Nur Akmalia, or ‘Butet’ as most people call her, is a health educator for the Foundation for Mother and Child Health (FMCH), an Indonesian NGO based in Jakarta that provides programs focused on health, nutrition, education, and sustainable skills training. Through her work with FMCH, Butet helps implement the HERproject, a workplace health education program that includes reproductive health information, to the workers at PT Tainan, an apparel production company in Jakarta. Butet takes great pride in her work, saying with a smile, “observing [the HERproject participants] growing and enhancing their knowledge is very fulfilling.”
Butet emphasizes the need for a special focus on family planning because, as she explains, “the apparel industry and apparel factories mostly hire women.” And according to Butet, when women enter the formal workforce they sometimes neglect their own health: “These women are working long hours outside of their home …. Women are on the one hand asked to work to help with the family income, but on the other hand they usually ignore their own health.” Butet sees the health education provided by PT Tainan as well as the services at the factory health clinic as critical to helping women ensure their own health. And access to family planning information, she adds, is a key piece of the education provided: “For working women, they will face major difficulty if they do not plan their life and plan their family.”
Information is power, and according to Butet, one of her primary roles as a health educator is to dispel common myths. “One of the main barriers is that women usually trust myths…. instead of trying to look for validated information,” Butet explains. “Most of the women that I have met have heard about contraception, but they do not know in great detail. When I ask them, ‘Have you ever heard about family planning?’ they say, ‘Yes, we’ve heard about contraception.’ But when I ask them further about types of contraception, methods of contraception, they usually do not know the answer,” she adds.
Much of the misinformation Butet battles stems from the fact that, as Butet puts it, “many people in Indonesia still think that reproductive health is a taboo topic that it is not allowed to be discussed in public, so it is only allowed to be discussed among women.” She sees the provision of reproductive health information through workplace programs as a key way to overcome these barriers, provide quality reproductive health information to women who need it, and ultimately, to enable women to live healthier, more empowered lives.
The HERproject, which Butet leads at PT Tainan, has played a critical role in providing much-needed information and services. According to Butet, “without the HERproject this factory would not have a breastfeeding room, they would not have such rigorous promotions and campaigns on health, they would not have all of this information such as [posters] available and provided to their employees.” Since the introduction of the HERproject three years ago, Butet has observed a number of differences among the women workers, saying, “They communicate better, they are more confident, and they are able to voice their aspiration[s] more. They are happier because they feel that the factory cares about them and their sense of belonging to the factory increases. Most importantly their health is also improving and they care more about themselves.”
Butet plans to continue her work with the women at factory, saying with a smile, “What motivates me is that I cannot stand the fact that many women trust myths and hearsay …. instead of scientific facts.” She feels confident that the reproductive health information she is providing is changing the lives of the female workers and the factory culture as well: “My proudest achievement is witnessing the passion of the factories to provide better service for their employees.”
When asked why she is such a staunch advocate for educating women workers about reproductive health, she says simply, “I believe that family planning significantly contributes to the welfare of the family because with a good number of children, families can plan better for their education. When people have many children and their family economy is stagnant, and they may not be able to send their kids to school. Hence, it is better to have fewer children to build more prosperous family.”
“My proudest achievement is witnessing the passion of the factories to provide better service for their employees.”
“What motivates me is that I cannot stand the fact that many women trust myths and hearsay …. instead of scientific facts.”