10 days, 10 stories

In the photo exhibition Young & In Control of award winning photographer Marieke van der Velden young people from Indonesia and Kenya are portrayed with stories about their sexuality and sexual life. Their stories show why continuing investment in sexual rights and health is important.

The Young & In Control photo exhibition can be visited from Monday 20 June untill Saturday 2 July 14:00 hrs in the Atrium The Hague. During that period find a Young & In Control story a day below.

Day 10: 2 July  - Simon, Lydia & baby Tiffany (Kenya)

‘We do not kiss in public’

Simon, Tiffany and Lydia (Photo: marieke van der velden)Simon (23), Lydia (22) and Tiffany (6.5 months) live together in a suburb of Nairobi. Lydia is from Turkana, in the north west of Kenia. The couple has known each other for two years.  

Although Simon and Lydia say that there are many unmarried couples in Kenia who have a child, like them, they do hope to be married one day. Simon: "I would love to marry her, but we don't have any money at the moment to pay the dowry to her family."  

Simon was studying to become an electrician but stopped last year when the schools went on strike. He would like to take up his studies again in September: "Afterwards I want to set up my own electro technical company." 

Lydia is equally ambitious. "I am currently not working, but as soon as my child is 1.5 years old, I will go back to school. I want to get a business administration& management degree because I would like to set up my own business too."

Simon takes on any job he can get to get enough income. "Sometimes the work I have to do is so tough and hard to do, but then I think of them and that gives me strength. That's when I give my all. I love my family so much!" 

Lydia was particularly taken by his character when they met. His behaviour made me think: “I would like to date him. He is caring, modest and generous." 

Simon calls what he feels for Lydia ‘nini moyo anapenda’ – which is Swahili for ‘what the heart wants’. He immediately recognised that Lydia was a hard worker: "She told me she came to Nairobi to purchase goods which she would then sell in Turkana. I liked that."

Naturally they hug and kiss each other to express their love. “Odd question”, Simon finds: “doesn't everyone do that? That is part of life! But we only do that at home.” Lydia: "Doing that sort of thing in public is considered bizarre in African culture." 

They talk about what they enjoy when having sex, although it does sometimes lead to arguments. "Then this reminds her or me of our former partners, and it seems like we are comparing," Simon explains. 

But there is no way around it, as Lydia explains: "You cannot be in a relationship where you only have to do what the other person thinks is good. We both need to feel good about it." 

Day 9: 1 July – Diah & Juli (Indonesia)

‘Talking about sex is a taboo here. ’

Juli & Diah (Photo: marieke van der velden)Diah (22) and Juli (24) both study in Denpasar (Bali). They have been seeing each other for more than one and a half years. Diah works as a volunteer for an organisation that provides sexuality education.
Diah and Juli met in Jakarta. They were both attending a meeting for which only the best students of the country were invited. Diah was a participant and Juli was one of the guides. Upon returning to Bali they kept in touch and fell in love.
Juli proudly says: "Diah has so many talents! She is a public speaker, for example as presenter, very bright and an activist.  Her family supports our relationship. The parents of my previous girlfriend did not accept me." 
Diah is equally full of praise of her boyfriend: "Juli is very handsome and friendly. He loves to do things for me, is very responsible and is always there for me." 
Although they love each other and all their friends and family know they are a couple, Diah and Juli will never kiss in the presence of their friends. Juli: "We share our photos on social media and hold each other's hand in public, but nobody will ever see us kiss. That's simply not done in Indonesia."
Diah adds: "Just talking about sex is a taboo here too. It is the main cause of unwanted pregnancies. Just imagine that! The impact something like that has on the lives of young people." 
Diah feels it is very important for young people to learn about sex and sexuality. She used to mainly search the Internet for information. At secondary school she did learn something about preventing pregnancy in her biology lessons. Diah: "But nothing about sex! We were offered optional lessons after school hours by a HIV organisation. The information I currently share with others has made me more aware of the risks."
Diah and Juli plan to marry in five years. They first want to finish their studies and earn a better income. Diah: "And have children. I hope we will have a boy and a girl." 

They realise their lives will drastically change when that happens. Juli: "I am now totally free. When we are married and have children, we will have more responsibilities."

Day 8: 29 June – Dini & Bayu (Indonesia)

“We won’t have sex until after we’re married.”

Bayu_Dini (Photo: marieke van der velden)Dini (22) and Bayu (24) are both renting rooms in Denpasar (Bali). They are originally from Lombok and are planning to marry this year. Bayu studies languages at University and teaches English to Japanese students. Dini is studying to become a nurse. 

