To celebrate International Day of the Girl on 11 October, five girls participated in Plan International’s global #GirlsTakeover and took over the positions of village chiefs in the mountainous area of Aileu in Timor-Leste.
It was a truly meaningful experience for Leonora, Josepha, Luciana, Dulce and Isabel. “I feel very happy and proud about this opportunity. In my country it is mostly men who are in powerful positions like village chief. But I think women and girls can lead too and they have to play an important role in all fields”, said 18-year-old Isabel after her takeover.
Girls have to play a leading role in all fields
Just as village chiefs do, the five girls took on a lot of responsibilities, talked to community members, listened to their concerns and led meetings to discuss the importance of involving women and girls in decision-making processes.
The five village chiefs who accepted to share their office with girls for one day have shown by example how governments, leaders, but also civil society and community members can support girls in their fight for equal opportunities.
Being a Leader and a Girl Activist
Dillyana Ximenes, Country Coordinator of Plan International Timor-Leste, stressed the importance of empowering girls and supporting them to realise their dreams. “Only five percent of all village chiefs in Timor-Leste are women. We need to show girls that becoming a leader is not out of reach, and support them to be seen and heard in places of influence.”
Mrs. Ximenes herself handed over her job to Idalia, 17, for one day. As on 11 October 200 persons gathered in Aileu Vila to celebrate the power of girls, Idalia gave the opening speech in Mrs. Ximenes’ place.
With confidence, Idalia pointed out the importance of involving girls in decision-making and asked for increased action for gender equality, especially at local level, receiving a wild burst of applause from the audience.
All six girls taking over positions of power on International Day of the Girl considered the day a big success. As Josepha, 18, sums it up: “Through this takeover I could learn what it means to be a village chief and I could increase my own knowledge. And I saw that I and all girls can also be leaders“.
The Takeover in Timor-Leste were part of Plan International’s global #GirlsTakeover, to celebrate International Day of the Girl. Worldwide, more than 600 girls took over various positions of power.