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Timor-Leste: Helping Youth Raise their Voices

While many young people around the world blog, tweet and change their status updates to communicate their thoughts to the world, it’s not so easy for young people in Aileu District, Timor-Leste. Although internet is available in the capital, Dili, rural communities often lack electricity and technology, making it hard for young people to have their views heard. To address this, Plan International, in cooperation with the European Commission, is running public speaking and debating trainings for young people.

Rozita giving her speech at the Aileu District public speaking competition.

Finding a Voice

Seventeen year old Rozita is a youth from Aileu who has strong opinions about the development of her community and Timor-Leste as a whole. However, she found that there were limited opportunities for young people in her town to speak up in community meetings, as these are dominated by adults, mainly males, and she was too shy to give her opinion.

When staff from Plan Timor-Leste and their partner organization Forum Tau Matan (FTM) visited her school and told her about the opportunity to participate in public speaking training, Rozita was happy to join. Since December 2013 she has been improving her speech writing and public speaking skills and has completed a two week training session with facilitators from FTM.

"At first, I was very nervous and shy speaking in front of many people,” she said. “But I’m happy to have this opportunity to express my opinion. Now I have finished my training I still get nervous, but only just before I have to make a speech. It has increased my self-confidence.”

I’m happy to have this opportunity to express my opinion

District Champion

Over the last 6 months Rozita has changed from being a shy student to being a public speaking champion at her school. She is a member of the school debating club where she has learned to express her thoughts about issues that affect her community. In June she won a public speaking competition at the Aileu District level where she spoke about the impacts of the national decentralization process on the district. 

In June she travelled to Dili and competed in a national public speaking competition where she spoke about environmental conservation. “I’m happy because from many students, I was chosen to participate at a national level,” said Rozita.  

Public speaking training is an initiative of Plan’s Youth Empowerment Programme funded by the European Commission that supports high school and university students in Aileu District to improve their debating and public speaking skills.

As a result of the programme young people have learnt how to analyse issues and articulate their opinions using evidence on topics such as education, employment and politics. “Developing these analytical and public speaking skills will give them the confidence to engage with the political and social leaders in their communities,” says Etha Mota, Youth Empowerment Programme Manager.

Rozita says she hopes that the skills she has learnt though public speaking will help her to become a strong leader in the future. When asked about her dreams for the future, she immediately replies: "a journalist or an astronaut". 


For more information about Plan International's work in Timor-Leste go to plan-international.org/timor-leste.

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