Andrea Gunawan Is Crushing Sexual Health Taboos In Indonesia. Here’s How

By Samantha Topp

Social media activist Andrea Gunawan is using content to de-stigmatise sexual health in socially conservative Indonesia

Tatler Asia

In 2017 Andrea Gunawan had just been laid off from her job at a matchmaking agency and was facing a tough decision: either apply for another traditional nine-to-five job or dive head first into a career as a full-time social media content creator.

The latter was a risky financial decision, Gunawan explains. “I didn’t come from a wealthy family and I didn't have anyone else to depend on. I also made a couple of financial mistakes… I didn't have any savings and I had quite a lot of credit card debt at the time.”

Despite her passion for social media activism, she also only had 3,000 followers on Instagram—a far cry from financially viable. “I knew it was risky,” she admits. “But I also knew that if I invested my time on social media it would pay off eventually. I just needed to focus and for me, it was sink or swim.”

The risk, though mammoth, ended up paying off. In the space of a few years Gunawan grew her follower count to over 239,000 on Instagram alone, and has amassed a dedicated, passionate follower-base. “Activism became my new purpose,” she says.

Gunawan’s platform originally started sharing posts about love languages and healthy relationships, but eventually morphed into covering sex education after a follower messaged her asking about the importance of virginity. “[The follower] regretted ‘giving it’ to her ex, who ended up leaving her, and she felt crushed and not worthy,” Gunawan says. After telling the follower virginity was nothing more than a social construct, she realised there weren't enough people in Indonesia talking about sex education and sex positivity on a large-scale. “So I started talking about sex in general, including virginity, and eventually I covered responsible sexual behaviour and of course, STIs and HIV/Aids.”

Partnering with major organisations such as Unicef and Linkages, a US-funded HIV services project, Gunawan ran several campaigns encouraging people to get tested for HIV. “After the Linkages campaign a lot of followers actually got back to me with their test results and they were so proud about it,” she smiles. “It was amazing, I didn’t expect that at all. They were thanking me and were so relieved that they didn’t have HIV. And others thanked me as well as they learnt they did have other things but learnt from the doctors that it can all be cured.”

See also: The Art Of Public Speaking: 5 Tips To Sound Like A Ted Speaker

Gunawan admits that while her coverage of sexual health is important and well-received by some, she hasn’t remained free of backlash. The topic is still considered taboo, and she’s received a number of threats from people who have come across her content—even going so far as threatening to report her to the police for living with her boyfriend, which some followers viewed as improper.

“I also come from a very traditional family. Truth be told… I actually come from a long line of pastors,” she says, explaining that despite her success, it was still incredibly difficult to speak out about highly-stigmatised issues. “But I really believe in what I do. And I know that a lot of people find [my content] very eye-opening, informative, inspiring and life changing,” she adds. And that’s the power of social media—to allow people access to a wealth of information that they mightn’t have access to in person.

“I hope that more people start conversations about ‘taboo’ subjects, so that eventually they’re not considered taboo anymore.”
Andrea Gunawan

“It’s also about giving people a voice,” Gunawan adds. “It can bring people together to take action and create meaningful change. It’s a powerful force for telling stories and a great way to follow experts in different fields—and that information is empowering.”

Gunawan has big plans to continue speaking up and chipping away at the social stigma of talking about sexual health. Her priority is to empower and improve the quality of life of her audience—something she hopes others will step up and take part in too.

“I hope that more people start conversations about ‘taboo’ subjects, so that eventually they’re not considered taboo anymore.”

See more Gen.T honourees from the Wellness category of the Gen.T List 2020

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.