"The universities here are better", Bayu explains. "That's why many young people from Lombok go to Bali. I have been living here since the age of 16. I came to Bali on my own. My family stayed in Lombok. I am a real man, so that was no problem for me."
Dini and Bayu have known each other for two years now. They met at a family gathering. 
Bayu: "I thought: wow, I didn't know we had such a wonderful girl in my family.” 
The family ceremony lasted for almost a week, during which they saw each other every day. Bayu was immediately pretty certain about Dini.

"What makes her so special is that she likes sharing. For example, I saw how one of our young cousins cried and Dini bought him an ice cream. That's when I thought: she is a sweet and good girl." 
Dini adds: "That was a couple of years ago and he has asked me to marry him in Lombok. We went there to take part in Ramadan. Bayu had prepared a romantic dinner on the beach after sundown."
Dini and Bayu have decided they won’t have sex until after they are married; they prefer to wait and it is a rule of their Islamic faith. 
Bayu: "Dini's family trust me. If she would become pregnant, I would instantly lose their trust. It would be possible if we would use contraceptives, but I still think that's scary. That's why I want to marry soon! I don't want to wait much longer!"
They both learned about preventing pregnancy in their biology class at school. 
Bayu: "That is not well organised in Indonesia. After all, how can it be bad to have sex? If we have good sexuality education, we would be better able to protect ourselves. Currently the HIV-virus spreads easily, simply because people don't know."

Day 7: 27 June – Kevin & Vivian (Kenya)

‘We talk about what we do and do not like.’

Kevin&Vivian (Photo: Marieke van der Velden)Kevin (22) and Vivian (21) have a three-year old daughter. They still live at home with their families in Kisumu. Their daughter lives with Vivian and her family.  
"We are getting there", Kevin laughs when asked why they are not married or living together. Vivian adds: "A month passes, a year... but eventually the three of us will be together.” 

After pressing the matter Kevin explains the situation: they currently have insufficient financial security to take good care of their child. Vivian works in a beauty salon and dreams of having her own salon one day. Kevin is a truck driver: "I love my work, but I wish I had a steady job. I currently only work once in a while, when they call me."

"Luckily our families accept our relationship; we can be together as a couple at her home and at my home," says Kevin.  
When asked how they express their love for each other, Vivian starts giggling: "Are we talking about sex now...?" Kevin has less difficulty discussing this topic: "I like that she is to the point when it comes to sex; she says it like it is. We talk with each other about what we do and do not like." 

Still, living at home does have its drawbacks. Vivian: "He can give me a hug, but he cannot kiss me in the presence of others. Sometimes he tries when my mother is around, but I don't want that."  
When Kevin teases her by saying she is afraid, she is quick to answer: "I am not afraid, but I just don't think you should kiss in public!" 

Kevin learned most of what he knows about sex from his friends. "My friends had girlfriends; that's when I also wanted a date. We talked with each other about sex. Later I also surfed the Internet for information and I watched porno videos. 

A neighbourhood worker told Vivian about a clinic especially for young people. "They taught me how to take care of myself as a woman and that you need to use a condom when you are sexually active with your boyfriend. Since then we have been going there every three months to have ourselves tested for HIV. We agreed to do that." 

Day 6 : 27 June – Made & Putri (Indonesia)

‘I was really scared when I found out I was pregnant’

made&Putri (Photo: Marieke van der Velden)Made (24) and Putri (23) married three years ago because Putri became pregnant. Putri is from Tabanan, a region in the west of Bali.
Made is a housekeeping employee in a hotel. Putri is studying healthcare. 

Made, Putri and their 2.5-year old son Adi live in a house specially built for them on the land of Putri’s family in Ubud.
Putri: "My sister already knew Made. She introduced us via social media four years ago, after which we had a dinner date." Putri was shy when she saw Made the first time, but she immediately thought that he was very handsome. 

Made says: "I was nervous before meeting Putri for the first time. It turned out that she didn't look like the photo, which did confuse me a bit. But she was even prettier in real life!"
Made and Putri fell in love. Made didn't know much about sex. He had never spoken about it with his parents. "I did talk about condoms sometimes, but only with friends." 
Putri was better informed: "I joined a student union at secondary school, which also discussed HIV and sexuality; that's how I learned about sex and having children."
Still, the couple became pregnant. When Putri found out, she was shocked and also scared. She initially considered having an abortion, although it is prohibited in Indonesia.

Made says: "We were unsure what to do. I was mainly worried about how we were going to tell our parents. We first went to Putri's. Then mine. Our parents found it difficult to deal with the situation.  They had little choice and had to accept that we would marry for the baby." 
Putri: "Adi was born with a caesarean section in a clinic near here. Luckily they took good care of me."
They hope to be financially better off in three years. They think this should be achieved when Putri will finish her study and will also has a job.

Made: "I hope we will be able to send our son to school. We would like to have another child, but only if Putri also makes money." 

Day 5: 24 June  - Quincy & Lilian (Kenya)

“Now I know how to use a condom.”

