In Timor-Leste nearly 20% of girls marry before they are age 18 and almost 25% have at least one child by the time they are 20. Further, the country’s median age is about 19 years, and the fertility rate is just under 5 children per woman (World Fact Book, 2017) – double the world average of 2.5/women https://ourworldindata.org/fertility-rate . So, Timor-Leste is a very fast-growing nation, which portends major challenges for such a poor country where just over 40% of people live below the national poverty line. Complicating the country’s challenges is research showing that young women and men know very little about their bodies and biology; though, of course, nearly all had heard of sex and were sexually active even though they didn’t know how their reproductive systems work or how pregnancy happens let along risks of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. So, there is a lot of work to do regarding education and behavior change to reduce teenage pregnancies and to help young people have better health, education, employment and overall wellbeing.
To start to respond to this issue, as part of the Timor Zero Hunger Berdaya (‘empowerment’) initiative, CWS brought together 25 young people and Health Post volunteers from two villages in Liquiçá district just outside Dili for a 3-day Peer Educator training program that marks the start of Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health education and training for them. Guido Alves Correira is a Health Post volunteer in Vatuvou village, which is high in the mountains above Liquiçá and during a tea break one day, he shared this: “I’m so proud to attend this workshop because, as a health volunteer, I represent my village here to learn more about sexual and reproductive health so I benefit my neighbors, friends and family”. In talking about this special chance to join others in becoming peer educators to support community members’ heath, Guido added, “I thank CWS for this opportunity.”
Gratitude was echoed by workshop co-facilitator, Dr. Mariano da Silva from the district health department: “I thank CWS for their good cooperation and collaboration, and for the opportunity to teach [our young people] about reproductive health”. And, “I hope that in the future all young people in our villages will have comprehensive knowledge of, and awareness about, their biology and health so that they can avoid pregnancies at a young age and protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, especially, HIV. I hope CWS will be able to do this kind of workshop in other villages soon,” he added, “because many young people here still lack this [even basic health] information”. In closing the workshop, Deputy District Administrator, Mr. Rainatu, expressed his appreciation for CWS support, and he reminded the new Peer Educators to share what they had learned and to continue seeking to learn more to help their friends and family and to reach out to others, too.
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