Dili, 10 May 2017 – An innovative research based on qualitative interviews with young women reveals unequal power relations between girls and boys, men and women, lead to high rates of pregnancies in adolescence and early marriages in Timor-Leste.
While in most countries child marriage has been identified as a key factor for teenage pregnancy, in Timor-Leste, where one in five girls are married before 18 and 24% of them are with a child before they turn 20, the research reveals a different dynamic.
Teenage Pregnancy and Early Marriage: Research on the Decision-Making Pathways of young women in the municipalities of Covalima, Aileu and Dili was commissioned by Plan International, UNFPA and the Timorese Secretary of State for Youth and Sports and launched on 10 May 2017. Based on qualitative interviews with 24 young women respondents, the report details the underlying causes of teenage pregnancy and early marriages and provides solutions on how to prevent it.
POWER RELATIONS AT THE HEART OF THE PROBLEM
The research reveals that access to sexual education is very limited for young people in Timor-Leste, and contraception largely out of unmarried young people’s reach, which leads to young women not knowing how -or not being able- to prevent pregnancy.
young women in fact have very little agency in the decision to engage in sexual relationships
But most importantly, with or without sexual education or contraception, the report shows that young women in fact have very little agency in the decision to engage in sexual relationships. It was found that in all 24 cases, the boys initiated the sexual relationship and put pressure on the girls to comply.
Because of unequal power relations between them, girls always felt they had to comply with the boys’ needs and desires. This relationship, based on discriminatory gender norms and negative gender stereotypes, was identified in the report as the main cause for teenage pregnancies in those three municipalities of Timor-Leste.
GIRLS MUST LEAD THE WAY TOWARDS PREVENTION
“Understanding the root causes of teenage pregnancy and early marriage is the first step in being able to effectively prevent them,” commented Dillyana Ximenes, Deputy-Director of Plan International Timor-Leste.
The research show that solutions for prevention largely lie within communities and their perception of gender norms. A work of sensitization will be required for communities to reflect on how girls and boys should interact with each other.
“Girls themselves will be the best placed to lead on this. Listening to their voices and giving them the opportunity to design and lead their own prevention campaigns and programmes will be the most effective way to address those issues in Timor-Leste,” Ms. Ximenes added.
The research results are an essential tool that will guide Plan International’s programming and advocacy regarding teenage pregnancy and early marriage in Timor-Leste and inform future interventions from other organisations in the country.
This research was conducted by the Secretariat of State for Youth and Sports, UNFPA and Plan International, at the request of the Female Parliamentarians of Timor-Leste Group (GMPTL) who in the 2016 National Conference on the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights asked that the decision-making pathways and experiences that lead to teenage pregnancy and early marriage be investigated.
In Timor-Leste, data indicates that 19% of young women (20-24) are married before 18 and 24% already have a child by the time they turn 20.
The report is the result of qualitative interviews with 24 young women respondent and 14 secondary respondents including midwives, local NGOs and young people.
The Tetun version of the report will be available in June 2017.
Read the report: https://plan-international.org/teenage-pregnancy-and-early-marriage
For more information, please contact:
Sarah Casteran, Advocacy and Communication Advisor, Plan International Timor-Leste, firstname.lastname@example.org.