How I found my voice

By Roslinda, 14, young leader from Indonesia (Twitter: @InaRoslinda)

I used to be shy. I did not like speaking in front of people. But this week I am at the United Nations and I have a lot to say.

My name is Roslinda and I’m from Indonesia. Even at 14 years old, I know change is possible. I stopped being shy when I learned that making our voices heard is important to any change for children. Change happens when we, children, are involved and can participate in the issues that we care about.

The issue I care about is ending violence against children. Growing up on my island, I saw different kinds of violence. One of them is child marriage. When families need money, they give up their daughter for marriage because they get money or a dowry from the other family. When this happens, it means the girl has no choice and cannot go to school. 

I want to see a world without child marriage.

I know of one girl in a neighbouring village who was taken by an old man for marriage a few years ago. She was only 6 years old. The Child Protection Cadres in my country took action by going to the girl’s husband and helped free the girl. She could not return to her home village though because of the trauma. She moved to another village and recovered there.

I think governments need to do more to end violence against children.

The laws we have today need to be improved. Even though these laws want to protect children, families may not know about or listen to these laws. Also children do not feel like they can speak up. If children are abused, they cannot report anything because of their families. It is taboo. Families want to fix the problem in their own way or in private.

Governments will only know about these things if they listen to and involve children. That is why child participation is very important. The first time I learned about this was in my children’s forum that I am still part of today.  When I joined the children's forum, I felt such a great impact. I felt more confident and no longer ashamed when told to speak in front of other people. This confidence helps me to speak up in front of others, whether it’s in my village of Indonesia or at the United Nations.

The one thing I would like everyone and governments to do is listen to children’s voices. Involve us. We children are the generation who will continue this nation. To my fellow children, I encourage you to speak your mind, get involved in positive activities for change, and never be afraid.