Millennials’ voice: emerging movement for better nutrition in Indonesia (Story of Change)

A lady using a big branch to make food.

As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, there is an increasing sense of imperative to bolster our resilience as we strive to build back better. Improving food security underpins this, not least in Indonesia where poor nutrition has led to stunted growth in as many as four in ten children, resulting in blighted lives and severe socioeconomic consequences.

This story describes how, while the Indonesian government has significantly stepped up its food and nutrition security (FNS) programme for the ‘first thousand days of life’ by targeting pregnant mothers and under twos in recent years, another important section of society – the younger generation - has remained largely overlooked. Centennials and millennials represent almost a third (30%) of Indonesia’s 238 million population and are predicted to account for a so-called ‘demographic bonus’ of as much as 70% by 2045[1].

The story highlights how the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) programme realised that tapping the vast potential of centennials and millennials today, as the parents of tomorrow, is imperative for the country’s social and economic well-being. While some other programmes are working to improve nutrition among teenagers in schools, they do not reach out to the broader demographic. To bridge this critical gap, five local civil society organisations (CSOs) initiated a fully inclusive, burgeoning movement called Millennials’ Voice.

Today, Millennials’ Voice is tapping into fresh ideas to improve FNS across the country - ideas that are garnered, developed and shared through a digital approach to advocacy and campaigns. As it escalates, the movement promises to bolster the health and well-being of millions of millennials and youngsters. In doing so, it promises to influence the trajectory of change across Indonesia and significantly enhance the country’s emerging development as the government prepares to make the forthcoming demographic bonus a ‘Golden Generation 2045’.

Mind the gap

Since the V4CP programme began working on FNS issues in Indonesia in 2016, its partner CSOs - YPPS[2], Bengkel APPek, Transform,Konsepsi and Ayo Indonesia - have inspired a national movement to tackle stunted growth and put food and nutrition issues firmly on the country’s political agendas. As a result, by mid 2019, when the programme decided to tap into the immense potential of millennials and youngsters to participate in stunting prevention and reduction advocacy, the CSOs had already built a solid reputation for leadership and expertise on the issue.

As a foundation for shared learning and knowledge exchange, in March 2019, V4CP Indonesia and all of its nine partnering CSOs[3] committed to launch the Alliance for Stunting Movement (Genting) platform in the effort of prevent and reduce stunting in an inclusive way. Next, in June 2019, they initiated two pieces of research to underpin and direct their strategy. They requested V4CP partner, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), to assess the state of adolescent nutrition in the country and encouraged Bengkel APPeK to conduct a survey into adolescent nutrition among 300 teenagers in Kupang District, East Nusa Tenggara, a province with the highest stunting prevalence in the country.

The results of IFPRI’s study confirmed that millennials and centennials had received insufficient attention in research as well as programming in Indonesia. It found that only two out of 104 national programmes targeted youngsters, and initiatives that did address youth tended to focus on school children. Bengkel APPeK’s survey, which included youngsters both in and out of school and those with disabilities, found that 69% of teenage girls suffered from Chronic Energy Deficiency. It also found that a majority of adolescents were thin and had stunted growth. These findings indicated a poor level of childhood nutrition and health, which could compromise the quality of their offspring. It became clear that, while the provincial government had set up an anaemia prevention and controlling programme to address stunting through the provision of Iron Folic Acid tablets for girls attending school, many of those interviewed stated that they did not receive the tablets.

In response to the research findings, V4CP Indonesia worked with the CSOs to devise a uniquely inclusive plan of action with the right approaches, tools and tactics to reach a broader spectrum of the younger generation by including millennials as well as centennials, as well as those not in school or living with a disability. In addition, they included boys as well as girls in a bid to close the gender gap in FNS youth programmes, given that the health of both parents directly influences that of their offspring.

Millennials’ Movement

By mid 2019, V4CP Indonesia was ready to initiate the millennials’ movement. In order to reach and resonate with the younger generation, it decided to take a fresh approach to advocacy and campaigns, placing greater emphasis on digital advocacy, such as local radio and social media. It also included a mix of events and competitions, showcasing successes to make healthier lifestyles popular amongst the demographic.

The first event, Semethon 1, was organised by Transform, SNV and Gajah Mada University and took place in West Nusa Tenggara province on 26-28 November 2019. Designed as a competition, it honoured young ‘startup’ companies that were making popular, nutritious food. Although it was billed as a provincial event, it attracted people from far and wide and the winners of the competition became icons. By providing a spotlight for the younger generation, it kicked off the millennials’ movement in Indonesia and led to the aspirations from speakers and audiences being submitted to the national government. Inspired by this success, Transform scaled up its second event. Streamed via Zoom and Facebook in July 2020, Semethon 2 was attended by a wide range of participants nationally, including people from foreign universities, and attracted widespread and high-profile attention.

Projection of Indonesia’s Population by Age (2015-2045).

Projection of Indonesia’s Population by Age (2015-2045).

The announcement of the first winner of Semethon II by Arumi Bachsin.

The announcement of the first winner of Semethon II by Arumi Bachsin.

Following the success of the first Semethon, in January 2020, V4CP Indonesia in collaboration with The National Team for the Acceleration of Poverty Reduction (TP2AK) Office of Vice President of Republic of Indonesia, held the What Millennials Want Survey and Essay Competition (#WMWSurvey). This aimed to explore and gather millennials’ voices, ideas and innovations to prevent and reduce stunting in the country.

