Ona is an ambitious, cheerful 20-year-old girl from a small island of Kaledupa. The locals fail to see her potential of becoming a marine biologist, a difficult dream to achieve for her fishermen parents. Ona is the first in her family to ever reach high education.
She studies at a university in Kendari, hundreds of kilometers away from home. Despite enjoying her newfound experience, her past came back to haunt her. La Nua, her fiancée freshly out of prison, raped her on their first date. To save her family name, Ona asked La Nua’s family to publicly propose to her, thinking she had enough time to finish her study before getting married. However, with him, Ona must pretend to be submissive.
Another problem appeared; her lecturer did not give her fair grades. Ona tried to stay focused on steering her boat to adulthood to become a confident and independent woman.
In my teenager years, just like Ona, I often felt estranged, contrary to what people say about teenage years being the happiest time in someone’s life. I enjoyed my teenage years. I have a lot of friends and did some soul-searching by connecting to as many people as possible. However, my head and heart frequently got tangled with one another. I brought up too many questions about love, sex, fate, existence, social norms and popular belief, because in too many occasions, the truth is way different from expectations. And it made me anxious, sad, and even angry.
I struggled to free myself by rebelling and became thirsty for attention, which sometimes brought danger to myself. I almost got raped in a public transport before I managed to flee. That thing that happened to me 20 years ago also happened to Ona, but unlike what I did, she was unable to escape from it. Ona must live with the trauma all her life, while struggling to face many other obstacles in entering her adult life.
There are too many young women who endure violence like Ona, especially those who live in community with patriarchal culture, like my country. In Indonesia, young women are members of marginalized community. There are 132.3 million women in Indonesia, representing 50.01% of total population. Around 21 millions of those women are 15-24 years of age (Statistics Indonesia, 2017). They must endure so many challenges to get equal opportunities in all aspects of life. Their social mobility is sometimes hampered sadly with people closest to them, like their parents, teachers, friends or religious leaders. It is very hard for young women to freely express themselves (in how to dress themselves, choosing comfortable space or even to achieve what they really want), also to gain access to careers when what is right or wrong is determined by people other than themselves.
According to the 2017 Global Gender Gap report, Indonesia ranks 88 out of 144 countries in terms of gender disparities, where female participation rates in education, economy and employment are lagging behind. Reports from the National Women Commission (2017), Voice (2017) and UNFPA (2014) add aspects of health (sexual and reproductive health), food security and radical movements that are increasingly strengthening in Indonesia today, also contribute to the practice of intolerance and violence against women in the community.
I realize that the problem is rooted in social injustice and gender inequality. This condition makes it difficult for young women to express their opinions and develop their potential. I met many young women with extraordinary potential, they were able to manage their time, finance and initiative, could be unbiased when there were conflicts, also helpful. But at the same time, they are often seen as negative, getting stigmatized especially by those around them, such as parents, family and teachers.
Adolescence before adulthood is an important period in seeking identity. Teenagers are experiencing a transitional period filled with various possibilities but also a variety of doubts. Personal desires often clash with social norms. Teenagers’ expectations are often very different from the expectations of others imposed on them. For most people, entering adolescence to adulthood until their 20s is the most important period for them to test their desires (Artnett, 2000)
During this period, young women often left their parents’ homes to try to live independently and make their own decisions. Sometimes it’s successful but at other times they make wrong decisions and they get confused. Then comes despair, especially when overshadowed by past mistakes. We then break down the norms that we consider binding us, questioning the direction of life and the meaning of our own lives. Ona is experiencing that period. Through the story, I want to invite the audience to experience the bitter sweetness of teen life before reaching adulthood. Some have passed it, but many people have to fight hard, like Ona.
Ona struggles to face violence, stigma, negative evaluations (stereotypes) that hinder her potential to achieve a better life. I remembered my father’s words, “When a plane of life that you drive faces a storm ahead, look for a safe place to land”. The message encouraged me to be strong, to find a way to survive no matter how big the storm is. Can Ona look for a safe place to land?
Written, Camera, and Directed by Dwi Sujanti Nugraheni
Producer: Dian Herdiany, Prima Rusdi
Editor: Gregorius Arya Dhipayana
Sound Recordist: La Ode Hermawan
Production Manager: Michael A. Chandra
Editing Supervisor: Sastha Sunu
Artwork: Kyleene Finley
English Translator: Avin Langga Kesuma
Sound Mixing: Fourmix
Coloring: Super8mm Studio
Executive Producer: Kampung Halaman Foundation