“At school I have a friend who’s my age who got pregnant and has stopped school.”

“I’m 17 years old, and at form 5. I want to be a primary school teacher teaching Maths one day. At school I have a friend who’s my age who got pregnant and has stopped school. She’s too young to have an abortion. But then after that she divorced from her husband, because the baby was not his, it was someone else’s. That man later ran away, and the husband divorced from her. Now she’s trying to make a living as a single mom. I think she might have been desperate when she cheated. I hope to go to Kuala Lumpur one day,and go to one of the islands on the peninsular, once I have the money. I’m looking for a man who works, I don’t mind the age. And he has to be responsible.”


“Most people here marry at the age of 26 or 25 or 20 something.”

I am 13 years old. I am Ibanese, studying SMK Metamin. During my school holidays I would go out and play. I’d play volleyball. Apart from playing volleyball, we would go for a jog or play football with other kids. We rarely go to the stream and play. I think I would marry after I start working at the age of 20 something. 26 or so, after I finish my school. Most people here marry at the age of 26 or 25 or 20 something. 

“It’s easier to go to the city to get medical attention than here because the city is much easier.”

How often does the Klinik Kerajaan come and visit?

Every 3 months. I’d prefer if they come more often, that would be nice. Their visits are very helpful as we are able to get a full-body check-up; to see how high or low is our blood pressure, our sugar levels and such. Thankfully nothing bad has turned up for my health screening. If we have any problems before they can come and visit, we would go to the nearest clinic and have it checked in Limbang. A hospital in Limbang is about 40 mins from here. We have another Klinik Kesihatan around here. Maybe 2km from here? I’m not sure. But it’s a bit far if we are going by boat. They are open every day except for Sunday.

But we’d rather go to the clinics in the city than the Klinik Kesihatan nearby here – because there’s a market there. And the road to the Klinik Kesihatan is not that great. It’s easier to go to the city to get medical attention than here because the city is much easier. The quality is also better. The people from the Kampung would rather go to the city to seek medical attention whereas the fishermen or smaller villages further deep in the jungle would go to the Klinik Kesihatan.

“Our generation and our mother’s generation are very different.”

Saya sudah cerai. Tak sama haluan. (I’m divorced, our paths were not the same). I’m 27. Not many people from this kampung get divorced, it’s rare.  Our generation and our mother’s generation are very different. They had 5 kids. I don’t know how many kids I’ll have. They had more sehaluan, more. balance. Last time it wasn’t difficult for them to find their way through life, now its hard, because even the men are lazy, and it’s them who wants to stay at home. That’s the difference. Back then, it’s the husbands who wants to and go to work. Now, today, its the reverse, they don’t want to work and mereka suruh isteri kerja (they ask their wives to work), but they don’t go to work. That’s how it’s like around here. It’s weird. Like this grandmother here, her children work 0- but her husband stays at home. The grand takes care of the kids. Of course, she gets angry. 

There’s no arranged marriage, they still choose who they’d get married. They also wear their traditional outfits. Iban people marry at the longhouses, and sit on top of the ‘gong’. They call it the gong tawak. Then we make them wear ayam – as in they take the live chicken, and move it around. Its their adat. 

“It’s a Sarawakian culture to have many children because….”

unfpa hokl humans of kuala lumpur sarawak ngo iban pregnancy cause

unfpa hokl humans of kuala lumpur sarawak ngo iban pregnancy cause“My name is Katherine Mendung Anak Embau and I’m 26 years old. I married when I was 19 and had my first child a year later, and my second child last year in 2015. But I’d like to have 5 children. It’s a Sarawakian culture to have many children because they are considered assets. [Laughs]. Most people around here get married around the age of 20, and they would find a job prior to getting married. The youngest mother here is 13 years old, married to her husband who is about 30 something.

The best age to start having children is in your 20s. It’ll be a bit too late and more difficult if you have them in your 30s. There are cases instead where a married couple can’t get children. And it’s not because of contraceptives, but speaking of that, my husband does not like to use a condom.

My children was born in the government hospital about 40 km from here. It would take us about 30 mins or so to reach the city. Of course it would be more helpful if there is a hospital nearer to us. But it is what it is. So we learn to plan our trips during our pregnancy. Like when is the expected time or date for me to go to the hospital.

We only have a motorcycle to move around, not many people have cars here. If we have to go to the clinic, we’d hold our children on the motorcycle – there are ways of holding them (laughs). We’re used to it.”

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur went with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA Malaysia) into the jungles of Sarawak, where they were helping out underprivileged Sarawakians and orang asal in their mission to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa

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(This post was first published on July 4th 2018)