Arekalita lives in Tambun Selatan, a small town on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, with her husband R.I. Sultan and 19-year-old son Arief. Each morning Arekalita and her husband make the hour-long trek on their shared motorbike to PT Tainan Enterprises, a garment manufacturer in northeast Jakarta, where Arekalita has worked for 18 years. “I really like it,” she says when asked about her job at the factory. “PT Tainan allows me to earn an income for my child, for our meals, our daily needs, to renovate the house, to send my son to school, and to send him to college,” she adds with a proud smile.
In addition to her duties as a finishing operator in the packing division at PT Tainan, Arekalita also serves as a peer educator for the factory’s workplace women’s health program – the HERproject. As Arekalita explains, “The HERproject is about knowledge. We receive knowledge about health and it is facilitated by our buyer [ANN INC.] …. The responsibility of a peer educator is to share the learning that we gain from the doctors with our friends, and for them to learn about health, including health at work place and personal health, including reproductive health, contraception, and self-protection.”
Approximately 90 percent of the employees at Arekalita’s factory are women, and access to reproductive health information and services, including contraceptives, is in high demand. As a peer educator, Arekalita often receives questions about reproductive health, noting, “As members of HERproject, we gather employees during lunch breaks and then we share knowledge on health … Because I am a member of HERproject there are many friends asking me questions while having meals about reproductive health, about HIV, about self-protection, and about proper breakfast.”
Arekalita adds that the information she has learned through the HERproject has helped her debunk misinformation about reproductive health that sometimes circulates among her coworkers, saying, “There are actually many misunderstandings and lack of knowledge among my friends, especially with regards to contraceptive methods. Most of them only know you can take [three-month contraceptive] injections or pills, that’s it. They don’t know that you can choose out of many varieties of family planning methods that may be more suitable to them.”
In addition to providing reproductive health information, the factory also provides contraceptive commodities at the on-site clinic. “To help employees, especially female employees, we provide birth control pills,” Arekalita explains. “Based on my experience at PT Tainan, there are many benefits of family planning because we have so many female workers and family planning has helped space births, which is very beneficial and it has helped improve the lives of the women workers as well,” she adds.
Beyond the obvious health benefits of the reproductive health information and services provided by the clinic, Arekalita notes the contributions of family planning to the economic empowerment of her female coworkers and to their ability to educate their children, explaining, “When a family does not have many children, only two children, the family will lead a better life and they can support their careers as well. With many children, you have to share your time well, and you have to share everything, hence it is difficult to advance your career.”
Arekalita’s emphasis on the importance of family planning extends beyond advice to her coworkers and into her own life. She and her husband used three-month injection contraceptive injections to plan their family. “We were reflecting on our life, and we realized that we were still quite poor and my husband was the only one working, hence we decided to have one child first and then we used contraceptives,” Arekalita explains.
Her husband, R.I. Sultan agrees, adding, “I support my wife because I think it is very important to plan for the family …. especially with regards to family economy, because life is hard nowadays. If we do not plan it well, we may not be able to support our family well. With proper family planning we can help our children to thrive. That is why I support the use of family planning.”
Arekalita stresses how her job at PT Tainan and her ability to plan her family has enabled her to build a different life than the one she experienced growing up. “My life is very different. The life of my mom was a life in the past, a life of hardship. She was only a farmer and she had six children. It is hard to provide for six children. It was difficult to send six children to school, but praise the Lord after my parents sent me to school, after I graduated high school, I could get a job and help my parents,” she shares proudly.
Now, Arekalita’s son, Arief, is attending Universitas Bhayangkara, and she adds that the best part of being a mom “was to witness the birth of my child, to see him grow and to see him now achieving his dream of going to college.” Arekalata’s hard work and dedication to her family does not go unnoticed by her son Arief, who shared, “What I admire the most about my mom is that she is such a hard worker. She works really hard to put me through school and to put me through college. She is my pride.”
Always the educator and advocate, Arekalita closes with a call to action for the women of Indonesia, saying with a smile, “I would like to suggest and invite every woman out there [to] realize that family planning is very important to our families … I would like to invite women to participate in family planning!”
“Most of them only know you can take [three-month contraceptive] injections or pills, that’s it. They don’t know that you can choose out of many varieties of family planning methods that may be more suitable to them.”
“I would like to suggest and invite every woman out there [to] realize that family planning is very important to our families … I would like to invite women to participate in family planning!”