16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence

Every year, the world dedicates 16 days of activism against gender-biased violence. I think we need to challenge violence every single day. But, 16 days of having people think about violence against women and girls are better than none.

Every year, the count 16 days starts on November 25th and ends on Dec 10 on the International day of Human Rights.

This year, I am going to share a post a day in relations to gender-based violence. Some will be my own experience, some will be books or podcasts or talks that have inspired me or ones that I think are important for us to discuss.

We have a lot of homework still. So, let’s get started! 🙂

Feel free to share the posts, share your own stories, your own thoughts, and let’s have a healthy open discussion. Remember, #spreadlovenothate .

Because violence should never be tolerated.

#speakup #standup

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Women and HIV/AIDS

[16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence]

International Day of HIV/AIDS: Dec 1, 2018

Tiga perempuan, tiga latar belakang, tiga cerita.

Three women, three different backgrounds, three stories

Women and HIV/AIDS. Going against the stigma.

Jauhi penyakitnya BUKAN orangnya.
Avoid the disease, NOT the person.

Jangan jadikan sebuah penyakit sebagai alasan untuk melakukan kekerasan (verbal maupun fisik) terhadap perempuan (atau siapapun).

Don’t let it be an excuse for violence of any kind against women or anyone.

Day 5/16: NO

First of all, if you are not a podcast listener kind of person, I apologise.  These next few posts will be podcast-based.

My tips for new podcast-listeners is to try listening to it on your commute (to work, to school, wherever you are going) with an earphone (I sometimes also listen to it before bed).  Once your brain is used to this idea, you can listen to it as you’re exercising, cooking, well, basically you can do it as you multi task and really, I swear by it! It’s the BEST!

For today’s post, I am sharing a podcast from www.theheartradio.org . It is a series called, “NO”.  This series first aired in early 2017 before the “metoo” movement but then became part of it and I’d say it is also relevant to this year’s #hearmetoo movement.

In this four-part series, Kaitlin explores her sexual boundaries from youth to adulthood. She looks at the meaning of consent beyond “No means No and Yes means yes”. She looks at the social dynamic where sex is the universal currency. She talks to people her age, older, male, female, everyone.

She recorded the audio of herself making out with someone and had said no. She listened to it again and took out the words to see if her intonation matched the rejection she was voicing. Why wasn’t it heard?  Why was it misunderstood?

Here is a link to: NO

Hit me up if you have any comments or share your stories using #hearmetoo


Day 4 of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence: Redefining Strong Women

I was 16 and in high school. Awkward as can be. Some of my friends have fully developed and seemed to be so sure of themselves and their sexuality.  They seemed to know how to flirt effortlessly. They knew how to wave their hair the right way, walk the right way, and say the right things at the right time.

Not me.

I grew up around strong women who defined how a woman should be for me. My grandma from my mom side is a simple woman with big dreams. Selling siomay (dimsum) and taoco (fermented soy beans) in the wet market and supplying it to supermarkets, she dreamed of sending all her children to university.

She did.

And to Germany too nonetheless.

My other grandma from my dad side was really small in stature but you would never notice that when you are in her presence.  She raised 8 children while running a dairy farm with my grandpa. She raised a beautiful vegetable garden, cook up a storm for everyone every single day, sew all our clothes and at the same time, she also somehow managed to find the time to start a co-op in the area and received a presidential award for it. Despite her small stature, she had the ability to fill the room with her ideas and energy.

I have 6 aunts from my dad side, and two from my mom side. All are portraying the same image. They are all hard workers, smart, witty, and brave.

From a very early age, my cousins and I (which mostly are also girls), were taught to do all these things too. We learned to gossip about boys while keeping our hands at a steady rhythm cleaning my grandmother’s freshly picked cloves.

We learned to dance and sing along to MTV videos without spilling the milk we were packing into small plastic bags to sell.

Surrounded by all these women in my life, you would think that I would grow up comfortable being around woman.

I did.

In my house.

Within the confines of my family.

But outside of that, the women I was surrounded with were different.

The women around me knew how to put on flawless make up including the ever elusive no make-up make up. No one ever taught me to put on make-up.

The women around me knew just what the latest trend is and how to look effortlessly trendy.

But we never had any fashion magazine lying around the house.

The women around me knew how to laugh coquettishly while all the women in my family would simply just burst out laughing.

The women around me knew how to keep boys on their toes, but no one ever taught me how to deal with boys, except for the one mantra my grandmother always said in loop: “Make sure you are never dependent on anyone but yourself.”

So when my hormones kicked in and boys started to seem interesting, I didn’t know the first thing about getting them interested in me as more than just friends. I had a lot of male friends. Some of my very best friends until today are still males. But that was just it. I was one of them and not exactly their object of desires.

