Living in difficult conditions is far from anyone’s dream. A child’s world should be colorful, full of learning and playful activities important for healthy development.
However, for Susan, a 15-year-old girl from Lembata district in East Nusa Tenggara province, living with difficulties has become a normal part of her life. She, however, has not allowed these difficulties to bring her down.
“I often suffer from bullies both at home and in the neighborhood,” said Susan, who was one of the finalists of the “Becoming Minister of Manpower for a Day” contest at the celebration of the International Day of the Girl of Plan International Indonesia last October 11.
Susan’s father is a farmer while her mother does not have a permanent job. Susan also has a physical condition that makes her walk with a limp. Because of this, her peers mock her and they cannot seem to understand she has entered in a regular class in elementary school.
"They said I don’t deserve to be in a normal school. They said I should go to special school,” she said. “I cried every day.”
Unable to put up with the mockery, Susan had changed schools several times until her parents decided to send her to a private school, hoping that students there would be more understanding.
On the contrary, the situation has worsened.
"My bag was once thrown away. I was ridiculed and thrown hurtful words at. More and more humiliation came and I felt so sad,” said Susan.
In spite of the treatment she received from her peers, Susan said she would never take any revenge. Her mother always reminds her of the importance of humility and forgiveness for those who have hurt her.
For a long time, Susan had to keep this to herself. She was sometimes forced to make up stories so that her teachers would not suspect she’s being bullied.
For me, a life without education is a dream not coming true.
"If I report that I am being bullied, I will suffer more ridicule. But I try not to think much about that. The most important thing is that I could attend classes. For me, a life without education is a dream not coming true,” said Susan.
Susan is one of the children in an area supported by Plan International who has suffered from malnutrition. In Indonesia, based on data from the Ministry of Health in 2015, almost 30% of children under five years old are “stunted” due to malnutrition, with East Nusa Tenggara scoring the highest percentage at 41.2%.
Susan comes from an impoverished family. “If my father’s not farming, he will go fishing so that we’ll have something to eat,” she said.
During the Day of the Girl event of Plan International, she couldn’t help but cry when she was eating food. She remembered how hard it is for her family to get food everyday.
"Here I can eat enough but I still remember my mother at home and imagine how hard it is for her to get food,” she said.
Although Susan knows her situation is difficult, she still hopes to finish an undergraduate degree certificate that she can give to her parents. She does not want to end up like other girls with no proper education. She does not want to marry young. She believes her mission in life is to stay in her little village, and help her own community develop.
Who knows? Maybe she would become a village leader or regent or even a minister someday. Susan said she wants to pay attention to the fulfilment of the rights of girls who experience similar situations like her.
“Those with disabilities should not be humiliated because we have rights and we can excel like normal children do,” she said.