|Ester Pereira, 5 years, loves playing with father Simiao Pereira. |
Ester has borrowed the teddy bears from the school,
as she doesn’t have any toys of her own.
But growing up in a traditionally patriarchal Timor-Leste, where men are taught to discipline their children with force, Simiao admits that he used to hit his four children.
“In the past, we were sometimes hitting our children,” Simiao, a farmer, says, “but now we know to just use words.”
Simiao is one of around 70 parents from Railaco, a semi-rural village on the fringes of Timor-Leste’s mountainous coffee-growing region, who are participating in a UNICEF-supported parenting education programme. The programme is working with parents and providing information on issues like nutrition, education, discipline, child protection and child-rearing.
A key component of the programme is recruiting a roughly even split of men and women to the programme’s information sessions, and to encourage men to see the larger role they could play in their families.