INDONESIA Jan/Feb 2019
Over the last three weeks I’ve journeyed to Indonesia, not so far at all from the comfort and beauty of Australia. In Yogyakarta, I met up with 20 other students and 2 staff members from Flinders Uni to start this nutty, daring time of learning together. Not only was I challenged in my knowledge of business and international relations, I was able to learn more about menstrual health care in Indonesia which would give TABOO an insight into menstrual healthcare in the world's third largest democracy, Indonesia.
Aside from all the academic learning I was preparing to embrace, I also wanted to prepare to make the most of this opportunity on behalf of TABOO. Before I left I jotted down some learning objectives that I wanted to address for TABOO during my time away. Here they are!
- Gain a greater understanding of menstrual healthcare practices in Indonesia
- Understand better, the necessity of menstrual aid in this country.
- Discover where and if period poverty is widely spread throughout Indonesia.
Here's what I discovered!
First of all, I was so pleasantly surprised at how willing women were to chat to me about all things periods in Indonesia! I was fortunate enough to meet some cool women who studied at the universities we had partnered with. One special boo Rully, shared with me that her mother was the one to teach her about periods. She explained how schools do not teach sex-education or much at all on the topic of puberty. Of course biology class in later years goes on to explain these things, however it’s often too late for the sudden and bold arrival of a girl's first period! Rully explained that pads are very accessible and affordable for those who live in middle or upper classes.
Not only women were comfortable chatting about periods, but men weren’t afraid of the topic either. I was told by a friend of mine who lived in Indonesia that he’s had man to man conversations about menstruation. The conversations were in the context of restriction of worship in temples and mosques whilst bleeding.
In my three weeks in Indonesia, visiting local supermarkets to stock up on my snacks, I came across a ton of pads but did not come across a single packet of tampons. This is very much due to the culture in Indonesia, influenced by the conservative manner of Islam which is the most prominent religion. In saying that, there is a cultural shift progressing in this area. I was blessed to have lived in a homestay for 5 nights in Yogjakarta where I met a woman named Carter. She is currently in Indonesia studying fast spreading extremist religions (super interesting stuff). Carter was telling me how one of her Indonesian friends asked her to bring her a menstrual cup to Indonesia from the US.
From what I was exposed to, women were powerfully free and encouraged to pursue their dreams. I was educated by female lecturers and watched women protest among men for the political policies they believe in. In saying this, women were not represented well in politics which is not very different from many other countries around the world. There was also a huge gender gap in the industry of journalism.
The time I spent in Indonesia was informative and gratifying to know how many awesome women existed in the archipelago. From the best of my knowledge the menstrual health support that exists is not perfect and has great room for improvement like almost everywhere else around the world. However, reflecting on our experience in Kenya and India, there are places in the world in much greater need of menstrual health care and education.
Period poverty definitely exists in Indonesia, however thankfully not through all classes. Individuals who are poor would struggle to afford these products much like elsewhere in the world. It is TABOO's mission to provide this necessity to every woman possible however we have to start with one step at a time and thankfully Indonesia does not have any alarming signs of desperate menstrual health care aid demand - so we will focus our outreach elsewhere for now!
It was such a brilliant time away, full of learning and challenge. Saying this, I’m very glad to be home to get this product out, selling and changing the world! Thanks for reading boos :) Also, if you’re reading this and have other experiences in Indonesia where you believe the country IS desperate for menstrual health care aid, please get in touch, I’d love to hear what you have to say.