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“Women and Girls Participate Actively and Meaningfully in Sustainable Development”

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Rede Feto, Plan International and other international and national civil society and government organisations came together to facilitate the first ever National Conference focused on the participation of women and girls in the sustainable development of Timor-Leste on May 10th 2017. 

In September 2015, the government of Timor-Leste made a pledge to all Timorese girls and women that their lives would significantly improve by 2030 by adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), together with 192 other UN Members. 

Ensuring that girls and women are empowered to participate in their country’s development is essential to achieving all of the SDGs.

In support of this ambition, a group of national and international civil society and governmental organisations came together to organise this first ever National Conference focused on the participation of women and girls in the sustainable development of Timor-Leste. 

 

Veneranda Lemos, Secretary of State for the Socio-economic Support and Promotion of Women (“SEM”) adressed the Conference: “Women’s participation has always been crucial to sustainable development. In Timor-Leste this role as a pillar for development started with our ancestors and continued during the struggle for independence. To achieve its commitments towards sustainable development, the government of Timor-Leste must contribute to the empowerment of women and provide opportunities for them to participate in the decision-making and development processes at all levels.”

Dinorah Granadeiro, Director of Rede Feto spoke to the 150 participants saying: “Sustainable development will never happen if women are not able to participate as equals of men. Women should be able to contribute to all sectors of development and we truly hope that this conference will pave the way for the government of Timor-Leste to start encouraging, promoting and ensuring the participation of women, from local or national level, in the sustainable development of the country.”

Terence McCaughan, Country Director of Plan International Timor-Leste said: “In 2015 world leaders agreed an ambitious set of goals for sustainable development. However, they will only be achieved if we can unlock the power of girls. Empowering girls today will ensure that the women of tomorrow are strong actors in the development of their country. During the National Conference we hope to shed some light on girls’ lived realities in Timor-Leste and build strong partnerships to ensure that by 2030 all girls can learn, lead, decide and thrive.”  

The Conference bought together government officials from local and national level, UN agencies, civil society organisations, academics and youth representatives.

Plan International presented their research on Teenage Pregnancy and Early Marriage: the Decision-Making Pathways of Young Women in the Municipalities of Covalima, Aileu and Dili


https://plan-international.org/teenage-pregnancy-and-early-marriage


Summary:

With 19% of girls married before 18 and 24% already with a child by the time they turn 20, the Secretariat of State for Youth and Sports, UNFPA and Plan International decided to investigate the decision-making pathways and experiences that lead to teenage pregnancy and early marriage in Timor-Leste.

The objective of the research was to investigate the root causes of pregnancies in adolescence and early marriages, as well as to collect information on possible ways to prevent them.

The research clearly shows that teenage pregnancies and early marriage have consequences for many aspects of young people’s lives­their health, education employment opportunities and overall general well-being. Given its complexity, many sectors and actors have a role to play in preventing it: the health and education sectors, parents and communities at large, gender advocates and policy makers, and young people themselves.

MAIN FINDINGS:

  • Social Context: In the majority of cases, young women fell pregnant first and then proceeded to get married. the causes of early marriages were found to be (in order of importance): (1) pregnancy; (2) arranged marriages; (3) marriages pushed by parents because young people were in a relationship; and (4) because young women wanted to, mainly to escape a dire situation at home. For young people, many of the issues they raised revolved around the difficulties in navigating sexual decision-making in a community context that does not allow them to speak of it openly, does not give them useful advice on how to make the right decisions or empower them to face difficult challenges.
  • Sexual education for young people: The report finds that young women and men alike know very little about their own bodies but nearly all had heard of sex. They just didn’t know what would put them at risk of pregnancy, HIV or STIs, how their reproductive system worked or what were signs of pregnancy.
  • Contraception: Contraception is clearly out of unmarried young people’s reach. For young married women, it is also rarely used: they are under pressure to produce more children quickly and believe in numerous negative consequences for their health if they use contraception. Condoms are clearly seen as a license to immoral sexual activity. As a result, many more teenage pregnancies happen after marriage, this time without any community effort to prevent it, and with considerable pressure placed on the young woman to continue getting pregnant.
  • Power and control: The lack of power or control young women have in exercising sexual decision-making proved to be the main cause of teenage pregnancy: with or without sexual education or contraception, the fact is that young women have very little agency in the decision to engage in sexual relationships.


The research clearly shows that teenage pregnancies and early marriage have consequences for many aspects of young people’s lives­their health, education employment opportunities and overall general well-being. Given its complexity, many sectors and actors have a role to play in preventing it: the health and education sectors, parents and communities at large, gender advocates and policy makers, and young people themselves.