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ChildFund Timor-Leste is working with the Alola Foundation to support men in the Liquica District to have better conversations around maternal health so that they can better support mothers giving birth and raise strong, healthy children.

Laurindo and Jorge are two fathers taking part in the MenCare training program. The workshops support men in rural and remote areas to grow their knowledge and develop the leadership skills so they can lead their own forums and talk to their peers about maternal health.

The MenCare program empowers men to talk to their peers about maternal and children’s health care. This involves caring for their wife and child immediately after birth, understanding common children’s illnesses and gender equality in the home. This means sharing domestic duties and caring responsibilities evenly.

One man taking part in the MenCare program.

Jorge is a community leader and runs a saving and loan education program in his village. He took part in the MenCare training so he could confidently start conversations about maternal health with other men in his community.

“In the training sessions we focused on group work and learned about a whole variety of health topics. I really appreciated this and was happy to see that I already knew some of the information they were sharing. After the training, I went back and shared what I had learnt with other men in my community.”

The MenCare training in Liquica.

Jorge explained that this training was helpful because the information supports men in the community to help their partners when they have children and that he can already apply what he learned to his own life.

Laurindo is also a role model in his community, sharing what he knew about maternal and children health with his peers, but he knew there were some gaps in his knowledge. After attending the training, he said that he knew more about gender equality and could see ways to apply this knowledge to his own life.

“When we talked about gender there is a saying that men can do women’s work but there are some things that men can’t do like give birth and breastfeed. But we learned that in every other way, men and women are equal and I agree with that,” said Laurindo.

Laurindo said that this training has strengthened his role as a father.

“I have to be honest and sincere as a father. I play with my kids, play football, tell them stories and sometimes take the kids for a walk. I share my experiences with them, I encourage them to study too.”

Fathers like Jorge and Laurindo play a critical role in breaking down gender barriers and raising awareness for maternal healthcare. Through the MenCare training, they have the skills and confidence to have open conversations about maternal health with other men in their areas.

This International Literacy Day, we’re celebrating 12-year-old Eunike Gusmão from Timor-Leste, who is writing stories to inspire her community, help her peers learn to read and to share the message about the importance of family.  

She is one of 32 young local authors who have contributed stories to a digital library implemented by ChildFund Timor-Leste and partner Library for All.

We asked Eunike why she decided to write stories. “I want to inspire and motivate other kids like me to write stories,” she said. “I also wanted to share the message about the importance of family to other kids.” 

Eunike is inspired by her mother. When she heard that ChildFund and Library for All was running a writing competition, she leapt at the opportunity to enter. ChildFund called out to local authors to write an original story for young readers.

Eunike entered a story, titled Thank You Santa, about a young boy searching for a family. The story is about a little boy who goes in search of Santa at the North Pole. The little boy asked Santa for a family for Christmas. Santa couldn’t stand to see him sad, so he found the boy a family for the holidays to make him happy.

Eunike’s story and those entered in the competition by other young authors were accompanied by illustrations reflecting Timorese art and culture and published in the digital library.

Eunike is in Grade 7 and when she is not writing, she loves to read. Her favourite genres are history and fantasy. “My favourite books are Who is Napoleon, the Great Wall of China and What was the Titanic,” she said.

Eunike encourages her peers to take their education seriously. “Don’t waste your time doing something that is not that important, focus on your goal,” she said. “If you have a goal don’t just say it but put it into action.  Never give up hope and never be shy.”

Eunike believes that reading is important to learning. “Reading can teach us new things and learn something that is interesting and can keep us knowledgeable.”

International Literacy Day is celebrated every year to highlight the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights. This years’ theme is ‘Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide’. Despite much progress, there are still literacy challenges persist with at least 773 million young people and adults lacking basic literacy skills.

ChildFund is supporting children like Eunike, every day of the year to learn to read so that they can access a quality education and reach their full potential.