Case Study 5: Digital Advocacy to End Shackling in Indonesia

Case Study 5: Digital Advocacy to End Shackling in Indonesia


– In a connected world,
we’ve gained new tools for human rights advocacy through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube
and other platforms. We now have direct and immediate access to policy makers, press, and especially, the engaged public. We can leverage these
millions of followers and ask them to take a specific action. Digital advocacy has become another way to shine a spotlight
on human rights abuses; to help mobilize global audiences; and to apply pressure on governments, corporations and others
in positions of power. We’ll look at how Human Rights Watch incorporated digital
advocacy into a campaign to stop the practice of
shackling in Indonesia. First, I’m talking with
Shantha Rau Barriga, director of Human Rights
Watch’s program on disability rights. I start by asking her what
we found in Indonesia. Shantha, can you tell
me a little bit about the issue of shackling in Indonesia and the findings of your research? – Absolutely. Our team worked, for the past year and a half on documenting the practice of shackling. Or what’s called pasung in Indonesia where people are chained, are confined in small spaces for even months, years at a time, simply because they have
a mental health condition or a psycho-social disability. The chances are high, if you have a psycho-social disability or mental health condition in Indonesia you’ll be locked up or put in chains, either in an institution or by family members in goat sheds, in chicken coops and even in a room in the home. In fact, there are about 18,000 people with psycho-social disabilities who are in pasung, in shackles
in Indonesia right now by the government’s own estimate. And it’s likely even more than that. – So, that’s an incredible number. Is this legal? – No, in fact, as far back as 1977, the government of Indonesia passed a ban on shackling. And so, in fact, it is
against the law to do so, but because there really
aren’t any resources in the community for
people to get services for mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, depression, bi-polar condition. Families feel like they have no choice but to resort to going
to traditional healers, who often recommend that
they give their loved one a herbal concoction or
lock them in chains. Or, they themselves, put them in these kind of conditions
in local community traditional healing centers. Our main goal was to enforce the ban on shackling and to make sure that the government was actually taking the steps needed to monitor these institutions and to impose the
regulations on the people who are committing these kinds of abuses. But we also were urging the government to invest in community-based
mental health services and ensure that medications were available in community health centers so that people could get access to these kinds of services and wouldn’t have to resort to shackling. – How did you identify the policy makers that could make that happen and who were they? – Well, we knew we wanted to influence the Ministry of Health, because they were the
ones who were overseeing these institutions and they were the ones overseeing the local health centers. The Ministry of Social Welfare, also really key advocacy
target because they were also very much involved in overseeing the institutions where
people with disabilities are kept across the country. – So walk me through
your advocacy strategy. What were the key
components of your efforts to influence the government? – Well, first of all, we wanted to document the findings in a robust report that could really prove that this practice of shackling was still happening on the ground, despite the ban and
despite the government’s efforts to address them. We also knew that we wanted to get strong media coverage on this issue because the photos are so compelling, the issue is so compelling, and really no one could
argue that shackling someone is okay and is
not a human rights abuse. And so, we organized a
press conference in Jakarta, with a packed room and journalists from international media
as well as local media, where we included the voices of people who had been shackled. We were able to invite one young man named Agos, 26 years old, who was locked up in a sheep shed for four years. He built the shed himself
with the intention of actually buying sheep and selling them. And instead, his family sold the sheep in order to take him to
a traditional healer. And that traditional
healer declared that he was possessed by evil spirits and urged the family to lock him up in the very same shed that he built. He couldn’t stand up in the shed. He slept there, he ate there. He went to the bathroom there. He lived there, if you can call it living, for four years. And he told us at the press conference, and it really took a lot
of courage on his part, and he said how he would never want anyone to experience what he
did and that’s why he was telling his story. But he not only told us in the room, he also told CNN in a private interview and he told a number
of other media outlets who were there at the press conference. And it really helped get
us a lot of media coverage on this issue. We also, as part of our strategy, knew that people, the
