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UNFPA in Timor-Leste celebrated World Population Day on 15 July 2013

UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) in Timor-Leste celebrated ‘World Population Day 2013' in a ceremony attended by high-profile speakers, including H.E. the First Lady, Isabel Ferreira, on July 15th.

In his opening remarks, UNFPA Representative, Mr. John M. Pile pledged UNFPA's commitment to work with partners to ensure that the issue of adolescent pregnancy, which is the theme of this year, is addressed, not only as a health issue but also as a development issue. Mr. Pile said that "We must invest in adolescent girls for their own sake. When we devote attention and resources to the education, health and wellbeing of adolescent girls, they will become an even greater force for positive change in society and this will have impact on generations to come."

The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Timor-Leste, Mr. Knut Ostby, also made his first public appearance in this event, emphasizing that "UN celebrates every year "World Population Day" as an occasion to raise awareness and encourage the world community to find solutions to the population challenges. Because we need to make sure that "everyone counts" in our development efforts if we really want a better, healthier and more prosperous world."
Calling attention to the theme of this year, Mr. Ostby stated that "Success in reducing unwanted pregnancies will depend not only on the efforts of the Government but also the commitment of all partners, including civil society, and development partners. It is also the personal responsibility of all individuals."

The First Lady, Sra, Isabel Ferreira, who was the keynote speaker of the event, addressed the audience and said that "As a woman, I feel sad when seeing other women with so many children at a young age. If they are not well prepared to have a family, it is better to learn and make a better plan ahead" emphasizing that "It is better for them to study and finish, then they can plan a family that feels a responsibility for its children".

During the event, an open panel discussion on adolescent pregnancy was held in the presence of representatives from Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, and Secretary of State for Promotion of Equality (SEPI), as well as Sharis Haburas Comunidade. The panel members discussed the issue of adolescent pregnancy from physical and psychological health, as well as socio-economic and gender perspectives.

Officials from various government entities as well as NGO's, religious representatives, youth representatives from UNTL, UN Paz and a number of high school students in Dili, UN agencies and UNFPA staff were also in attendance. The participants engaged actively in the question and answer session.

Observed annually on 11 July since 1989, World Population Day focuses attention on the importance of population issues in the context of development plans and programmes, and the need to find solutions for these issues.

In Asia and the Pacific, 6 million adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19 become mothers every year. In Timor-Leste 1 out of 8 adolescent girls are pregnant or have had a child by their 18th birthday. Complications from pregnancy and child birth are the leading cause of death among girls in this age group and the adverse effects of adolescent childbearing extend to the health of their infants.