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PALU, Central Sulawesi, 9 December 2018:

“I wish i could stay in school and pursue higher education. I dropped out and was married off when I was 16 years old. My friends from childhood are now successful people,” said a woman in her 50s.

“When I was little, I wanted to go to university and be an entrepreneur, just like my father. Now, I’m just a stay at home mom,” said another woman who joined the meet and greet with the artist-activist Melanie Subono at the UNFPA-supported Women Friendly Space.

BPS-Statistics Indonesia 2017 data shows that 32 percent of women aged 20-24 years in Central Sulawesi ever married before the age of 18 years old.

“Girls, stay in school and pursue higher education. Please consider twice or thrice before getting married. You need to be ready before starting a family,” Melanie said, adding that girls should also focus on developing their skills and talents.

She also discussed protection and safety issues in the displaced people camps and encouraged women and girls not to hesitate to voice complaints, raise potential rights-related issues, to report violence and to use their whistles to get help.