journalists would wanna see for themselves and actually document the shackling, so we hand
picked about half a dozen media outlets, and we gave them exclusive interviews in the lead up
to the press conference and we also gave them a
place that they could visit, facilitated that visit. We gave them the contact details so they could go out and
document the shackling in various institutions,
in various communities and so that, I think,
really helped also generate a lot of media coverage and helped with our advocacy because journalists were really
eager to capture their own stories on this,
in addition to quoting Human Rights Watch’s report. And the third component
of our advocacy strategy was to have meetings with
government officials. So, we met with Ministry
of Health officials, Ministry of Social Welfare. We also met with the heads
of some institutions. And it was really important for us to hand deliver those recommendations to them and explain to them what we found and what are some of our recommendations that we think could help move this issue. In fact, we actually had
a really great reception from a lot of the government officials. They acknowledge that it’s a problem, they recognize that it’s a
black mark on Indonesia’s human rights record, but it’s an area that
they’re actually willing to engage and willing to do something on. And we think that there’s
some good traction that we can build on. – So Indonesia is a
country where there’s a lot of social media use. How did you incorporate
that into your campaign? – So, another key aspect
of our advocacy was to do a digital advocacy
campaign in Indonesia. As you said, there’s a huge
social media following. They’re very active on Twitter, very active on Facebook. And we wanted to take advantage of our social media network
with millions of people who are following Human
Rights Watch’s work, to really engage the public. Particularly because this
issue is so compelling when you look at the pictures
or you see the videos and you see how people are chained and no one can say that this
kind of abuse is acceptable. And we knew that there was a soft spot in the government in terms of them being influenced on this issue. So, we thought we would engage the public. And we did so in a
couple of different ways. One, we created a Twibbon. Which is a filter for your profile photo. And it allows you to show your commitment and solidarity with an issue. So, we created the
hashtag break the chains, and a twibbon that has these chains on it that are broken, and asked people across the organization, but also across Indonesia and in all of our
advocacy targets as well. And even some government officials added the twibbon on their profile photo, which was really great
to show the solidarity with this campaign. In addition, we called
on the general public to send an email or send a tweet to the Minister of Health herself. We called on her to allocate medication for mental health conditions
to the local level. ‘Cause one of the big problems is the medications stored up in
Jakarta, in the capital and isn’t making its
way into the community and thus, the lack of
services and medication that people have access to. So we felt like this was one tangible and concrete, time-oriented ask that we could make. And that was really key for us in deciding how this digital advocacy campaign would be built; is that we
wanted something really specific and something
that we knew the government could do within a relatively
short period of time. What was really exciting is that she got, I think, about 2,000 emails and we had about 1,000 people change their twibbon profile. Our video that we did which tells the stories of the people themselves and shows some of these images
that are quite shocking, went viral and had about 2 million views within the first few
days that we released it. – So, what kind of impact do you think those 2,000 emails had on the minister? – Well, our executive
director met with the minister just a few weeks after, along with some of our board members and she was aware that she
had gotten those emails. And she mentioned it in the meeting. And she also committed in that meeting to allocating the medications from the central post to the communities, which was exactly what we
had called on her to do. – That’s terrific. Do you think that would
have happened if there hadn’t been that mobilization
from individual citizens who were expressing their concerns? – I don’t know. It’s hard to say, but I definitely think that there was a lot of momentum. The social media was just part of it, but the report got so much press that people really knew and I think the pressure,
you know, was there on the government to act and I definitely think the digital media, digital advocacy campaign was one component of that pressure. – Thanks Shantha, for
sharing about your work and congratulations on
the successes so far. – Okay, thank you so much.

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell

1 Comment

  1. Les pays musulmans dépensent sans compter pour construire des mosquées et entretenir des imans, mais ils sont incapables de s'occuper de leurs malades mentaux. Belle charité…

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