“He’s emotional, definitely,” he says, confidently.
“No way, he’s Albert Einstein,” she returns. Then, to the screen. “He’s a thinker.”
“I agree,” replies a voice from a tiny box in the computer.
The deputy adjusts her lime-green cap and nods into the screen.
“How old are you, Marli?” the voice asks mildly.
“Ten,” the Deputy replies.
“Slowly, slowly,” Do you have a plan?
|Brixton (8), is having interview with Jogilvo da Silva Barreto (16) |
who acts as UNICEF Timor-Leste Representative
during the celebration of the ‘children take over’ event in Dili.
As Marli continues the conference call, Brixton rounds the corner into the office usually occupied by UNICEF Timor-Leste’s Representative Valérie Taton. Her desk is today taken by 16-year-old Jogilvo da Silva Barreto, who’s mid-way through an interview with the Representative about violence prevention and youth mobilisation.
“A lot of my friends are in martial arts gangs,” Jogilvo begins. In Timor-Leste, martial arts are often used as a front for violent street gangs, whose bored youth members tend to rock-throwing and street violence.
“We need to find a way to show that they can be better, develop their skills,” he says in clear, fast English. “Show them how to use martial arts. We can be better than we are now. Teenagers should be standing up and finding a way to develop a good society. Finding a way to create a better Timor-Leste.”
Beside the desk his mother is grinning and shooting photos.
“Slowly, slowly,” Jogilvo says with a smile. “We can work in many ways with young people. Through sports, art and culture. The future of Timor-Leste depends on what the young people do,”
His mother covers her smile with her hands.
“He always wanted to know more about what I do at UNICEF, but he was shy this morning and didn’t want to come,” Jogilvo’s mother, Gizela Moniz da Silva, says. She’s UNICEF’s national Child Protection Officer working in the Child Protection section, and has two other sons and a daughter in the audience, intently listening to their older brother’s speech. “I just told him this was his chance.”
Of course, he took it.
Brixton, the eight-year-old Deputy Representative, finally gets a minute to talk with his superior. Both boys wear neatly pressed short-sleeved collared shirts, slicked-back hairstyles, and sit tall in their chairs on either side of representative Valérie’s desk.
“Do you have a plan?” Jogilvo asks. “A small one, to help out.”
“Not yet,” says Huxley, glancing into the notebook he’s carried from his father’s office.
Hearts, flowers, cartons on Computer screen
|Raina Fatima Quintao dos Santos (7) |
takes over the position as UNICEF Timor-Leste Nutrition Programme Chief
on the ‘children take over’ event in Dili. ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/bsoares
|Brilha João de Deus Belo Monemnasi (12) is acting as UNICEF Timor-Leste’s photographer |
replacing her father’s role during the celebration of the ‘children take over’ event in Dili.
“This is the day for children, and I‘m amazed to see the way they took over the office,” says Valérie Taton with a wide smile on her face.
Did Marli know she’d be filling on the conference call?
“Nope,” says Scott, cheerily. “The other people on the call knew, but she just came in and said right, I’ll take over.” Is she still there? “Yep!”
Representative Jogilvo da Silva Barreto closes the day as a crowd gathers in the conference room.
“Thank you all for coming,” he says in two languages. “How did you all feel being here?”
Slowly, shyly, small voices pipe up, describing feeling happy, feeling tired, contemplating ways of giving back to communities after a stint in the decision-maker’s chair. Jogilvo nods and smiles, repeating paraphrased answers back and translating easily between languages.
He concludes the day, thanks everyone again, and people start filing out. Before a flickering laptop, 10-year-old Marli Whoolery remains steady in her father’s chair.
By Sophie Raynor, UNICEF Timor-Leste Consultant