She has other name but let’s just call her Ika Kogoya. She was a beneficiary of one program for mother and children which was funded by the organization that I worked for. This program is located in Wamena, West Papua and it is being managed by a local church.
Ika is a beautiful young woman, 16 years old when I met her in March 2007. At that time, she was pregnant for almost 9 months. I learnt from the Program Coordinator that she was being registered to the program in order to ‘save’ her from having an abortion.
It turns out that Ika wanted to terminate her pregnancy because the father of the baby is a church pastor in one of the church in her area. Things were complicated for them especially because the pastor is married to someone else and has his own family, thus he cannot marry her.
It is not clear whether Ika was being raped or whether it happened as a result of a mutual consent, and I didn’t pry. One thing for sure is that Ika suffered from her society’s disproportionate judgment – that she was the one to blame for that unplanned pregnancy. “You see, I am sure that the pastor will not do anything to her if she is knows how to behave,” said the Coordinator on our way to Ika’s house. “She should realize that he’s a pastor, and he’s married already!”
Pastor is a respected status in Wamena. Most people there are working in subsistence farming, live in the farm, and away from schooling. Pastors represent the educated people. They are the leaders and representatives of respected institution. Therefore, when something goes wrong like this, it is very easy to blame the woman as the devil. The pastor is just a human who made mistake.
To pay for his mistake, the church decided to move the pastor to another area. But this actually freed him from all of the responsibility toward Ika. In the new place, he can start anew, and his past can be erased. Yes perhaps he would have to deal with her wife and family, but life goes on for him. He will keep earning money, and stay in the privileged position in the society.
The story is very much different for Ika. Just like any other school in Indonesia, her school also forbids her to come to school once her pregnancy becomes visible. So Ika has to drop out of her school and there’s no other option left for Ika other than becoming a young single mother. This is a very disappointing situation for her family as Ika is the youngest in the family and the only person who attended formal school. School is considered as the ticket for Ika to gain employment later on, and also the way for the family to get more income. But the dream was over. And with her pregnancy, Ika actually brings an additional burden to the family.
I was grateful that at least she is enrolled in the program, which will cover her delivery, medication, and other basic needs of the baby and her until the baby’s fourth birthday. I hope that in the program she can learn and develop some useful skills that eventually will lead her somewhere. I was confident because from the way our conversation developed in the interview, I can easily see that Ika is a smart person. Despite of all the adversities, she did not portray any ‘poor-me’ mentality. She is a strong, resilient young woman. I was particularly impressed when she insisted to walk me to the main street after the interview that we had in her house. In her condition, going out of the house means risking people’s disapproving gaze.
I returned to Wamena three months later, hoping to see her and the baby. But to my surprise, it turns out that she has been departed from the program. According to the Coordinator, she was expelled because of her low participation. After giving birth, Ika cannot seem to love her baby or care for the baby – something that was condemned by the Coordinator because she believed that all mothers have to have innate capacity of loving her baby. “There is something wrong with that girl. She doesn’t care for her baby. Only a few days after delivery, instead of staying at home and care for her baby she chose to wear her school uniform again and tried to be re-enrolled in the school. She wasn’t successful and end up doing nothing except meeting up her friends at the market, “explained the Coordinator.
I felt sad and disappointed but the Coordinator does not seem to regret her decision. In her view, if Ika does not want to attend the program meetings then she should give the opportunity to a lot of other needy mothers who would happily replace her.
From administrative point of view I cannot disagree with her, but programmatically I felt that she did not do anything to help Ika. She gave up on her all too easy. She can proudly say that she saved her from performing what she called as ‘further sin’: the abortion. But right now a baby is born in a disadvantaged position, unwanted and unloved, while the mother is equally disadvantaged as well and lost her future. She has to do something about it and not just wash her hand and walk away like Pontius Pilate.
Maybe part of my disappointment toward the Coordinator is because I also felt that I did nothing to help Ika. I tried to track her but apparently the family has moved to another area. It leaves me a regretful feeling that I carry with me everywhere I go.