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“Bondia Antonio” the innovative new film and picture theatre project, was officially launched in the Ministry of Health on Tuesday, January 29th. This media project is part of the Ministry of Health and UNFPA’s wider efforts to increase male involvement in maternal health at the community level.

“Bondia Antonio” is based on real life events from Timor-Leste. Last year, Angelina, a mother of seven from Ermera, lost her life during child birth. Her sister Cantalina, was due to give birth at the same time. Cantalina survived. “Bondia Antonio” compares the two stories and examines the circumstances leading to Angelina’s death. The story raises issues about attitudes towards maternal health and shows how increased support from men can help save lives.

“The key messages are really good. We can see it from the people’s emotions that this story has actually touched them” said the narrator of the picture theatre presentation in Baucau. A 26 year old man with 2 children added “this is a very new thing for me. I always loved my wife but I did not know that as a man I also have an important role in taking caring of her health when she is pregnant.”

Tragically, Angelina’s story is not uncommon in Timor-Leste. In 2012 an estimated 235 women died giving birth. Presently, many barriers exist for women trying to access health services, such as, distance, geography and poor road conditions, putting their lives at risk. While improvements are being made, progress is slow. Another barrier for women is the limited role that men are playing in reproductive health. However, this is a challenge that the community themselves can overcome. With greater education and awareness on male involvement in maternal health, women’s health can be improved and lives can be saved.

During his speech, the Minister of Health Dr. Sergio Lobo said, “Men barely know that they have a role in improving their women’s health. To improve the present situation it is extremely important to bring the change from the community level…it is important to influence and motivate men. It is a wonderful thing that we have started talking about these issues strongly and bravely.” “Bondia Antonio” will be presented in 5 districts in total throughout the country, including Baucau, Bobonaro, Covalima, Ermera and Oecusse. The presentations are followed by group discussions about reproductive and maternal health. The “Bondia Antonio” project brings about a new way of engaging the community on key maternal health issues. In future these media tools will be used in all districts of Timor-Leste.

This project was supported by the World Bank and UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund). The project was implemented by JOICFP (Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning) with Dili based media company CPA producing the film and Arte Moris illustrating the picture theatre. “Bondia Antonio” was officially launched by the Vice Prime Minister, H.E. Sr. Fernando Lasama de Araújo, the First Lady of RDTL, H.E. Sra. Isabel da Costa Ferreira, the Minister of Health H.E. Dr. Sergio Lobo, the Vice-Minister of Health for Ethics and Service Delivery, H.E. Sra. Natalia de Araújo, and UNFPA Representative, Mr. John M. Pile. The launch was followed by the film screening and exhibition of the original artwork from the picture theatre.