This edition of SMERU’s newsletter disseminates research results on youth and children while focusing on a topic relatively rarely discussed by the public. First, about youth’s role in development, which often has a nuance of mere jargon. In a collaborative study between SMERU and the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), youth is viewed as both object and subject of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Indonesian Youth Law. The researchers assess that the SDGs and Youth Law share the same point of view in terms of youth’s role in development, although some of their ideas are not in agreement.
Second, is on the topic of high inequality in access to higher education between economic groups. To address this, the government is now designing a policy, other than scholarships, to provide assistance for students. Utilizing results of the 2015 National Labor Force Survey (Sakernas), SMERU conducted a simulation of a student loan system based on two approaches, namely the mortgage-type loan and the incomecontingent loan. The findings indicate that an income-contingent loan for students needs to be considered as it offers affordability and equity of higher education for lower economic groups.
Third, with regard to female adolescents, this edition highlights bad menstrual hygiene management (MHM) practices which, in the long term, will affect sexual and reproductive health. In 2018, SMERU along with Plan International Indonesia conducted a study to learn the dynamics of the MHM implementation while, at the same time, evaluated Plan’s MHM program. This study reveals that there have been misperceptions of and limited access to information on menstruation and MHM. Therefore, girls have not practiced the standardized MHM at school and their schools have not facilitated them for the purpose. For this reason, SMERU recommends that Plan’s MHM model be developed, expanded, and replicated.
Fourth, this edition highlights the issue of child labor in tobacco farming. In 2018, SMERU collaborated with ECLT Foundation on a study in two tobaccoproducing kabupaten (districts), namely Lombok Timur and Jember. Besides facing health risks from direct contact with green tobacco leaves, many children also work long hours beyond what is permitted for their age. This study recommends an improvement in the national policy and the initiation of a pilot program on child labor policy.
Lastly, with regard to deprivations of children at a very young age, which tend to go on through their life cycle, various government programs have considered children as part of the development process. Our guest writers, Wenny Wandasari and Santi Kusumaningrum—two researchers from the Center on Child Protection and Wellbeing at Universitas Indonesia (Puskapa)—suggest that the 2020–2024 National Medium-term Development Plan (RPJMN) prioritize, among others, universal services and cross-sectoral programs to overcome the problems of unequal access to services, poor response of existing service systems, and exclusion of minority groups.