Indonesian Youth Conference founder Citra Natasya talks about life achievements and inspiring fellow young women in Indonesia. (JG Photo/Sylviana Hamdani)

Spreading HOPE Amongst Young Indonesian Women

BY :SYLVIANA HAMDANI

AUGUST 27, 2015

Jakarta. Turning 25 is a crucial momentum for most of us. At that age, many of us are leaving universities and starting to face "real life."

Some of us are starting our careers or implementing our ideas in our own businesses. Many of us are also thinking to start a family with our beloveds as the next stage in life.

"We're making a lot of important life decisions at this age," said Citra Natasya, co-founder of House of Perempuan (House of Women, HOPE), who just 25 last month.

"Therefore, there are a lot of fears and confusion that we face [at 25]. And there are a lot of pressures from families, too."

And things are often not as rosy as they seem. When reality kicks in, many of us find ourselves stuck in a rut and then decide to forsake our dreams.

But Citra is different. At 25 years old, she knows exactly what she wants in life. And she was willing to leave an established career to follow her dream.

"I want to inspire others," said the woman that adores Indonesian heroine, RA Kartini. "I want to make a difference in many people's lives, especially women."

Having achieved an array of accolades at a very young age, Citra is indeed an inspiration for women. She is not only beautiful, but also very talented. And she uses her talents not only to get ahead in life, but also to help others find their potentials and dreams.

The lover of pink is well-versed in ballet, contemporary and Indonesian traditional dances.

For the last 10 years, she has been actively involved with the International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts (CIOFF), teaching Indonesian traditional dances to groups of local students.

"I'm so glad that Indonesian young people still love and appreciate Indonesian dances," she said. "Many of my students start from zero, yet they train diligently and wholeheartedly to be able to master all the moves and perform well in the festivals."

Each year, CIOFF sends 15 groups of Indonesian students to perform Indonesian traditional dances at various international festivals.

Citra, who teaches Tari Piring from West Sumatra, Tari Saman from Aceh and Tari Tifa from Papua, often accompanies these groups when sent to perform in international festivals.

"Traditional dancers are often taken for granted here [in Indonesia]," she said. "But abroad, they welcome us like rock stars."

According to the dance tutor, many find Indonesian dances unique due to their grandness, vibrant costumes and  smiling dancers.

In 2012, Citra's dance group won the title of "Best Performer" in a cultural festival in Turkey. Last year, her group won the same title in a cultural festival in South Korea.

Citra doesn't only actively participate in CIOFF activities, but also in campus. While studying at Pelita Harapan University (UPH), she took part in many students organizations.

"I love taking part in organizations," she said. "I love working together to make a difference."

In 2010, Citra and her friends initiated the Indonesian Youth Conference (IYC), which presented lectures by  inspirational young leaders. Their sessions in Jakarta were attended by thousands of young people.

The student of international relations at UPH also took part in the Young On Top Academy, training classes for Indonesian future leaders. Then, together with her friends in the academy, Citra co-authored the inspiring book "Young On Top Campus Ambassadors."

The book, published by Gramedia in 2012, is still on the national bestseller list.

After graduating cum laude from UPH, Citra secured a key position at an online publication in Jakarta. But the job, although prestigious and well-paid, did not answer the true longings in her heart.

"It's important to have a career, but when my dreams and true passions call me, I just leave it all to follow them," she said.

Together with four high-school friends, Citra founded HOPE in 2013. With the mission statement "Real Beauty, Real Woman," the organization offers free trainings for women from less fortunate communities.

Together with Yayasan Pulih, a non-profit organization aimed at empowering women, HOPE also organizes free counseling sessions for women suffering from sexual abuse and harrasment.

"Real beauty, for me, is when a woman is capable of exploring her full potentials and options and lead a life that's meaningful for herself and her community, " said Citra.

The main problem for Indonesian women today is persistent social stigma.

"Many societies, especially in small towns and villages, still believe that women should not rise higher than men," she said. "Therefore, they still think it's wrong for women to be highly educated or have better pay than their husbands."

"These stigmas definitely hinder women's chances to succeed in life," she said.

Together with Save The Children and Koalisi 18+, HOPE also visits small towns and villages to campaign against child marriages.

As we all know, it is still legal in Indonesia for girls as young as 16 years old to get married.

"But girls at that age should be given more opportunities to learn and explore their talents instead of being married," said Citra. "Besides, their bodies haven't fully developed to bear children yet."

From Friday through Sunday, HOPE will hold a series of beauty classes, inspirational talk shows and workshops in Lippo Mall Kemang, South Jakarta.

"We hope this event will create a strong impact on many women's lives," she said.

Citra is also in the process of writing her second book, which will discuss the quarter-life crisis. The book, set to be published by the end of this year, will detail the quarter-life crises faced by Indonesian young people and ways to solve them.

"Face your fears," she said. "Dig deeper. Find what you're truly passionate about and then create links to build your dreams."

"For no one can achieve anything all by themselves," Citra concluded. For more information on HOPE, check out its Twitter and Instagram accounts: @hoperempuan

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