Sipakatau is a Makassarese word mean ‘Working together’. It is also an abbreviation for “The voice of young people affected by leprosy who are competent, active and outstanding”.
The Sipakatau project was implemented from March 2018 till February 2020 in Gowa, South Sulawesi, with support and funding by VOICE.
Main actors and target group were young people affected by leprosy in Gowa. The aim was to achieve enhanced empowerment of these young people, as one step of their transformation into a possible new generation of DPO leaders.
The facilitators for this process were members of PerMaTa South Sulawesi, who went through a process of empowerment themselves, they know that empowerment can only be achieved by oneself, realising your own abilities and value. In this project young people were given the opportunity to experience what they are able to do: They were involved in design, organisation and implementation of small community projects for the benefit of other vulnerable people. From other projects it is known how fundamentally people who are ostracised and without self-worth can change their perspectives on live when given the opportunity to achieve something useful for others.
This project thus had another, indirect target group, who were supported by the young people affected by leprosy. Based on actual needs in the project area and on feasibility, women and people with disabilities who were illiterate were selected as this indirect target group, as they face profound multiple disadvantages in life and are vulnerable to exploitation.
Through training and peer support PerMaTa enabled and encouraged the young people affected by leprosy to become the implementers of Sipakatau. As a first step they mapped the whereabouts of illiterate women and people with disabilities in the project area. In a participatory exercise they explored these people’s needs and together discussed possible community projects answering on these needs. The highest priority was given by the illiterate people on learning how to read and write. The young people affected by leprosy, thus, organised and carried out literacy classes, involving multi-sector stakeholders like village governments and volunteering teachers.
35 young people affected by leprosy had been identified at the beginning of the project. In total, 21 young people participated in this project. 9 of them (43%) stopped participating during the project, mostly because they had become too much involved in daily obligations and could not spare the time anymore. 8 men and 13 women participated. In the end, more men (50%) than women (38%) had stopped participating.
In the beginning of the project, the young people had doubts and fears they would not be accepted by the illiterate women, since they have had leprosy. Through the outbound activities and trainings they were able to build confidence and the facilitators from PerMaTa Gowa helped to introduce them to the illiterate women. At the end they found they had experienced no negative feelings interacting with the women at all, there was no stigma and they felt very comfortable and accepted working with them.
The Sipakatau project has been successful in reaching its aim: Young people affected by leprosy have experienced and realised their own capacity as agents of change. As a result, they have earned respect within their community and thereby regained self-confidence and self-worth. Some of the young people affected by leprosy will continue as valuable new members and potential future leaders of PerMaTa.
As an additional outcome, the group of illiterate people benefited from the community projects and experienced how change can happen when people work together and help each other. Stigma towards leprosy was considerably reduced in the project areas.