05 December 2008

Plan East Timor launches 'Because I am a Girl'


Plan Timor-Leste launched its global report, Because I am a Girl: In the Shadow of War, at Memorial Hall yesterday with the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality, Senhora Idelta Rodrigues, as guest speaker.

The report is the second of nine annual reports focusing on how progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals is being hampered by lack of investment in girls and young women. Because I am a Girl 2008 focuses on conflict and includes a chapter on Timor-Leste, based on the perspectives of young Timorese women on how the crisis of 2006 affected them. Four of them gave a compelling presentation at the launch.

“The crisis affected everyone, especially children and women,” they said. “Children were traumatized when they heard guns shooting and they saw people they love being killed in front of them. There was also an increase in sexual violence, especially against women in IDP camps.”

As a post-conflict nation-building measure they stressed the importance of investing in education as well as job creation for youth. “We think that when youth or unemployed people get jobs, they will not think of doing any antisocial activities.”

The young women also implored individuals to be proactive in peace-building: “We can’t force the government to build peace because peace does not come from one person or one group but it is a contribution from all individuals. We need to start from ourselves, our families, our friends and society so that our nation can be peaceful.

“We are the women of Timor. We don’t want more blood to spill on our land. We don’t want to suffer and we don’t want to move away from home. We don’t want this to impact our studies and our dreams for the future.”

Senhora Idelta warmly congratulated the girls on their presentation, shaking each of their hands afterwards. She told the audience, “Women in Timor-Leste have demonstrated the greatest courage during conflict, especially when men have gone off to fight or into hiding, leaving women with double the work. Fathers were not around to take their children to school. Who did this? It was the mothers.

“I am very happy with the messages I’ve heard from the young people today. This report will help prevent us from forgetting the crisis and how it affected all youth, who could not always go to school and suffered from trauma. It cannot just stay on the bookshelves. We must read it and learn from it so that we do not have another crisis.”

The launch of Because I am a Girl 2008: In the Shadow of War was in conjunction with SEPI’s 16 days of activism against gender violence campaign.

The report and further information about the ‘Because I am a Girl’ series can be found online at www.plan-uk.org/becauseiamagirl/

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