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Dili, August 12, 2022 -- Almost a decade since the United Nations Integrated Mission (UNIM) in Timor-Leste completed its mandate on December 31, 2012, many youths in the Southeast Asian nation face a myriad of challenges including; substandard education or no education, unemployment and the struggle to access basic sexual and reproductive health information services.


Notably, one of the key mandate of UNIM was to assist in strengthening the national capacity for monitoring, promotion and protection of human rights and laying a foundation for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – to guarantee shared peace and prosperity for both people and planet.

A UNFPA study on teenage pregnancies and early marriages in Timor-Leste found that 19 per cent of young women aged (20-24) are married before they are 18 years while 24 per cent are already with a child by the time they turn 20.

Worse still, in Timor-Leste, teenagers are twice as likely to die in childbirth as older women.

Youths participating in a healthy relationship training facilitated by UNFPA in Dili, Timor-Leste. © UNFPA Timor-Leste.

Veronica Neno Lelo, a Timorese youth and a participant in a healthy relationship trainer of trainers (ToT) training facilitated by UNFPA, noted with concern that when the youth don’t have the right support and guidance, they are exposed to unhealthy relationships, early pregnancies, pornography and drug abuse mostly through social media platforms and misinformation.

“The biggest challenge for young people today is access to negative information on the internet and exposure to phonographic content leading to early pregnancies and increased cases of child marriages. These are key issues of concern that will impact the future of our country and societies,” said Veronica Neno. 

Imagine a country where young people have families and don’t have jobs or enough savings to support their livelihoods! In such circumstances, the lives of our young girls, youth and the future of our nations and societies will be negatively affected.

According to Lizerio Dias, a youth leader and former president of Youth Parliament in Timor-Leste, it is important to engage youth leaders to effectively address challenges, and to empower them to be part of their own solutions.

“Strengthening capacity of the youth is critical for sustainable development and to ensure youths forge meaningful and healthy relationships that will secure their future.

“The government and relevant authorities must engage the youth and give them opportunities to learn through collaboration and involvement,” said Lizerio Dias.

This year’s International Youth Day (IYD 2022), marked globally on August 12, themed “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a world for all ages”, is a timely reminder for all to combat ageism, and other age-related discrimination and build bridges between generations.

In his IYD 2022 statement, UN Secretary General, António Guterres emphasized the need for all to work together to achieve common goals.

“Solidarity and collaboration are more essential than ever, as our world faces a series of challenges that threaten our collective future,” said António Guterres.

In Timor-Leste, UNFPA is collaborating with the government through the Secretary of State for Youth and Sports (SSYS) to implement healthy relationship training as part of contextualized Timorese comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) targeting youths to address high number of child marriages, drug abuse and to raise awareness on the benefits of healthy relationships for healthy and productive nation.

Since 2021, about 80 youth representatives from 11 municipalities in Timor-Leste, have been trained in the ToT training to disseminate information and knowledge on healthy relationship win Timor-Leste.

The youth facilitators will act as a bridge between the younger generation and the older generation.

Participants in a healthy relationship training facilitated by UNFPA in Dili, Timor-Leste. © UNFPA Timor-Leste.

This year’s IYD 2022 celebrations in Timor-Leste will be held in Baucau municipality and will include; sporting events, blood donation exercise and healthy relationship training for youths facilitated by UNFPA -- with funding from KOICA’s Together for Equality project aimed at improving the knowledge and skills of youths and to empower them to be change agents and to stand up against sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence.

The National Director of Youth, SSYS, Jacinto Antonio Ximenes notes: “Without the right information, the youth cannot be empowered to make right decisions about their lives and future.”

UNFPA continues to provide technical support to government and development actors on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) for in-school and out-of-school programs that includes training on healthy relationships to ensure access of adolescents and youth to sexual and reproductive health, and realizing their rights.

Dr. Domingas Bernardo, UNFPA Assistant Country Representative in Timor-Leste noted that it is important to work with development partners – and particularly the young people themselves – to advocate for evidence-based policies and programs for adolescents and youth.

“Involving the youth in finding solutions, will ensure promotion of their access to comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning; and enhance their leadership skills and participation in national development,” said Dr. Domingas Bernardo.

Rara Santoso Sudiro Dethan, a healthy relationship ToT trainer in Timor-Leste, opined that it is critical for older generation – especially parents and guardians -- to support the youth and give them opportunity to express themselves.

“Because of the patriarchal system in Timor-Leste, though youths can make their own decisions, if parents do not support and advise them, it can lead to youths forming unhealthy relationships and to improve their ability to make decision and promote healthy relationships,” observed Rara Santoso.

UNFPA advocates for the rights of young people; including their right to accurate information and services related to sexual and reproductive health and their right to play a role in decisions affecting them.


For more information, contact;


Suleiman Okoth

Communications and Programme Support Specialist

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Timor-Leste

UN House, Caicoli Street

Dili, Timor-Leste

Mobile: +670 75169796

WhatsApp: +254 780534026