I never thought I would someday get to tell village leaders how I think things should be going. And yet here I was, at first a bit shaky, standing in front of an all-male crowd and talking about the rights of the most neglected people in our communities: girls.
overcoming my fears
I have to admit I was really scared when we arrived at the meeting location. There were no women to be found. Luckily 2 of my friends and staff from Plan International were here to support me; I looked at them and immediately felt lighter.
When I officially took over as village chief, I had to stand up in front of the crowd and act as a leader
When I officially took over as village chief, I had to stand up in front of the crowd and act as a leader. I knew I had to be strong and show them I was determined to get my message across. Earlier this year I received a leadership training organised by Plan International in my community, and I tried really hard to remember everything I had learned.
I started speaking, and men listened to me. They answered my questions and took my concerns seriously. It felt so good!
When I asked them to give me concrete examples of how they involved women and girls in decision-making processes in their communities, they were hesitant – I think they understood they had to do more.
Making girls visible
The main problem for girls in our country is that we are often ignored. Nobody ever asks us what we need or takes our problems seriously. Since all the leaders are men, they first focus on boys’ and men’s issues, maybe because they understand them better.
If I were village chief one day, I would make sure to pay attention to women’s and girls’ needs. I would make sure their voices are heard and do everything I can to make them feel valued.
Of course, I know being village chief isn’t an easy job. When I was village chief I realised how hard it must be! You have to participate in all the activities organised by the communities and always travel everywhere in the village. But I think I would be good at it.
Securing a better future for girls
Being village chief for one day was incredible. But the best part of the day was probably when I handed back his position to the village chief, and asked him to commit to the promotion of gender equality in his village.
He agreed, and signed a declaration of commitment that we had prepared together with other girls, promising to facilitate gender trainings for teachers, police officers, health workers and civil servants by a group of young people trained by Plan International called the “Champions of Change”.
We will go in the communities and teach them how to better respond to girls’ needs. It’s by involving everyone in the community that we can make our villages and country safer and more equal for all girls.
I’ll never forget the day I became village chief at 17 years-old. I hope to look back at this day when I’m older, and see the progress we’ve made, from my village chief office!
Luciana was 1 of 5 girls who became village chief for a day in Timor-Leste. Worldwide, more than 600 girls took over various positions of power as part of Plan International’s global #GirlsTakeover, to celebrate International Day of the Girl Child.