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Boys Cook on Valentine's Day to Promote Gender Equality

One of the barriers to women's participation in community decision-making is domestic work, according to a 2015 baseline study conducted by Plan International Timor-Leste. Plan International works to implement empowering activities to increase women’s and girls’ participation in local governance and promote gender equality.One of these initiatives was a cooking competition for young boys on Valentine's Day.

We don’t have the opportunity to talk because we have so much work to do. We don’t get support from our husbands

In Timor-Leste women are responsible for the majority of domestic work, and as a result have limited time to join village committees and to take on leadership roles within their communities, found a report by Plan International - available here.

“We have minimal opportunities to develop our leadership capabilities in our communities. Men don’t really support us or listen to us, which prevents us from speaking up. Women within the community are perceived as not having power, particularly young women. Most of the time, we are only included in suku meetings symbolically, and our work is just to prepare food for the meeting.”

Plan International works with local partner FADA (Women’s Action for Development in Aileu), in cooperation with the local government, to implement empowering activities to increase women’s and girls’ participation in local governance and promote gender equality. One of these initiatives was a cooking competition for young boys on Valentine's Day. Forty boys from four different schools took part in the competition, and learned valuable lessons about men’s and women’s responsibilities in the home and at school.

Love is not only words and flowers. Love is girls and boys supporting each other.

The goal of the cooking competition was to teach young boys that all household work is a responsibility that should be shared equally between men and women. This activity also aimed to contribute reducing of gender-based violence in remote areas.

During the competition, a teacher and a mother expressed how surprised and proud they were to see that the young boys could cook, decorate tables, serve food and present their meals.

The Chairman of the Youth Council remarked, “This is the first event we have had in Aileu that focuses on boys to raise awareness about gender equality. The event addresses the issue in a very simple way, but it has a meaning in a broader sense. It should be replicated in other places if we all wish to commit to promote gender equality and stop discrimination in Timor-Leste.”

The participants present their food to the judges.

After the competition, one of the young boys from ESTV school shared what he learned from the experience, explaining that preparing food is not easy.

“Every day, our mothers and sisters work hard preparing food for our families. Today, I was only working for a few hours to prepare this food with the help of my friends, and I felt exhausted afterwards." 

It is important that we change our actions from now on to support each other at home and at school.

To reinforce the lessons learned from the competition, the District Deputy suggested that Plan International and and FADA organize the same activity for adult male leaders in Aileu. Seeing their own leaders cook can show the public how important it is to lessen women’s daily workload and give them more opportunities to have a stronger voice in their communities.

Participants demonstrating their cooking skills.