Building toilets and creating jobs in Timor Leste | Plan International Skip to main content

Building toilets and creating jobs in Timor Leste

Timor-Leste has one of the highest levels of youth unemployment in Asia. This problem is especially acute for young people living in rural areas as there are limited employment opportunities and poor roads connect them with the capital Dili. Nationally, 60% of Timorese are under the age of 25, and of these 40% are unemployed.

A member of Plan's Sanitation and Marketing Training making a toilet

Walter's story

In 2014 Walter and 13 friends decided to start their own business - Hakbiit Comunidade Rural (Empowering Rural Communities). This meant they could create their own jobs and help to solve one of the most important issues in their communities – a lack of toilets.

After completing rural water and sanitation training with support from Plan International, Walter and his peers gained all the skills they needed to become rural entrepreneurs – writing business plans, mixing cement, digging canals and building and painting toilets that people want to buy and, most importantly, are at a price that their community can afford.

From the income we make we plan to save half and use the other half to expand our business. I want everyone in rural areas to have the same access to sanitation

For the girls in the group, this has been a life changing opportunity to do work that has been typically done by men. “We want to show everyone that we can do a man’s job,” says 21 year old Dulce. “From the income we make we plan to save half and use the other half to expand our business. I want everyone in rural areas to have the same access to sanitation”.

Selling and installing toilets in a community where open defecation still occurs will have a lasting benefit for Walter and Dulce’s community. Poor sanitation facilities can contaminate drinking water and increase the chance of people becoming sick with preventable illnesses such as diarrhea.

“This group has been a huge inspiration for other youth in their community,” says Etha Mota, Plan’s International’s Youth Empowerment Programme Manager. “Before they started training they didn’t know how to build a toilet or run a business and now they have shown others that it is possible and you can be successful. They are more confident and work well as a team.”

Plan International has been working in Aileu district since 2004 and with support from the EU and Australian Aid has supported more than 60 young people to complete rural water and sanitation training. Since graduating these youth have completed on the job training with Plan and found employment with local businesses and construction companies.

The success of Hakbiit Comunidade Rural extends far beyond Walter and his partners. They plan to expand their business, creating and selling bricks for local communities to build affordable housing, and employing more youth from Aileu.

By creating job opportunities for their peers and sharing the skills they have gained, Walter and his friends are set to make a lasting impact on the lives of their community. 


For more information about Plan International's work in Timor-Leste go to

For more information about the work of the European Commission's International Cooperation and Development Directorate General, please click here.