TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – The incident a few months ago still lingers in Fahri Ramadhan`s mind. At the time, Fahri and his friend, both still in their high school uniforms, stopped at a roadside stall to buy snacks.
Unexpectedly, Fahri ran into an elementary school friend. What ruined his mood was that his friend told him that she was at the stall to buy some infant formula. “Apparently she was already married and was buying milk for her kid,” said the 10th grader at the Kalukku State School I in Mamuju, West Sulawesi.
It was not Fahri’s first time running into a friend who had married at a very young age. According to the 16-year-old, some of his friends marry early because of their families’ finances. Their parents feel that they cannot afford to pay for their education. Meanwhile, the parents of their would-be husbands would then propose, offering panaik. Panaik, also known as panai, is the equivalent of “bride price” given by the parents of a would-be groom to the would-be bride’s family as a sign of serious intention. The amount varies, from over Rp10 million to hundreds of million rupiah.
Observing this phenomenon made Fahri restless, which is why he joined in the campaign to prevent child marriage. He learned about the campaign when a community called Lingkar Remaja (Teen Circle) held an event to raise awareness at a mosque near his home at the end of last year. Not only he felt the desire to fight against child marriage, Fahri joined the movement because he also hoped he would be able to positively contribute to society. “My grandfather once said, wherever I would one day go to school, no matter how many certificates I would receive, none of it would matter if I wasn’t yet benefiting the people around me,” said the teen.
After joining the Lingkar Remaja community early this year, Fahri says he has obtained plenty of new information, facts that were once neglected, including the causes and impacts of child marriage as well as some strategies for preventing it.
Fahri and other Lingkar Remaja members have organized plays and poetry readings on the theme of child marriage several times, at the Karampuang Foundation secretariat office. These events are usually attended by the community, including street vendors who sell snacks. Members of the community began asking questions about the negative impacts of child marriage and its effect on the reproductive health of adolescents.
To improve their campaign reach, Fahri and other Lingkar Remaja members would occasionally visit villages in Kalukku to distribute brochures on the fight against child marriage.