Activism As A Form Of Healing : An Interview With Citra Benazir

Citra Benazir
Activism can be one of many empowering actions that survivors can take as a part of their self-care and recovery. Activism helps survivors find their voice and regain their power. 
Have you ever heard of someone who dedicates their life to giving support and safe space to volunteers while fighting for gender equality and mental health issues in Indonesia? Meet Citra Benazir Adityawarman, the founder of Tis The Lyfe, a community that supports and provides safe space for volunteers in Indonesia. Citra uses her creative gift to explore gender equality and mental health issues in Indonesia. Among her writings is a small book titled ‘Pleasure Girls.’ 


Citra’s Perspective On Gender Issue In Indonesia

Born into an open, honest, feminist household, Citra is drawn to issues of gender and inequality around her. Additionally, she lived in a few countries where she got to see how people view relationships and sexuality in other cultures. As an international high school student, she had access to sexual education that many Indonesian students do not have access to or it is taboo to teach.

I want to be the one to start conversations that may never have started in their homes. So get ready for uncomfortable discussions because I'm not afraid to go into those topics. That is the trigger to keep fighting, and as a survivor, I'm doing this for every survivor out there.

Indonesia has seen an increase in domestic violence, both against women and children, since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. In Citra’s view, a place where we live isn’t always a safe and comfortable place. The pandemic proved that violence makes life difficult, as everyone had to stay at home and do school and work. As a result, the victims are trapped inside their homes with the perpetrators.

People tend to forget to be thankful for having a place to be called home and a happy household because some people can't have that.

As the fourth most populous country globally, Indonesia continues to battle poverty and conditions of inequality for women. On 12th April 2022, the Bill on Sexual Violence Crimes was officially passed into Law on Elimination of Sexual Violence. It took six years for the Indonesian government to pass the bill into law officially. Many people assumed the bill was against religious teachings and norms. Even though the government has taken action, it does not solve the underlying problem.

The law enforcement process is taking too much time as it should be valid for a long time.

Sexual harassment is a big problem in Indonesia as the culprits rarely get punished. Even in educational institutions, the first thing institutions protect when sexual harassment occurs the institution’s image. Instead of serving justice, the institution will try to make peace with the perpetrator and victim. Many people benefited from the patriarchal system who didn’t want the bill to pass, both women and men.

For me, this is an act of denial as a nation. Because at the end of the day, all we want as victims is for our pain to be acknowledged.

Citra saw a big difference between Indonesia’s education and overseas handling of sexual harassment in educational institutions. During Citra’s study abroad, she saw that survivors of sexual violence were provided with the support they needed, and institutions weren’t afraid of expulsions of the abusers.
As a result of Indonesian authorities’ lack of decisive action, many victims confess through social media, especially Twitter. This method could be effective, especially when the tweet goes viral. Only then will authorities be able to tackle the case. However, authorities still think it’s the victim’s fault if they get harassed as they ask things that don’t relate to the incident, like what kind of clothes they wear. Citra also reminds readers not to assume that a victim’s story was false if they retracted it. If the perpetrator is a public figure, a lecturer, or has more power and privilege than the victim, it could explain the victim retracting their story. In Citra’s view, victims should reach out to an organization like Lentera Sintas Indonesia, which hosts a monthly forum for victims to share their stories anonymously.  
Along with gender and inequality, Citra is also interested in mental health topics since she’s had many challenges and experiences. Her healing journey is part of her mental health journey.

Every issue has a connection with the gender issue, with women issue, whether it's about the environment, human rights, death sentence, etc. So it's impossible to limit ourselves to just one or two issues.

Tis The Lyfe : Save Space For Volunteers and Activists

Tis The Lyfe is a community that provides a safe space for every volunteer to share ideas and experiences of a discussion, movements, and any activities. It was started in 2017 when the founder, Citra Benazir Adityawarman, met her friends at a literacy festival. Citra and her friends shared their bad experiences as a volunteer. As they kept in touch, the Tis The Lyfe community came together. Through this community, volunteers figure out their goals, whether joining certain movements or speaking out on certain issues. In addition, they can share support and then meet and collaborate with other community members. Tis The Lyfe is all about empowering volunteers.
Tis The Lyfe Community
image : Citra Benazir / Personal Collection
Every community has its uniqueness, Tis The Lyfe is no exception. The thing that makes Tis The Lyfe different from other communities is that Tis The Lyfe’s target audience is anyone. Tis The Lyfe doesn’t limit themselves to anyone as they want to collaborate with whom they can spread kindness. Tis The Lyfe recognised that volunteers come from all walks of life, whether through an event or community. Because of the pandemic and the recovery process, each team member had their activities outside the community, which forced Citra to be the main person representing the community. The community activity is still online, and some of them are offline. Tis The Lyfe routine activity is doing a live video via Instagram every Friday. In addition, Tis The Lyfe invites community figures, women figures, and women founders to be their speakers, also a workshop or artists to collaborate with where we can develop ideas with them.

We only want to empower each other, amplify the voices of other communities, other female founders who are no less important than the work and issue they are doing. So, we want to be a speaker, a loudspeaker for their voices because there are so many amazing women out there.

After a hiatus during the pandemic, Tis The Lyfe is back this year. Each Friday, Tis The Lyfe does live on Instagram with collaborators. In addition, every two months, Tis The Lyfe holds an offline event to bring up issues and plan what the next movement will look like. So, stay tuned!
Pleasure Girls by Citra Benazir

Pleasure Girls : Everything From Gender Intersectionality  to bullying

Pleasure Girls‘ is an English language book containing a collection of short stories and poems Citra wrote in response to her toughest moments. The book explores challenges in a young woman’s life as she becomes a woman. In this book, Citra wrote about the bullying she faced growing up, her struggle to get into college, and her struggle to overcome sexual harassment in college. By reading her book, Citra hopes that readers will learn about people’s experiences, reflect on their lives, and feel sympathy for their younger selves. Citra hopes that readers will learn from the experiences of others, reflect on their own lives, and feel sympathy for their younger selves.  Citra is a  pleasure girl and this is her story. 
Want to know more about Citra ? Find more of her work on medium