In this small island-nation where nearly 70% of the population is under 25 years-old, economic opportunities are rare, especially in rural areas. 22 year-old Lenia never thought she would someday be able to run her own business. That was before joining Plan International’s Youth Empowerment Programme.
INDEPENDENCE THROUGH SAVINGS AND LOANS
Today, Lenia is involved in one of the 20 Savings and Loans groups formed in the Aileu municipality of Timor-Leste with support from Plan International. She has been elected as the treasurer, and explains how joining the group changed her life: “Now my life is better. I can generate an income and I know how to manage it,” she says.
With little employment opportunities for young people in rural areas, generating self-employment is key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Through the savings and loans groups, young people are able to borrow money for education or health needs, but also to start a small business.
Now my life is better. I can generate an income and I know how to manage it.
“Before joining the project it was difficult for me to know how to manage my money. Now I am able to save a little bit every month for the future,” explains Lenia. “I already made good use of a loan and started a business in my village selling popsicles and biscuits. Business is very good so far, I sell out almost every day!” She adds happily, while standing in front of her hut and showing us an empty basket of biscuits.
“We often see young people moving from rural areas to the Capital to find jobs, and they end up in underpaid positions barely having enough to eat and pay rent. Through this programme we can help young people create jobs, small businesses, and build a better future right here in their villages,” explains Etha Mota, Youth Empowerment Programme manager.
GAINING THE CONFIDENCE TO THRIVE
As part of the programme and to complement the benefits of the savings and loans groups, young people also receive various life skills trainings giving them the knowledge and confidence necessary to become independent.
This includes training on children’s and youth’ rights as well as business management and life skills trainings. “We received a leadership training which was very useful. It gave me the strength to make it on my own,” Lenia says proudly.
By equipping young people with interpersonal skills such as leadership, the programme ensures that they will be able to run a smooth and successful business. Lenia is one of the young women who was bold enough to start her own shop and hopes to see many more follow her example in the future.
“I hope that this group will continue its activities and become a model for other groups beyond the project,” she concludes.