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7 inspiring things young people from Timor-Leste have achieved in 2017

What an eventful year! In 2017 young people from Timor-Leste have been truly inspiring and they have shown that children and youths can make a difference. Read what they have achieved in this past year.

1. Becoming Village Chief for a Day

Girls in Timor-Leste taking a selfie together

On International Day of the Girl five girls took over the positions of the “xefe suco” of their village. Just as village chiefs do they talked to community members, listened to their concerns and led meetings to discuss the importance of involving women and girls in decision-making processes. And: they convinced the village chiefs to sign a commitment in which they agreed to facilitate gender trainings in their communities and support gender equality. A great success!

2. Helping to End Violence

Young woman in rural village in Timor-Leste

Carla is 18 years old and she is one of the coordinators of the 12 child clubs established by Plan International in Timor-Leste. Domestic violence remains a big problem in the country. In the child clubs young people have the possibility to talk about children’s rights and how to defend them, they learn how to report cases of violence and can share experiences they have made with violence at home, in school or in public places.

“Children and teenagers are very glad to be able to talk about these issues in a safe group and it is great that I can help by listening to people, by answering their questions and involving the legal system if necessary”, tells Carla. Such important work!

3. Brightening Timor-Leste’s Future

Girls smiling and clapping at preschool

Even the smallest children take their part in supporting Timor-Leste’s development and thus its future. In 2017 almost 900 children have attended preschools established by Plan International Timor-Leste or participated in its informal play groups. Here they learn to make social connections, take first steps in reading and writing and become eager to learn – brilliant conditions for them to be people who can learn, lean, decide and thrive.

4. Taking Control of Their Own Lives

Young woman picking salat in Timor-Leste

In a country where more than 70 percent of the population rely on agriculture to generate an income, economic possibilities are very limited. However, young people in Timor-Leste are taking matters into their own hands. They have formed 20 Savings and Loans groups in Aileu Municipality where they save money together and can take loans which they can then use for education, health needs or to start a small business.

They also form horticulture groups where they are growing vegetables together and can sell their products to local supermarkets. The money they make they can then use for the Savings and Loans Groups. An inspiring project that shows how young people can take the initiative to improve their own lives.

5. Protecting Themselves and Others from Hazards

Girls doing First Aid at Safe Schools Programme

In Timor-Leste the risk of being hit by a natural disaster like flooding, earthquakes or strong winds is high. This is why students from many schools in Timor-Leste are doing simulations in order to practice how to behave in an emergency situation. They learn how to protect themselves and how to protect others.

9-year-old Angela has participated in a first aid training and now knows what she has to do if one of her classmates is injured. “We are looking out for special signals,” she explains, “When a child falls on the ground for example, we know we have to help”. Good job, Angela and all the other kids that are so committed!

6. Motivating Good Hygiene Behaviour

Girl in front of toilet in Timor-Leste

Having a Toilet is nothing self-evident in Timor-Leste. In fact, 32 percent of the population do not have toilets at their houses. This means that they have to relieve themselves outside, in the nature which can lead to serious diseases like diarrhoea, one of the highest contributors to child mortality in Timor-Leste.

The ALFA-Initiative (Area la soe foer bo’ot arbiru) is working on making Aileu and Ainaro Municipalities Open Defecation Free. And you know what? Many community members say that it is first and foremost their children who motivate them to build their toilets. They want to secure the children’s health, safety and well-being. And what’s good for the children is good for the community!

7. Fighting for their right to Sexual and Reproductive Health

Girls holding up SRHR-recommendations for Timorese government

Learning about Sexual and Reproductive Health is crucial for young people, women and men, in order to be able to make informed decisions about their own bodies. However, access to information about contraception and family planning is often very limited in Timor-Leste.

This year a group of young women and men from Aileu Municipality have come together to make recommendations to the government of Timor-Leste. In these recommendations they ask decision-makers to guarantee access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for all people, not only married couples. An important initiative for everyone in Timor-Leste!

Plan International Timor-Leste is very happy to support all these projects and the young people behind them. We are looking forward to continue working with our partner organizations and with children and youths, so they can continue to learn, lead, decide and thrive in 2018.