Lilian & Quincy (Photo: Marieke van der Velden)Quincy (20) lives with his older brother and his family. He is first-year student Public Health; Lilian (19) lives with her mother and wants to study engineering at the University next year. 

Lilian immediately saw that he fancied her when they were introduced in the swimming pool by mutual friends. They exchanged phonenumbers, not much later they went to the movies and Quincy asked her if she wanted to be his girlfriend: "I was scared she would say no, but she said yes and made me a very happy man!"

That was two years ago. Lilian's mother still doesn't know about their relationship.  "As long as I was at school, I really couldn't say that I had a boyfriend. My mother would have gone crazy. Now I think she will understand. I am planning to introduce him very soon. Yes, of course I will announce this beforehand; I can't just take him along!"

This means that they always meet secretly. They take yoga lessons together, go to the swimming pool or the movies. They meet at the youth centre where Quincy plays pool and Lilian takes salsa lessons and does fitness.

Quincy was playing pool one day when he saw people taking part in discussions. He showed an interest and was able to joint an training in sexual and reproductive health and rights. "We learned things they don't teach you at school. For example how to use a condom and other information about contraception."

That was a very useful training. Not only for Quincy, but for them both, because he shared what he had learned with Lilian. "The best advice I got was that it is not good to have unprotected sex."
He also learned that you need to talk with each other about your sexual preferences and what you do or don't like. 
Lilian: "That is very important, because when you are together, you must feel at ease."

They are not planning on getting married yet. They can live together on the campus when they are both studying next year. But they do intend to marry afterwards.

Quincy: "My dream is that I never lose her, that we will become a super good family, and that I will own cars - not just one, but several!"

Day 4: 23 June - Sastra & Aprillia (Indonesia)

"Luckily school gave me permission to take the exams anyway."

Sastra & Aprillia (Photo: marieke van der velden)

The baby of Sastra (19) and Aprilia (15) is two days old. They live with Sastra's family in Petang in Central Bali. In two weeks time Aprilia wants to take her secondary school exams.

Sastra and Aprilia first met at a temple, two years ago. They had both come to the temple to pray.  

Sastra: "We looked at each other and I thought she was very pretty. I asked Aprilia's phone number. I proceeded to invite her to our home every time we had a gathering or a celebration. That's how I slowly introduced her to the family as my girlfriend." 
Sastra works as a security officer at a hotel in Denpasar: "I have only been working there for a week now. I have just completed my secondary school, I got this job within weeks after my final exams. I am very happy with it."  Sastra's cousin works in the same hotel and told him about this job opening. Sastra rides his moped to work, which takes about 40 minutes.  

Aprilia was still in school when they found out she was pregnant. Their parents heard the news via the neighbours. Sastra and Aprilia still don't understand how they knew. This was followed by a family meeting. Sastra's family discussed what they would do, after which they met with Aprilia's family. They were particularly worried that Aprilia would not be able to take her exams as the baby was due around that time. 
Aprilia: "Luckily the school gave me permission to take the exams a little later."  
Aprilia's life has changed greatly in the last month. She went from living with her own family to being married, living with another family and having a baby. Soft, almost whispering Aprilia explains how it all went: "Our baby was born two days ago. I had contractions in the middle of the night and at four o'clock in the morning Sastra's family took us to the hospital. My mother also came. It was a normal and quick delivery." 
Aprilia is determined to continue studying after her exams. Sastra: "I hope we can make some more money in future so that we can take good care of our family."

Day 3: 22 June – Lynda (Kenya) 

"I can't just do everything on my own? Looking after a child and looking after myself?" 

Lynda (22) unintentionally became pregnant seven months ago. She is the final year of the secondary hotel school and wants graduate despite of her pregnancy. 

If Lynda does not need to be in Kisumu (West Kenya) for her studies, she is living with his mother, her younger brother and her two younger sisters far away in the country. Her father lives in Nairobi, with his second wife. As she is in the middle of the school year, she is living in a house near school together with some other girls. 

"We only had unsafe sex that one time. The next day I bought tablets at the pharmacy which you need to take within 72 hours to avoid becoming pregnant. Sadly, the tablets had no effect and I turned out to be pregnant after all," Lynda shyly explains. 

Her boyfriend and her mother initially wanted her to have an abortion. However, her mother changed her mind after having spoken with her sister. "I don't know, but they told me just to have the baby. I'm OK with it, but my boyfriend left me when he heard that." 

Lynda is scared giving birth to the baby. She currently busy preparing for the final exams and cannot go home where her mother could support her. The next time she needs to go to hospital for a check-up, she will ask what she needs to expect of delivering a baby. "I can't just do everything on my own? Looking after a child and looking after myself?" 

At the moment Lynda sees very few other people. "I don't know exactly why, but I am just afraid to speak with people. They may be prejudiced against me. I’m feeling volnurable: it's all so new for me. That's why I prefer staying home and only go out when I really have to." 