The three winners of the survey presented their ideas at the Millennials’ Voice for Stunting Workshop in Jakarta on January 22, 2020, to celebrate Indonesia’s 60th National Nutrition Day. The workshop was attended by hundreds of millennials, celebrities concerned about stunting issues, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of PPN/Bappenas, the University of Indonesia, as well as the office of the Vice President of Indonesia. It featured inspirational millennial speakers, including two winners of Semethon 1 and a high school student from East Nusa Tenggara province. Well-known Indonesian public figures talked about what millennials have to offer for stunting prevention, and what they can do to campaign for nutrition and health at scale.

Building followers

The workshop inspired significant attention on social media and the winners attracted large numbers of followers. Importantly, the speakers made a series of commitments to raise awareness on stunting. This inspired the V4CP programme to start creating the Millennials Voice Indonesia. Launched in March 2020, this platform connects millennials, youngsters and organisations interested in FNS issues across Indonesia and includes them in decision making and implementation processes. The platform stepped up its activities by using Zoom, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube and supported the organisation of webinars as a means of building engagement and participation. Today, while it continues to support the V4CP FNS programme and its partner CSOs, the platform acts independently and runs its own activities.

Meanwhile, competitions and a Radio Roadshow called Youngsters for Inclusive Nutrition (Amunisi) were being organised by Bengkel APPeK in East Nusa Tenggara. Held in June and July 2020, the Roadshow focusing on six districts in Timor Island. The winners of each district presented their ideas during the Roadshow and shared their experiences and motivation to actively engage in FNS issues with their peers. At the same time, they advocated for the government to involve more youngsters in FNS conversations. The findings of Bengkel APPeK’s earlier survey were also published during the Amunisi Radio Roadshow.

This was followed by a series of national competitions that were successfully promoted through social media, such as the Millennial Scientists for Nutrition (#MISSION2020): Research and Social Media Campaign Competition, organised by Konsepsi.

For more information about the events see:

V4CP Indonesia Youtube Channel
Grand Final Semethon II  
Grand Final #MISSION2020
Amunisi Radio Roadshow
Blog about Millennials’ Voice

New ways of working

V4CP Indonesia has found that adapting to new ways of working has had its benefits. The wide-scale shift to digital connectivity required during the coronavirus pandemic has complimented the virtual forums, webinars and social media channels the team used to engage a younger audience and has resonated across the generation. What is more, during the programme’s journey, people of all ages have supported each other through the exchange of experience, knowledge and new skills, especially those related to digital prowess.

The virtual events held in recent weeks have been streamed on Zoom and YouTube Livestream simultaneously. To date, each initiative has attracted an average of 1,000 viewers on Youtube, with one reaching as many as 7,400, and the between 300-1000 participants on Zoom. This is more than previous face to face meetings, while proving cheaper and quicker to organise. Notably, the CSOs have found it easier to engage decision makers virtually due to the travel time saved. Almost every webinar has been was attended by senior officials from various ministries, such as the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of PPN/Bappenas and TP2AK, the Office of the Vice President of Republic of Indonesia. In addition, when publishing the results of IFPRI’s research on 10 June 2020 the CSOs found that, far from being compromised, they garnered attention of both local and national government and other relevant institutions.

To advance inclusivity, the V4CP programme has sought to make all online events as widely accessible as possible. It has invited discussion with organisations that represent people with disabilities to ensure that they are heard and involved in policy making processes. It has also sought advice on how to conduct an inclusive webinar and has asked subscribers to events to indicate whether they have a disability and what nature of support they require. While the wide range of disabilities makes full inclusivity challenging, most online events have provided sign language interpreters and the programme has encouraged speakers to talk slowly in order to accommodate as wide an audience as possible.

Building back better

Everyone involved in the new initiative, from CSOs to government officials, have seen the value of broadening FNS issues to as many youngsters as possible. Millennials and centennials have not only proved their potential, wealth of knowledge and skills to contribute to Indonesia’s FNS debate but have also demonstrated their desire to be fully involved in shaping the future. Already, they have been invited to contribute to the public consultations for draft FNS policies in both East and West Nusa Tenggara provinces. Furthermore, the Indonesian government is responding and has acknowledged the importance of including this demographic in future stunting prevention programmes.

It is clear that millennials and centennials are ready to take the lead in preparing Indonesia for its bonus demography in 2045. What is more, by encouraging their peers to lead healthier, more resilient and productive lifestyles, they are also significantly bolstering the country’s progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2.2, to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030.

Who we are

The Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) strengthens the capacities of CSOs to foster collaboration among relevant stakeholders, influence agenda-setting and hold the government and private sector accountable for their promises and actions. It is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

[1] YPPS - Yayasan Pengkajian dan Pengembangan Sosial

[2] Konsepsi, Transform, Bengkel Appek, YPPS, Ayo Indonesia, YKWS, Mitra Bentala, PKBI West Sumatera, and LP2M

[3] Sensus Penduduk Antar Sensus (Supas, 2015).

Live on-air radio in TTU District, East Nusa Tenggara Province.

Live on-air radio in TTU District, East Nusa Tenggara Province.