Thursday, June 14, 2018

Parenting education brings fathers to the front in Timor-Leste

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.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/ahelin
RAILACO, TIMOR-LESTE – Watching 32-year-old Simiao Pereira gently helping his four-year-old daughter with her drawing on the family’s airy veranda late on a Friday afternoon, you’d be hard-pressed to believe the young father would ever be capable of raising a hand to the girl in anger.


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.

Monday, May 28, 2018

“I didn’t know what it was”: New approaches to menstruation unlock opportunities for girls in rural Timor-Leste

Cidalia de Araujo Soares, right, is comfortable speaking about her experience of her first period, which is uncommon in Timor-Leste. ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/ahelin
In remote Timor-Leste many schools remain unconnected to safe water sources. For some girls, this presents a problem: how do you manage your period hygienically without skipping class? Find out how UNICEF is supporting some of Timor-Leste’s most vulnerable girls with safe, secure facilities for managing menstrual hygiene now.


Getting your first period can be an embarrassing, uncomfortable and downright painful experience. And that goes double when you don’t know what’s happening to you. For girls in Timor-Leste, that’s all too often their reality.


“I was really scared, the first time,” says 15-year-old Cidalia de Araujo Soares, a bubbly grade nine student at the local Catholic school in the rural town of Aileu, which sits in the mountainous centre of Timor-Leste. “I went to my mother and asked how to prevent it.”


Cidalia’s mother showed her how to use sanitary pads, and told her she wasn’t allowed to eat cucumber, or play with boys anymore. Cidalia accepted the curious dietary advice, but pressed her mother on why she was no longer able to play with her friends.


“Mom said, when you have your period and get close to boys, a lot of blood will come,” Cidalia recalls.


In predominately Catholic Timor-Leste, information about reproduction can be difficult to find, and families in isolated farming communities have limited opportunities to learn. While periods are seen as normal, and monthly bleeding isn’t culturally taboo, limited facilities mean managing periods can be difficult. If a girl’s period comes at school, she’ll often return home to manage it, missing the rest of the day’s classes.


Now, UNICEF is working with the country’s Ministry of Education to ensure schools are safe, secure and supportive environments for the thousands of girls in Timor-Leste who get periods.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A conducive environment for learning in Timor-Leste

Leonia Mendonca, a 10-year old Grade 6 student at Horaiquic Basic Education School
shows her drawing to the class. Leonia is one of the 170 students now enjoying
 a new school building and new school furniture with the support of UNICEF.
 ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/bsoares
The primary school in Horaiquic village in the foothills of Timor-Leste’s mountainous Ainaro municipality looks, on the outside, like most other schools in the country.


The same eye-catching yellow-and-mint-painted walls; the same grinning kids hanging out in the corridors. But in many schools in Timor-Leste you would expect to see long rows of desks inside each classroom, facing dusty chalkboards and bordering grimy, cracked-up windows. You’d see upwards of 60 students in a class. You’d see those kids wilting in the oppressive tropical heat and wonder whether it’s safe to try and open one of those windows.


But in Horaiquic Basic Education School, things are different.


Chatty students gather in small groups of three or four at clustered tables, with neat new chairs in freshly painted classrooms. Coloured pencils produce vivid artworks, which will later adorn walls and clean, clear windows. Smiling teachers stand back while students take turns talking in front of the class.


With support from UNICEF and its partners, Horaiquic Basic Education School will become a shining example of education in Timor-Leste – which makes it hard to believe that the school nearly crumpled just over a year ago.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Timor-Leste declared the first open defecation-free municipality


Ermera Municipality declared as Open Defecation Free after following a rigorous process.  Luis Lobato Vice Minister of Health of Timor Leste handed over the declaration to the Municipality President José Martinho dos Santos Soares.  ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/ahelin
In the courtyard of her home a young mother cradles her baby, carefully angling her arms to protect the infant from the already-hot morning sun. Born in late December last year, the child is one of the newest residents of Railaco, a semi-rural town in the foothills of Timor-Leste’s coffee-growing heartland of Ermera municipality.


He’ll likely never realise it, but the child will live his entire life in a district free from open defecation – a significant public health issue in Timor-Leste’s line of fire, and perhaps the single greatest threat to his health and safety.


Ermera was declared the first municipality (district) in Timor-Leste to be free from open defecation, a practise where people go to fields, bushes, forests, open bodies of water and other open spaces to defecate, instead of using a toilet. About one in three people in rural Timor-Leste continue to practise open defecation, which is a dangerous, dirty and often embarrassing experience. Its elimination is a UNICEF global priority.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Helping hands fighting to curb child mortality rate in Timor-Leste

In Timor-Leste, skilled midwives are reaching out to the mothers for ensuring safe delivery.
@UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/ahelin
Timor-Leste has one of Asia’s highest child mortality rates, but skilled birth attendants provide an answer. Find out how UNICEF is training birth attendants to prevent tragedies in some of Timor-Leste’s most rural and under-resourced villages.


GLENO, TIMOR-LESTE :  In the small maternity room at the back of the  Gleno Community Health Center, rural Timor-Leste, 23-year-old Deolinda de Deus Maia sits with her newborn baby bundled on her lap. The baby sleeps peacefully, with closed eyes barely visible under a soft woollen beanie.


“How old is he?”


“Born last night,” she replies, with a tired smile.


It’s the first child for Deolinda and her husband, who stands proudly by his wife’s side at her hospital bed. They’re clearly thrilled with the healthy boy, and Deolinda is recovering well from the birth. Looking at the family, you wouldn’t believe how close they could have come to something else.


“Two days ago, I got suddenly sick,” Deolinda explains. “So, I called the midwife to help me.”


On the midwife’s advice Deolinda went to the health clinic at Railaco, a semi-rural town approximately halfway between Gleno and the country’s capital city, Dili, but the electricity at the clinic was out and they sent her to Gleno Community Health Center instead, where she safely delivered the baby boy.