I spent my youth in a constant battle with myself. When boys showed interests in me, I felt like they have betrayed our pact of friendship. When they didn’t, I felt undesired and it brought me down. When I felt down, I turned it into anger.

It was a time I never wanted to go back to.

I was 16 and my best friend at the time was a very sexual girl. She flirted with men who were 10-15 years older than us. She would hit up with strangers we met at cafés, movie theatres, clubs, anywhere really . She was everything I have never known before.

In a world where sex is a universal social currency, she was rich and I was darn poor.

Hanging out with her was an exciting experience for me. She would break all the rules without blinking. If she needed a new dress to go to a party, she would just stole one from the nearest department store. If she saw someone she liked, she would roll up her skirt, opened up a button, and walked up to the person. She was oozing with confidence and sex appeal. Or in short, she was oozing with everything I never knew.

I remember talking to my grandma (of all people) about it and she told me that there is a time in every woman’s life where you just bloom and attract bees (I think she meant boys). The difference between each woman would just be the number of bees you attract.  Some attracts many, some attracts a few, and some would just attract one. She stopped short from telling me which category she thought I would fall under.

One night, my friend and I went to a café we’ve been frequenting because she was interested in one of the band members there. As she was talking to them, I decided to go to the toilet. As I entered the cubicle, one of the café’s  staff forced himself into the cubicle I was entering. I’ve always thought he was hot and cute but the fact that he just showed up and forced himself into the cubicle scared me senseless.

I told him to get out. He grabbed my waist instead.

I told him to stop. He kissed me instead.

I pushed him away, he grabbed my breasts.

All the alarms have gone off in my head but yet, there was a nagging fear of reacting stronger. What would he think of me if I screamed? What would my friend say if she knew I cried just because someone kissed me? What is happening to me right now is nothing compared to the stories of her sexual adventures. As my brain was doing this gymnastic, my body was reacting to the touches and I felt betrayed. In the end, it was the embarrassment and anger of my body’s betrayal that pushed me to give it my all to push past this man and ran out. I kept running until I found a public phone and called my dad.

It was 2 am in the morning. Two hours past the time I told him I was going to be home. He picked up the phone and all I could say was, “Please pick me up.” He did. He showed up in record time and picked me up.  He stayed behind the wheel without a word. Clenching his fist as I sat there quietly. He stopped at the side of the road to get me hot chocolate. I waited for him to ask me questions or to get angry. But he never did.  As I lay in bed that night, he came into my room and kissed my forehead, “Thank you for calling me. I am glad you did.” And that was all that was ever said about that night.

My friend never bothered checking in on me that night and when she asked me about it the next morning, I was too angry to answer. I was angry at so many things. I was angry at myself for not standing my ground. I was angry at the man for forcing himself onto me. I was angry at my friend. I was angry at my body for betraying me. But despite all the things I was angry about, I was grateful that I had sense enough to call home. I was grateful that my dad didn’t ask for any explanation or blamed me for being stupid.

Fast forward 20 somewhat years later. As I am writing this, I can vividly remember the brain gymnastic I did that night.  Along with it, I also remember all the times in the past 20 years that I had sex that I didn’t really enjoy but went through with it anyway. I remember all the times I gave up saying no because I felt l didn’t have a choice.

Why did I feel like I didn’t have a choice?

Why did I go along and had sex I didn’t really want?

Was it the need to belong? Or was it the need to feel desired?

Was it hormones? Or was it my insecurities?

Why was I so scared of breaking the peace of everyone around me?

Why did I feel the happiness of others is more important than my own?

My grandmother from my mom side said she never loved my grandpa. She was in love with someone else, but was forced to marry my grandpa instead. She used to tell us how every sexual intercourse felt like rape. It never used to make sense to me why she would agree to feeling this way all her life. But now I think I can understand her better. It was the feeling of not having a choice. It was the need to be a good daughter and follow her parents’ will.  It was the feeling of having to be strong and not complain.

I grew up among strong women. Strong amazing women who are crazy as shit and who love their kids to the edge of sanity. I grew up among them and became one of them.

But now I realize that maybe we are defining the word “strong” all wrong.

Maybe being strong doesn’t mean enduring our pain without complaining. Maybe being strong means that we can endure the consequences of speaking up. Maybe being brave should mean being brave enough to claim our own happiness.

Writing this down has not been easy even after all the years that has passed and where I am today.  There is still discomfort about airing your own dirty laundry.  There is still worry that I might be hurting others by writing this. There are still insecurities because this time, I don’t have my dad who could come and keep me safe.

