

Another similar scheme, will start in Yogyakarta early next year funded by a grant from the Japanese government.

"This project will focus on female street children due to the fact that they are often victims of violence and sex abuse," he added. (edt)