By Sara Barnes

So, we’ve been on the road one week already! Tia and I arrived in Manado late on Monday the 21st of October. We were tired after our long journey from Yogyakarta, but excited to begin sharing our knowledge about Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights for Samsara’s month long Satellite Workshop in Sulawesi.

We started even earlier than we expected. On the mini bus (angkot) from the airport to our hotel we spoke to fellow passengers about contraception and healthy relationships. We left Lea (33) with a breast self-exam sticker to share with her community. The mini bus was completely different to what we are used to in Yogyakarta, where Samsara is based, they come with flashing lights, loud music and tvs!

Over dinner at a nearby Warung (street-side restaurant) we got acquainted with some of the language differences between Sulawesi and Java – for example here it’s seen as normal to call a woman you don’t know ‘Cewek’(which translates directly as ‘girl’ and would be considered rude in Java and many other parts of Indonesia) until you know her name! In Java we use ‘Mbak’, in Flores ‘Nona’ is common. Later we met up with two friends of Samsara’s, Hendra and Dea, who filled us in on how sex and sexuality related issues are perceived by their community in Manado.

On Tuesday morning we wandered around the city and found our way to the sea where we had Ice Tea at a small Warung. This was also our first experience in seeing traditional Manado meat – dogs, rats and snakes. Neither of us were tempted to test the fare! In the afternoon we met up with our partners at PKBI Sulawesi Utara, Manado to touch base and share strategies for working together in counselling and helping woman who experience unplanned pregnancy. We spent the afternoon stickering our way back to the hotel and the evening planning our workshop strategy for the next day.

Wednesday was time to find some traditional fare we thought we could stomach – Tinutuan, a porridge made from sweet potato, corn and spinach – we weren’t disappointed. While we were eating at Warung Makan Wakeke, we noticed that all the staff were women. We started chatting to them and they seemed interested in what we had to say so Tia initiated a spontaneous workshop. About 10 woman joined in and in no time Tia was answering hundreds of questions about anatomy, physiology, health and contraception. That evening we moved to Dea’s place where we would be more comfortable to work.

The 24th was a morning for catch-up. While Tia worked on the hotline Sara went to campus with Dea to chat to youth and gather the community for the evening’s workshops. There were plenty of casual chats about feminism and patriarchy and lots of new friends made. One particular friend, Ghia, invited us to continue on to her city, Kotamobagu on Saturday to do a workshop with some of the women in her Kampung.

That evening we carried out and intensive workshop with Dea’s community; 6 young women joined us to learn about anatomy, physiology, sexual health, contraception, how to do a breast self-exam and what options woman who experience unplanned pregnancy have. Later over dinner the workshop participants introduced Tia and I to more traditional Manado food – Saraba (a delicious ginger and milk drink) and Milu Siram (a savoury corn soup Tia has taken a liking to).

On Friday we spent the morning catching up on admin and making plans for the next few days. In the evening we hung out with some new friends and learnt a bit about the struggle of a local fishing community who are in the process of losing their livelihood to a reclamation project for a new mall. The reclamation project has been going on for a while but everyone still has such inspirational spirit. For us it was interesting to hear from Dewi, a woman in the movement, how patriarchal issues were experienced by and within the community who live and work in the space they are trying to save. Dewi shared that although the idea of different roles for women and men is still ingrained – more and more often men were helping with cooking and washing dishes – hopefully in time men and women will be able to share tasks equally.

Later we took some time off work to destress with some Karaoke, this was Sara’s first time trying one of Indonesia’s favourite past-times and many laughs were had – Aduh! Later the conversation with a few young men turned to contraception: how the different methods work, what is emergency contraception and how can men support their partners in choosing the best method for both of them.

Saturday saw us hit the road again with Ghia. The journey to Kotamobagu took longer than we expected as there was a demonstration on the road – we arrived tired but happy and ready to prepare for Sunday’s workshop. Saturday night took us out with a large group of youth and chatted body image, patriarchy and how these young men could support and encourage the women in their lives to be equal.


Sunday’s workshop with women of the Gogagonan Kampung in Kotamobagu was one of the busiest yet, More than twenty women ranging from 12 to 60 something joined us for breast exams and a question and answer session about Sexual Reproductive Health. We spoke about cleansing routines, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, cancers, contraception and many, many more related topics.

Finally we’re moving again – hopefully we’ll be settled in Gorontalo for a day of rest and hotline duty on Monday. The next blogpost will be in a week but if you can’t wait till then check out our facebook (SAMSARA YK) and twitter (@samsar4)for regular updates.


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