Later, when the baby is born and Lynda is graduated, she hopes to find a job in a hotel. "As a chef or as waitress, it doesn't really matter. Just as long as I can make some money to take care of my child, and for my family."

Day 2: 21 June - Jeje & Aya (Indonesia)

"I want to help share correct information, so that young people can act more responsibly when it comes to sex."  

Aya & Jeje (Photo: Marieke van der Velden)Jeje (23) and Aya (20) met each other five years ago on Facebook. They are both originally from Tabanan, a region in western Bali, but they are now renting rooms in Denpasar. Jeje is an English teacher at a primary school. Aya is studying to become a nurse. She is also a volunteer and teaches sexuality education at schools. 

"Suddenly we were friends on Facebook; no idea how or via who" says Jeje cheerfully when discussing how they met.  
"We started messaging and felt at ease with each other. I took the initiative to meet. I just wanted to talk with her." Aya responds giggling: "Because I am so pretty, no doubt!" 
When the two met up Aya was just 16 years old. She had some knowledge about sex, as she had attended a lecture on sexuality at secondary school. She started working as a volunteer a year ago. She received more information on sexuality and related subjects when preparing for her volunteer work. She talked with Jeje about it and shared with him what she had learned. 

Jeje: "I mainly learned from friends and television how to protect one's self against diseases for example."  
Aya says: "It is very easy for young people to find incorrect information on sex, particularly on the internet. I want to help share correct information, so that young people can act more responsibly when it comes to sex."  
Aya and Jeje are faithful towards each other but do have friends who have had an STD (sexually transmitted disease). Jeje is a singer in a band; the band members have many female fans and have no difficulty picking up girls, sometimes resulting in sexual health problems. Aya: "Before I became a volunteer, I didn't really care that people sometimes had unprotected sex. Now I know the facts I try to share my knowledge with others." 
The couple hope to be married in five years. Whether this will actually happen is still unsure. The parents are as yet opposed to the idea because Jeje is Hindu and Aya is Muslim.   
Jeje: "My dream is to build a house, so that I can prove to Aya's father that I really love her and will take good care her."

Day 1: 20 June - Martha & Alex (Kenya) 

"We have ourselves tested every three months."

Martha and Alex (Photo: Marieke van der Velden)Martha (22) and Alex (24) live together in Nairobi and met each other two years ago during the peer educators training which was held at the youth centre. 

"Throughout the training I was scared I would never see her again afterwards," says Alex. Still, he waited until the last day to tell her he liked her a lot. Luckily she felt the same way. Soon they lived together, although not everyone thought that was a good idea. Alex: "We know that people talk about us; they think we are too young. Our family was also not so keen with the idea to start with. They advised us to finish our school first. Now they have accepted the idea." 

They learned a lot at the training. Alex: "We mainly talked about the emotions and feelings involved with sexuality. We discussed everything in detail." Now they visit schools to tell other young people about sexuality, contraception and drugs. "The training has been very important to our lives," explains Marta. "We have learned a lot and we also receive payments for some trainings." 

They also make use the services of the clinic in the youth centre. "Although we use contraception, we have ourselves tested for HIV every three months," says Alex. "Each couple should do that, because HIV is not only passed on via sexual intercourse. Moreover, all the services offered at the clinic, such as testing and contraception, are free of charge." 
Martha and Alex say that the centre is attracting a lot of young people because of that. But they sometimes also experience resistance. Martha: "There are a lot of Muslim schools in the neighbourhood and it is often very difficult to get permission of the director of a Muslim school to provide our information. They do not believe in SRH education." 

Alex and Martha and other volunteers are trying to gain access to those school by involving more Muslims in the centre. Alex: "We train Muslims and hope that they will go to their community and talk with their parents about what they have learned here. We hope that they will eventually take the step to visit the schools. After all, it will be so much easier if a fellow Muslim tells the story, than when I would do that as a Christian."


In the Netherlands we hold our sexual freedom dear. Young people can discover their own sexuality with the partner of their choice and at a pace that suits them. In a number of developing countries that situation is very different. Unplanned pregnancies, sexual violence, unsafe abortions, or sexually transmitted infections such as HIV: young people are far from in control when it comes to their sexuality. They rarely have the right to freely decide on their sexuality or do not have the right information to make healthy decisions about their own body. 

Rutgers, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, dance4life, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Simavi, Amref Flying Doctors, STOP AIDS NOW! and over 50 partner organisations in Africa and Asia have successfully worked together the past 5 years. They jointly implemented programmes that promote and improve the sexual rights and health of young people in developing countries.

In the photo exhibition Young & In Control young people from Indonesia and Kenya are portrayed with stories about their sexuality and sexual life. Their stories show why continuing investment in sexual rights and health is important.