But it’s time to discuss this more openly. It is time for us to reflect and discuss why after all that has been done in the women’s movement, many women are still doing a brain gymnastic when faced with violence.  Why are we still not comfortable talking about our experiences with violence? Why are we still not able to create a safe zone for women to talk, to speak, and to share their experiences?

We still have a lot of homework to do. And we need to start doing it now.

In our name, in the name of our foremothers, in the name of our daughters, in the name of our sons, in the name of women and girls everywhere.

#speakup #hearmetoo #tellyourstory #shareyourstories





My Daughter Was Harassed and I Am Furious – I Hope You Are Too

Reposting this as:

Day 2/Post 2: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

One night, my daughter came to me in tears. She told me how as she was standing in front of the house where she takes her extra math lessons earlier that day, two men on a motorbike passed by and grabbed her breasts.

I hugged her tight and we both cried. I felt my heart racing faster and in a matter of seconds I was filled with anguish, anger, and helplessness all at the same time. I turned to logic, yet nothing seems to make sense.

It has been almost two months since the incident and the practical side of me told her to stay inside the teacher’s house until I pick her up. And, yet, I have been mulling over the incident every day since.

I was furious because my daughter’s body was violated. I was furious because I felt like I have failed to do my job as her mother to protect her. But then, I realized that the speed of the rising of the fury in me was probably also triggered by the memory of the many times I personally have also endured men who helped themselves to my body.

The memory of the feelings I felt when that happened. The memory of what I have read and heard from other women who also have endured the same thing.  It was the collective memory of violations that triggered the rising of the fury that soon after took after me.

Women and Anger

It was un-woman-ly to be angry. We were told that the ideal woman smiles in her misery. She speaks softly or stays quiet in her disagreement. I grew up with the stories of Mother Mary who wept below Jesus’ feet as he was crucified and prayed. Now that I am a mother, I think if I were in her shoes (heaven forbids), I would be more like a wounded wild animal than a graceful lady. But maybe that’s why she’s considered holy and I am considered crazy.

I am not exactly exaggerating. I am often considered crazy because instead of walking away when men on the street catcall me, I turn and walk towards them to ask them what they wanted to tell me. Or sometimes just to tell them to f*** off. I was considered crazy when I told a friend that I visited each one of the parents of the children that had shouted sexual innuendos at my daughter in the pool to tell them to teach their boys to respect women better.

No matter how hard I tried, I just can’t seem to stay silent.

I am furious. I am angry.

I am furious that we, as women, keep being told to bear the responsibility of men’s inability to control themselves from helping themselves to what is not theirs. I am furious that other women would ask me what my daughter was wearing when I shared this story with them.

She was in her school uniform. Loose white shirt and a long skirt. But it doesn’t matter. She could be in her shorts and tank tops or she could be drunk as drunk can be.

The question should be: Why are we giving excuses to men who violates our bodies?

If you decide to take something off the shelf in the supermarket without paying, it will plainly be considered stealing. No matter how tempting these items were displayed or how hungry you were at the time. No one would blame the stolen items for being so temptingly on display.

If I can easily find people agreeing with me on the supermarket example, why is it so hard for so many people to agree that women should not have to be responsible for men’s behaviour?

And it’s not just daughters, I also have a son, one I love dearly and teach fiercely that to be a man – a real man that is – is to have the ability to control himself even when hormones are raging in him. To be able to treat others with respect and, no, women are no different than others. So treat them with bloody respect.

Please. Silence is not golden. It is time for us to change our perception of what constitutes an ideal woman and an ideal man. A woman should not be passive. A woman should be actively determining both her present and her future. A woman should be actively defending what is hers and be free to choose what she deems best for her. It is not OK for men to help themselves to touch, grab or comment on what is not theirs. It is never OK, no matter how tempting what you see might be.

I am a woman, I am a mother, and I am furious.

I hope you are as furious as I am.

Dianthus Saputra was a journalist turned cinematographer turned mother whose affair with journalism and writing started at Jurnal Perempuan. However, as a mother of both girls and boy, she often finds herself revisiting her concept of feminism and perpetually trying to translate it into something she can share with her kids.


As published on magdalene.co on May 15,2018

Stop Violence Against Women

Day/Post 1:

Making this video is very special for me. As a woman and a mother of two daughters, violence in all its different forms have unfortunately been too close.

1 in every 3 women have experience violence.

This is a crazy huge statistic!  One is one too many already, don’t you agree?

It was also great to have the opportunity to work with these amazing Indonesian influencers in this video.  We share stories and thoughts, and ideas.

But we need more. The world need to hear more stories. We need more ideas and thoughts. So share your story. share this story. and #hearmetoo.

Special thanks to #unwomen for the opportunity to work on this project!